For the art connoisseurs, De Young is a fine art museum that displays stunning works of African-American and Native American artists. It is located at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The special exhibits vary from time to time with works of Oscar de la Renta and that of Frida Kahlo’s. It has a permanent collection of old tribal art from all around the world and modern art from the late twentieth and twenty-first century. The building has an admirable architecture that boasts of a free observation gallery on the top with breathtaking views of the city.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a modern art museum in San Francisco situated at a short distance from Union Square. A seven storeyed building, it showcases temporary paintings of artists like David Park, Rene Magritte, Diego Rivera, etc. The permanent works here include art pieces by Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of the clothing line GAP. The museum unveiled its expansion and newly designed structure by Snohetta in May 2016.
Located at Lincoln Park, San Francisco, the Legion of Honor is a historical fine-art museum in San Francisco displaying works of European artists. It has stunning views of the city, the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate bridge. The permanent collection here includes decorative art, photographs, sculptures, paintings and artifacts of Louis XV, Rodin, Salone Dore, Gerome etc. It also showcases temporary exhibits of Tissot, Rubens, Degas and other artists from around the world. The photographs displayed are works of Bill Owens, Eadweard Muybridge, John Gutmann, etc. The museum has regular theatre events organ concerts. The cafe has excellent dining options and the store offers a selection of books, puzzles and accessories.
The California Academy of Sciences is a research institute and natural history museum located in San Francisco, California. The Academy first began in 1853 as a society that conducted research. The Academy has four main museum programs- the Kimball Natural History Museum, the Morrison Planetarium, Rainforests of the World, and the Steinhart Aquarium. The interactive exhibits available around the entire museum allow the whole family to learn together in an educational and fun way.
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The Asian Art Museum at San Francisco has a glorious collection of diverse Asian art from over the centuries. It attempts to bridge the gap between Asian and American culture by rediscovering excellent historical artifacts of civilizations from Vietnam, China, and other countries.
The Museum of African Diaspora (MoAD) is a small but prominent museum in San Francisco located at the Yerba Buena arts district. It is a prosperous non-profit organization established to spread awareness of the African Diaspora and emigration. Striving to build and celebrate the Black culture, it has several fine and contemporary art exhibitions dedicated to uplift communal harmony.
The Cartoon Art Museum is located at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf, close to Ghirardelli Square. The museum is a creative cartoon art and caricature museum with works showcased by local and international artists. It is an aesthetic brick building with ample space for exhibits and art shows. The museum has an engaging collection of cartoon art ranging from comic strips, comic book pages, anime and digital cartoon art.
Musée Mécanique (meaning as Mechanical Museum in English) is a profit-based museum in San Francisco situated at Fisherman's Wharf. It embraces an arcade of the 20th century's coin-operated machines and various captivating artefacts. This place features an exceptional collection of over 280 mechanical entertainment machines covering fully Mechanical orchestras that play automatically to vintage slot machines. It is among the biggest collections of such games in the world having private ownerships.
Randall Museum is a natural history museum with the experience of a science and arts center. The museum focuses on science, nature, and the arts. The facilities include the theater, woodshop, art area, and ceramics studio. Its located in Central San Francisco and is run by the city’s Recreation & Parks Department. Located in Corona Heights Park, the museum offers panoramic views of the city, downtown financial district, and the Bay.
Located at Yerba Buena Garden Park, the Children’s Creativity Museum is a practical experience of music, art and technology for kids aged between two and twelve. This museum in San Francisco has some inspiring exhibits like an animation studio to create characters and movies, a tech-lab to program a robot, an imagination lab to build something out of the box, etc. They also have a Mystery Box Challenge that encourages you to produce your unique inventions. The Creativity theatre hosts concerts, presentations, etc for kids to learn from.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is an incredibly well-designed and captivating place in the San Francisco Presidio honoring Walt Disney’s life and legacy. It depicts his childhood, his struggles, his creative work, Disneyland and beyond. They have 10 distinct galleries portraying his life and remembering him after. They have several mesmerizing exhibitions of Walt Disney’s original artwork for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Fox and the Hound, Disney creations in World War II, etc. The museum provides translated audio tours, noise-canceling headphones and video screenings on loop describing the vision and innovative artwork of Walt Disney.
The Museum of Craft and Design, famously known as the MAD, is another prized possession of San Francisco. The museum was envisioned by Aileen Osborn Webb, an American Art patron and philanthropist, who is credited for founding The American Craft Council. Established in 1956, the museum was created in an attempt of acceding and upholding the artists, designers and artisans from the contemporary and alternative art and design arena.
Originally named as Mission San Francisco de Asís, Mission Dolores is a historical spot, located on the 320 Dolores Street of San Francisco, known for withstanding the ravages of time and its antiquity. A creation of the Spanish missionary, Mission Dolores, was established under the Franciscan Order in 1776 with the aim of spreading Christianity amidst the Native Americans community of Costanoans.
The Museum of Performance & Design is a repository of performing arts and theatre in the bay region tracing its glorious evolution from the Gold Rush of California till this date. This museum in San Francisco exhibits works from artists and performing troops and showcases safeguarded live theatrical performances. The Museum’s Library enjoys a multifarious collection of books, clippings, photos, posters, interviews, audio-video tapes, interviews, musical theatre recordings, dance performances, plays, Theatre Film Archive, Research materials on sets and costumes, and reviews from critics.
San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center is one of the largest performing centers in the country. As a collection of six different performance halls, the Center has been home to many show-stopping performances. As the birthplace of the UN, where the charter was signed, it’s worth a visit for history buffs. The center is home to both the San Francisco Ballet as well as the Opera, so make sure to enjoy at least one of their classic performances. There are tours offered every Monday between 10 am and 2 pm.
One of the oldest organizations, the Society of California Pioneers founded the first library in the state. Established in 1850, it is now run by the direct descendants of its founding members and serves as a public museum and research library. The Society memorializes every defining moment in Californian history and there are many of them! From the Gold Rush to the 1906 earthquake to the early settlement of the state, all milestones are preserved carefully thanks to the Society’s repository of primary source materials. You can find the Society of California Pioneers in the Presidio of San Francisco, a now-historic park, a recreation area that used to serve as a US military fort.
The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is located at the Yerba Buena Park and is a place of cultural essence to the city. They showcase art, feature films, dance performances, public programs, etc. The center displays exhibits and collaboratively works with other foundations to promote public welfare and eliminate violence from the community. The YBCA has launched a colorful open lawn social distancing art project in the park to raise awareness.
Madame Tussauds is the most prominent celebrity wax museum around the globe. The museum in San Francisco is located at Fisherman’s Wharf. You can take a look at the world’s most celebrated actors, entrepreneurs, musicians and artists here and click some stunning photos with them.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not is an enjoyable interactive attraction based at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. The Odditorium has some groovy artwork, amusing artifacts and captivating exhibits. Ripley’s has some fascinating oddities and it’s wax figured replicas with interesting photos and background stories to read about them. The museum has an always-on display of Ripley’s intriguing facts and unusual artifacts from around the world.
A Mexican-American artist called Peter Rodriguez, initiated the foundation of The Mexican Museum in 1975. Formerly based in the Mission District, it was later transferred to the Fort Mason Centre and is currently in the process of founding yet another home at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Cultural District. This museum in San Francisco, formerly known as El Museo Mexicano, is a celebration of the Mexican art and culture, which also creates a safe space for fostering and acknowledging the Mexican-American artists. The museum has a diverse collection of Pre-Hispanic, Colonial, Latino, Mexican, and Chicano art along with contemporary multi-faceted art, modern Mexican art, surrealistic paintings and visual arts.
Attached to the California College of the Arts, the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts was founded in 1998. The institute serves both as an exhibition space and research center for unsung artists who take risks and are adventurous. The institute features art by the famous Julia Heyward and Sotheby. The second floor of the institute often features performance art and other unique experiences. Wattis Institute is fully accessible and free to the public. Any art enthusiast should check it out while visiting San Francisco.
Formed in 1977, the Mission Cultural center for Latino Arts was the result of the endeavors by the students of the San Francisco State University students, determined to eradicate the lack of cultural representation for the Latino community. The museum focuses on preserving, exploring and showcasing the cultural and creative traditions of the Latino, Mexican and Caribbean community, thus reflecting their unique experiences.
America’s sole honorary museum structure towards Italian culture resulted in the establishment of the small yet splendid Museo Italo Americano in 1978. Originally based in the Italian suburb of San Francisco, North Beach, the museum was finally transferred to the Fort Mason Centre located in the Marina Boulevard of Buchanan Street. The museum is integral in preserving Italian art and culture and serves as a community centre for Italian-Americans.
The Cable Car Museum, located at Washington cable car barn and powerhouse, is an impressive museum in San Francisco describing the history, building and working of the cars. The San Francisco municipality still uses a fleet of Powell Sreet and California Sreet cars in the state. The museum hosts an annual event of bell-ringing contest to acknowledge and celebrate the evolving history of cable cars and the people running it. It showcases antique cable cars and a variety of devices like tracks, brakes, mechanisms, etc. used for functioning the cable cars. They have a huge collection of momentous photographs on display and a museum gift shop that includes books, apparel, souvenirs and cable car bells.
International Art Museum of America, a non-profit art museum established by a Buddhist artist H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, is a one of its kind genius in the San Franciscan art sphere. Located on the 1023 Central Market Street, the art museum first came into existence in 2011, with an aim of creating an opulent cultural and artistic domain which would also provide spiritual growth. IAMA brims with an outstanding architecture, excellently envisioned by the architect Weiya Noble, and catches great attention with its grand entrance which includes a garden, pond, waterfall, rock formations with a selection of green hedges and flowers all under a pagoda-roofed pavilion.
Located at the Golden Gate Park, the Conservatory of Flowers is a botanical garden and a greenhouse with remarkable Victorian-style architecture. It is the oldest conservatory in the country. It is made up of wood and glass, with an enormous collection that is divided into five distinct segments of tropical flowers and plants from all over the world. It is a well-designed place with embellishing flooring, ample pitcher plants and prominent fountain structures. The staff is knowledgeable and super friendly, always ready to guide and talk about the collection.
The Museum of Russian Culture situated on 2450 Sutter St. of Lower Pacific Heights, San Francisco is a venerated archive on Russian history, the Bolshevik revolution, the first wave of Russian immigration (1917-1922) from Siberia, China and the far East as well as to acknowledge the Russian-American community in San Francisco. This museum in San Francisco was initially established in 1948 as an archive space for safeguarding Russian artefacts from in and around America was later converted into a museum in 1953 for remembering significant Russian contribution to the American landscape. The museum is home to relics including newspaper clips, magazines, letters, journals, photographs, military flags and uniforms, the Ipatieff bomb, an Ampex video recording system, amongst other personal and historically significant artefacts from Russian history.
The Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) Historical Society is an organization that started to support the acceptance of the LGBTQ community and validates their fundamental rights. The museum has an archive reading room with an extensive collection of photographs, periodicals, personal audiovisual recordings and stories, etc. They showcase exhibits about Harvey Milk’s life as an openly gay politician, his assassination, etc. The display includes temporary exhibits regarding AIDS awareness, drag-queens, life of activist Angela Davis, Gay Pride, etc. In addition to this, they host panel discussions, film screenings and galas. The museum gift shop offers a range of apparel, accessories, bags, etc.
The only bookbinding museum in North America, the American Bookbinders Museum was established to celebrate the tools and techniques of bookbinding. They showcase temporary exhibits of articulate hand-bound books, decorative bookbinding with bright colors and glitter, picture books, etc. They display vintage equipment like embossing machines, arming presses, roller backing machine, etc. and demonstrate how they were used to bind a book. The museum hosts illustrated talks, lectures, reading and exhibit receptions among many other events. Their collection includes a bookbinding directory from the last century, published decorative book covers, books and periodicals. The venue is available on rent for corporate and private events. The store offers books, book repair kits and bookbinder kits among other things.
The Academy of Art University Automobile Museum is situated at Washington and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. This museum in San Francisco was built to restore and promote the antiquity of cars. The rare cars on display highlight the intricate craftsmanship and designs from over the decades. They have a marvelous collection showcasing vintage Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Buggati, etc. all from 1920s to 1960s. The vintage models on display are not only American but also include cars from Italy, Britain, Germany, etc. The university allows access to its design students to study these stunning cars which are in excellent condition.
The Pacific Heritage Museum celebrates the heritage of the people living in the Pacific Rim area. The small museum honors various cultures around the Pacific Ocean. It has several rotating exhibits that focus on different countries. Past exhibitions include ‘The Art of Tea: China and Beyond’ and ‘Macao Memories’. Founded by the Bank of Canton of California, the museum is located in the US Subtreasury Building across the Transamerica Building.
San Francisco’s antique railway system that runs throughout the city is a vital part of its identity. It’s also one of the few places where the vintage system can be experienced to its fullest. The San Francisco Railway Museum is a tribute to the city’s rail history. Kids can experience what it’s like to be at the helm of one of SF’s iconic railcars in the lifesize streetcar. There are historic artefacts, interactive displays, and AV displays. The museum is a perfect example of using modern technology to bring the past to life. The free museum is located opposite the San Francisco Ferry Building, where you can take a ferry across the Bay to the many islands like Alcatraz Island and Angel Island.
Based in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Chinese Historical Society of America elevates the prosperous Chinese heritage and recognizes its impact on the country. The organization aims to voice the flourishing Chinese community in the area and educating the public about Chinese values. They host a number of exhibits portraying the struggles of Chinese immigrants in the country, the history of women’s equality, the influence of Chinese culture and architecture, etc. The museum store has a wide collection of novels, publications and books on art, history and ethnicity. It also offers apparel and artwork from local artists to encourage the diversity of the country.
San Francisco’s Aviation Museum and Library offers a glimpse into the importance of commercial aviation and how it plays a role in our everyday life. Since it's located in the International Terminal of the city’s airport, this museum in San Francisco a great last stop in the City by the Bay to get entertained and informed. Modeled after the city’s 1930 passenger lobby, the museum focuses on the history of the airline industry and the region-specific Pacific area. The museum’s exhibitions, research services, and educational programs are free of charge to the public. Its exhibitions are constantly changing, and focus on different aspects of the airline industry, such as ‘fashion in-flight’ which discusses stewardess uniforms.
Wells Fargo is a prominent financial servicing and banking company, whose origins date back to the 1800s. The business’ long history of being reliable and fair has led it to become one of the largest financial institutions in the world. The San Francisco museum is located in the heart of the financial district and depicts Wells Fargo’s leading role in various parts of Californian history. The free museum allows visitors to interact with its various displays and experience for themselves the lifestyle in different parts of time, like the Gold Rush. The museum is appealing to both children and adults, with interesting pieces of information as well as exhibits for experiencing old-timey lifestyles. The original stagecoach is a highlight!
The Beat Museum, located in the North Beach neighborhood, is a devoted museum in San Francisco for all beaten down authors, artists, etc. It signifies the Beat Movement in the 1950s, started by these individuals whose works explained the political situation and social scenario during that period. The museum displays an appreciable selection of handwritten letters, original books and manuscripts, personal belongings of influential people like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Neal Cassady, etc. It also screens a documentary film narrating the exploration, struggles and accomplishments of Americans in the post-war era. The museum hosts several events and has a store with a great collection of some apparel and books on the Beat movement, American literature, etc.
A creative hub for experimental and alternative artists and performers, The LAB, self-describes it as an interdisciplinary organization, which first came into existence in 1984 in Lower Pacific Heights. Later in 1995, it was transferred to the Redstone Building of the 2940 16th Mission Street. In 2013, Dena Beard took over as the Director of the LAB who exclaims that she re-envisioned the place as subversion from the normative administrative structures, which fundamentally runs on the “principle of refusal”.
The California Historical Society (CHS) is a museum established to commemorate and enlighten people with California’s prosperous history. It is located in the Yerba Buena district in San Francisco. The Historical Society boasts of a small museum, an extensive library and a nice gift shop.
Nestled among Pier 39’s bay view restaurants, the Sea Lion Center is a dedicated nature center overlooking the sea lions that hang out on the K-Dock. It is operated by the Aquarium of the Bay as a non-profit organization. The sea lions on Pier 39 first moved in during the 1990s but their numbers vary every season. The Center helps educate its visitors in understanding sea lions and their importance to the San Francisco ecosystem. Their interactive displays and education videos help educate its visitors on how to protect the sea lions that are vital to San Francisco’s image. You can also interact with sea lion artifacts as well as gain information about other similar animals around the world.
Located in Chinatown, San Francisco, The Chinese Cultural Center is a renowned institution established to recognize and acknowledge the integrity of Chinese culture through art. It is located at the Hilton hotel and is a melange of art exhibits from Chinese artists. The Centre hosts numerous traditional dance and music festivals, book launches, poets and writers reading, etc.
The San Francisco Arts Commission is the city and country’s arts council. It has multiple contemporary art exhibitions across the city, located in the War Memorial Veterans Building, a storefront gallery near the City Hall, and one in City Hall itself. The Commission completely oversees the art across the city in the form of graphics, murals, and sculptures. The commission honors contemporary artists and their work in its various galleries. They go out of their way to represent the minorities and diversity of the Bay Area.
Run by the National Park Service, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is a lesson in Pacific maritime history. Located in the western end of Fisherman’s Wharf, it comprises the visitor center, maritime museum, library, and the fleet of historic ships. Its biggest vessels date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, alongside the hundred smaller boats. It also consists of the Aquatic Park District which consists of a park and promenade along the bay. The Maritime Park always has some kind of interesting workshop and learning opportunities going on, including ranger programs and touring the historic ships alongside a guide.
A historical and architectural landmark, a field trip spot and a bygone military vantage point, Fort Point National Historic Site, situated right below the southern anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge has all the highlights under its sleeves. Originally erected to protect the harbor during the American Civil War, the fort was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1853 and 1861.
The O’Brien is known as one of the luckiest ships and has survived multiple voyages through D-Day landings, submarine attacks, and dangerous seas. It is one of the last two remaining fully functional Liberty ships of the hundreds made and launched during World War II. The living museum transports its visitors back seventy years to its years of glory. The ship is located at Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco.
Haas–Lilienthal House is undoubtedly the daintiest landmark of San Francisco. Built in 1886 on 2007 Franklin Street of Pacific Heights, this magnificent house exemplifies Victorian royalty. It was designed as a private residence for William and Bertha Haas, the wealthy business moguls of San Francisco, who originally belonged to Bavarian Jewish community. The grandeur house built in the Queen Anne architectural style was dextrously planned by Jewish architect Peter Schmidt.
Famously known as McElroy Octagon House, the Octagon House San Francisco is an architectural treasure situated on 2645 Gough Street (at Union Street). The house which was built as a private residence by a miller called William C. McElroy in 1861 is one of the rare two surviving octagonal structures in San Francisco. The house was a result of the experimental trend of octagonal architectural structures, which was inspired by the publication of an essay titled The Octagon House: A Home For All, or A New, Cheap, Convenient, and Superior Mode of Building (1848) by Orson Squire Fowler, who claimed that the octagon houses were cost-efficient and supported spacious room dimensions.
One of the most historic maritime vessels in the country, USS Pampanito is stationed at Fisherman Wharf, San Francisco. Its been restored to the exact condition it was in 1945 at the height of the Second World War, when it ran 6 patrols in the Pacific. The museum ship is operated by the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association. Its radio room is home to the USS Pampanito’s Amateur Radio Club. The ship also runs many onsite educational programs for kids and adults, as well as team-building for corporations.
The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center was built to preserve a vital part of American history as a tribute to the Japanese American experience and contribution during the World War II. (MIS) Historic Learning Center, situated at Crissy Field on the Presidio of San Francisco, was initially an abandoned airplane hangar which was converted into a Secret Army Language School in 1941. This was set up by the American army for the training of Japanese Americans during the World War II. The institution schooled 58 Japanese Americans as linguists, who worked closely with the American military intelligence in the Pacific in order to provide combat and cultural tactics.
The EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park is an institution established to educate people and maintain the environmental standards of our planet. It aims to sensitize the public on matters like green living, biodiversity, climate change and environmental sustainability by conducting classes, lectures and public programs. The beautiful building of the center is built with the notion of green architecture. The facility hosts regular performances, cleaning drives and tree planting events in the Bay Area to spread awareness and commit to their goal of sustainable development. They have a small model that explains how the tidal waves and wetlands aid to clear harmful toxins, sewage, etc. before it is discharged into the bay.
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