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12 Best Museums in San Francisco

SmarterTravel

When it comes to museums, what’s your pleasure—modern art? Kid-friendly science exhibits? African-American culture? You’ll find all of these and more at the best museums in San Francisco.

The Best Museums in San Francisco

There are even a few only-in-San Francisco options like the Beat Museum (dedicated to Jack Kerouac and pals) and the home of “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz. Read on to discover the most intriguing museums in San Francisco.

Exploratorium

The Exploratorium, located on the waterfront at Pier 15, has a wealth of fascinating exhibits for kids and adults alike—including the Tactile Dome, where kids must navigate a series of environments and obstacles in total darkness, figuring out the course by touch.

De Young Museum

If you’re looking for a great San Francisco art museum, start with the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Inside you’ll find one of the best collections of American art with more than 1,000 works from colonial times through the 21st century.

Legion of Honor Museum

The Legion of Honor Museum, located in Lands End, complements the de Young with a collection of European paintings and sculpture as well as photography and ancient art. A ticket at either museum gets you same-day admission into both.

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is your one-stop San Francisco science museum, housing a planetarium, aquarium, rainforest habitat, natural history museum, and much more, all within an environmentally sustainable building. (The walls are insulated with recycled blue jeans!) It’s located in Golden Gate Park near the de Young Museum.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Contemporary art lovers can easily spend all day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. You can’t imagine the breadth of works here from artists such as Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee, and Henri Matisse. And because the museum places tremendous focus on photography, you will have the opportunity to see work from Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum, located in the Presidio, offers a fascinating look at the life of Walt Disney, from his childhood in the Midwest to his biggest film successes.

Cable Car Museum

Learn more about San Francisco’s most famous form of transportation at the Cable Car Museum. Visitors can check out antique cable cars from the 19th century, historic photographs, and other intriguing artifacts.

Beat Museum

One of the city’s most unique offerings is the Beat Museum, dedicated to the spirit of the Beat Generation of 1950s San Francisco. Check out artifacts and memorabilia from the lives of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and other literary luminaries of the era.

GLBT History Museum

A visit to the GLBT History Museum on 18th Street is an opportunity to visit world-class exhibits related to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history and culture.

Museum of the African Dispora

The Museum of the African Diaspora is one of the city’s smaller gems. This recently renovated space hosts interesting exhibitions related to African history, culture, and art.

Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum offers a jaw-dropping display of sculptures, paintings, and other art objects from India, China, Japan, the Himalayas, Persia, and beyond.

Charles M. Schulz Museum

If you’re a fan of Snoopy and his cohorts, make a pilgrimage to Santa Rosa (about an hour and 15 minutes away by car) and the Charles M. Schulz Museum. The collections include the cartoonist’s personal effects, hundreds of drawings and sketches, and original “Peanuts” strips.

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—Original reporting by Lauren Price and Sarah Schlichter

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