San Francisco: Calendar of free museum days

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The view from the top floor of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Donjd2
The view from the top floor of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Donjd2

It’s no surprise that many of San Francisco’s best attractions are outdoors. The bay area is home to some of America’s most notable landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Golden Gate Park. However, there are some moments that just call for a museum day. Whether you just need a break from being outside or it’s one of San Francisco’s infamous foggy days, we’ve got you covered.

Today, we’re not only featuring some of San Francisco’s best museums, but highlighting the days each month that the museums offer free admission. As you can imagine, these are often their busiest days of the month, so we recommend arriving early, by the time they open if possible.

California Academy of Sciences
Free: Third Wednesday of the month

We consider the California Academy of Sciences the best museum in San Francisco. It’s not just one museum, but 3-in-1, featuring a natural history museum, aquarium, and planetarium. Visiting the California Academy of Sciences on the third Wednesday of the month will save you nearly $30 per person. However, you especially want to arrive early on this day, since it’s San Francisco’s most popular museum.

If for some reason you can’t make the third Wednesday, an alternative is their Thursday nightlife evenings. If you’re going to the museum at night, why not experience it with a cocktail in hand?

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Free: First Tuesday of each month

Since San Francisco is such a creative city, it’s no surprise that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the city’s best museums, featuring nearly 30,000 pieces of contemporary art. The museum’s free day is the first Tuesday of each month.

Also note: If you visit on Thursday evenings, you receive half-off your admission.

de Young
Free: First Tuesday of the month

The de Young Museum often gets overlooked in San Francisco, but this isn’t a museum you want to miss, especially with their current Picasso exhibit (through October 10, 2011), which features 100 permanent pieces from the Musée National Picasso in Paris.

The museum’s free day is on the first Tuesday of the month. With its central location in Golden Gate Park, you can enjoy the best of both worlds with part of your day indoors at the museum and the rest of it exploring all that San Francisco’s famous park has to offer.

Free: First Wednesday of the month

The Exploratorium is an interactive museum, mixing both science and art. The hands-on museum features exhibits that explore the human body, astronomy, culture, the earth, and more. Admission is free at the Exploratorium on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re visiting with a large group, you’ll have to make reservations ahead of time to be admitted.

Similar to the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium has an “after dark” event on the first Thursday of every month with cocktails, special exhibits, and live performances.

Asian Art Museum
Free: First Sunday of the month

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco houses one of the largest collections of Asian art in the world. Formerly located in Golden Gate Park, the museum now stands next to the San Francisco Civic Center. The Asian Art Museum features nearly 20,000 works of art, with significant pieces of art from countries that include China, Japan, and Korea. Free museum day is on the first Sunday of the month.

About the author

Spencer is a traveling writer, who currently calls San Francisco home after living on the east coast for most of his life. He writes regularly for Web and print publications. While Spencer has traveled around the world, Europe is his first love, a love that is sustained back home by micro brews, fish and chips, soccer and golf.

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