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San Francisco Art Museums

Tips to Visit the Six Most Popular

San Francisco art museums are some of the best in the country. Explore the most popular ones during your visit including the Museum of Modern Art, the de Young Fine Arts Museum and the Legion of Honor.

Many of these museums feature highly acclaimed permanent collections. In addition, they draw in some of the best traveling exhibits in the US.

This is a picture of the Asian Art Museum in SF's Civic Center district.

Cartoon Museum SF

Below you will find an overview of the best including a little on their permanent collections and other visiting tips.

1. Museum of Modern Art

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the popular San Francisco art museums. It’s located right in the heart of the city in the SOMA district.

sf momaIt was founded in 1935. The entire building is focused on modern and contemporary art.

Quick Facts: Their permanent collection has more than 26,000 piece of modern art. The exhibits include works of art, photographs, free standing art and more. They also have a number of amazing traveling exhibits.

Location: 151 Third Street (between Mission + Howard)

Cost: $18 for adults, $12 for seniors (62+), $11 for students w/current ID and free for kids 12 and under; Half price admissions on Thursdays from 6pm to 8:45pm; some of their special exhibits cost extra

Hours: It's currently closed for renovations through the spring of 2016. However, you can see some of their pieces on display with their "On the Go" series throughout SF and the Bay Area. Click here to find the current schedule.

Free Days: First Tuesday of each month; additional cost for some special exhibits

Discount Passes: Admission included with both the Go San Francisco Card and the San Francisco CityPass. Compare the two passes

Transit: This is one of the San Francisco art museums that is an easy walk from Union Square.

Insider Tips: Take some time to look around the building and visit the roof top deck. The building itself has some beautiful, modern features. The roof deck is a Blue Bottle Cafe where you can sip some coffee while enjoying your time at the museum. Participate in one of the four free, daily guided tours. They are at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 with an additional one at 7:15pm on Thursday nights.

Learn More: Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

2. de Young Fine Arts Museum

The de Young Fine Arts Museum is another one of the popular San Francisco art museums. It is located in Golden Gate Park.

de young sf It was founded in 1895. It houses a number of pieces of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries. It also features art about the native Americans, Africa and the Pacific.

Quick Facts: This one just relocated to a new, building right across the street from the California Academy of Sciences. It's a large space that occupies over 293,000 square feet.

Location: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in the Golden Gate Park

Cost: $10 for adults; $7 for seniors; $6 for students with IDs and youths 13 - 17; free for children 12 and under; $7 for the audio tour; additional charge for some special exhibits

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 5:15pm; Open until 8:45 on Fridays from mid-January through November; Closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day; The museum also closes at 4 pm on December 24

Free Days: First Tuesday of every month; additional cost for some special exhibits

Discount Passes: Admission included with the Go San Francisco Card and San Francisco CityPass. Compare the two passes

Transit: Your best option is to take the Hop On/Hop Off tour to the museum. Exit the bus at stop #6 by the California Academy of Sciences. The de Young is right across the street. Other options include taking the bus or a taxi. Take the 5 Fulton bus (to 8th Avenue & Fulton) or the N Judah muni train (to 9th and Irving) from Union Square, both drop you about six or seven blocks away. If you take a taxi, it will cost around $25 or so from Union Square.

Insider Tips: This is just one of several San Francisco art museums that offers guided tours. These tours are great because you can learn more and ask questions about the pieces on display. These tours are free, you do not need to make a reservation and you are welcome to join them already in progress.

Learn More: de Young Museum

3. Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum is another one of my favorite San Francisco art museums. The entire museum is dedicated to Asian Art. It’s one of the few and largest that is completely dedicated to art in this area of the world.

asian art museumQuick Facts: This one has over 17,000 items in its permanent collection. Most of the items are rare and some are several thousand years old.

Location: 200 Larkin Street (between Fulton and McAllister Streets) in the Civic Center area near City Hall

Cost: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and older, $7 for college student with an ID, $7 for youths (13 – 17), free for children 12 and under; $5 for after 5pm on Thursdays; most special exhibits are an additional fee

Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday – Sunday from 10am to 5pm; the hours on Thursday vary with the season - October to January it's open from 10am to 5pm and from February to September it’s open from 10am to 9pm; Closed on Mondays, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

Free Days: First Sunday of the month sponsored by Target, the "Target First Free Sundays" are on a first come, first served basis, so you will want arrive early if you want to ensure you can get a ticket; additional cost for some special exhibits

Discount Passes: Admission is included with the Go San Francisco Card

Transit: The Asian Art Museum is stop #10 on the Hop On/Hop Off tour. You can also take any BART or the Muni light rail trains from Union Square to Civic Center. Head north after exiting the train and it is about four blocks away.

Insider Tips: Since it is so large, I recommend that you leave at least two to three hours for your visit. They have some videos along the way too, so you can learn more about each culture. Keep this in mind as you are planning your day and the amount of time you are going to spend here. This one also has free guided tours throughout the day. Ask for the schedule when you arrive.

Learn More: Photos & More Visiting Tips for the Asian Art Museum

4. Cartoon Art Museum

The Cartoon Art Museum is another one of the San Francisco art museums that is fun to visit. It’s a museum that is fully dedicated to cartoon and animation art.

cartoon artThis museum was founded in 1984. It was stated when a group of cartoon art enthusiasts decided to begin showcasing their own works of art. In 1987, it turned into an official museum with a permanent home.

Quick Facts: This is another one of the San Francisco art museums that is very large. It has over 6,000 pieces in its permanent cartoon art collection from familiar Sunday comics to Saturday morning cartoons. This one has five galleries of exhibit space. It also has a research library.

Location: 655 Mission Street in the SOMA neighborhood

Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $3 for kids (6 to 12) and children 5 and under get in free; the first Tuesday of the month is "Toonsday" where you pay what you wish; additional cost for some special exhibits

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm; closed on Mondays, New Year's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas

Discount Passes: Admission included with your Go San Francisco Card

Transit: This is another one of the museums in San Francisco that is close to Union Square. It is right around the corner from the Museum of Modern Art. You can walk here from Union Square.

Insider Tips: The museum looks small when you enter, but you will find a lot of classic comics here. Plan on spending at least an hour or more walking through and reading all of the comics. Photography is not allowed in the museum and you may have to check your camera at the front desk.

Learn More: Cartoon Art Museum

Top Hotels for Your Visit

5. Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor is another one of the great San Francisco art museums. It dedicates it space to fine arts from sculptures to paintings.

legion of honor sfThis amazing museum includes a Rodin issued cast of the famous "The Thinker" statue. You will also find famous European paintings, ancient works of art, photography and other fine arts on display at the Legion of Honor.

Quick Facts: Collection showcases 4,000 years of ancient and European art; over 800 European paintings; several pieces of ancient art from Egypt, the Near East, Greece, the Aegean Islands, Etruria and Rome; largest repository of works of art on paper in the western United States and photography that concentrates on early California and SF history

Location: In Lincoln Park at 100 34th Avenue on the north western side of the city

Cost: $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for youths 13 - 17 and students with IDs, free for children under 13; additional cost for some special exhibits

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30 am to 5:15 pm; closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day

Free Days: First Tuesday of the month; additional cost for some special exhibits

Discount Passes: Admission included with both the Go San Francisco card and the San Francisco CityPass. Compare the two passes

Transit: Parking is free at the Legion of Honor. You can also take the bus. From Union Square, you can take the 1-California (to the 33rd Avenue and Clement Street stop) or the 38-Geary (to the 33rd Avenue and Geary Street stop). You can then either transfer to the 18, which drops right in front of it, or walk about a half mile north to the museum.

Insider Tips: Head down to the lower level cafe for some of the best views of the Pacific Ocean. Free guided tours available with no reservations. Ask for a schedule when you arrive.

Learn More: Legion of Honor

6. Yerba Buena Arts Museum

The Yerba Buena Arts Museum is one of the more interesting San Francisco art museums. The museum has no permanent art collection, but rather showcases special exhibits.

Quick Facts: Review the list below to see what is on display during your visit.

Location: 701 Mission Street @ 3rd Street

Cost: $7 for adults; $5 for students, seniors and teachers; free for kids 5 and under

Hours: Thursday - Saturday from 12 to 8 pm; Sunday from 12 to 6 pm; closed on Mondays, Tuesdays (open on the first Tuesday from 12 to 8), Wednesdays and all major holidays

Free Days: First Tuesday of the month

Discount Passes: Admission is included with your Go San Francisco card

Transit to the Museum: This is another one of the centrally located San Francisco art museums. It is just a few blocks from Union Square.

Insider Tips: The Yerba Buena Center for Performing Arts has a range of events, films and other shows. Before visiting, check out their calendar for even more events during your stay: Yerba Buena website

Go San Francisco Card

Admission to many of the San Francisco art museums is included with the Go San Francisco card. This is a multi-day, multi-attraction pass that saves you both time and money. It includes admission to almost 50 attractions in San Francisco and the surrounding areas.

go card san francisco

Other popular attractions included with the Go Card are the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers and Aquarium of the Bay. Just a few of the free tours included with the card are the Golden Gate Bay Cruise, the GrayLine Trolley Tour and AT&T Ballpark Tour.

With this card, you also receive discounts and value added offers at many retailers and restaurants throughout the city. To keep track of all the offers included, you will receive a free full color guide book when you buy the pass.

The card is available for one, two, three, five or seven days, so you can purchase it just for the days you are visiting. Overall, you will only pay a fraction of the full price tickets for all of these attractions. Uncover additional benefits and pick up your Go San Francisco card today!

Hop On/Hop Off Tour

The Hop On/Hop Off tour is a great way to get around San Francisco. This tour is specifically designed for those wanting to easily get from one attraction to the next - without having to drive or take public transportation.

hop on hop off bus san francisco

The San Francisco Hop On/Hop Off tour includes nineteen stops throughout the city. You can hop on and off at any stop to visit some of these San Francisco art museums or other attractions.

You can buy either a one day or two day pass. This is a great way of getting to some of the museums that are a little further out such as the California Academy of Sciences or de Young Museum.

Add this with your purchase of the Go San Francisco card and you will be ready for your adventure in the city by the bay. Learn more about the Hop On/Hop Off Tour and reserve your ticket today!


History Museums: In addition to the number of great San Francisco art museums, the city also has some great history museums. The most popular is the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Another favorite is the Cable Car Museum, where you can learn about the history of the cable cars in San Francisco and watch the current wheels pull the cars up the steep hills in the city. Learn more about these and other history museums in San Francisco.

Museum Exhibits: San Francisco museums offer a number of amazing exhibits. On this page, you will find a list of the current museum exhibits by month.

Bay Aquarium: Also known as the Aquarium by the Bay, this popular stop features the plants and animals of the San Francisco bay. This is a great tour for both kids and adults -- anyone that is interested in learning more about the plants and animals that live under the water in the area. Read on to learn more about what it is like to visit this aquarium.

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