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SF Museum of Modern Art: Tips to Visit 

Jill at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

  1. Updated March 7, 2021

The SF Museum of Modern Art is a one of the most popular museums in San Francisco. It's located steps from Union Square in the South of Market (SOMA) District.

This museum just did a major expansion and reopened after being closed for three years. Inside you will now find 10 floors of artwork, which makes it almost three times its original size. I also love that they added about six times more public space with several pieces you can see at no cost.

The museum houses more than 30,000 works of art. In its permanent collection, you can see pieces from well-known artists such as Henri Matisse and Diego Rivera. You will also find beautiful photography, modern architectural pieces, and several other modern paintings.

Highlights for the SF Museum of Modern Art

  • The museum reopened on 3/7.
  • They are open 5 days a week. They are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They are open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.
  • Tickets are $25 for adults with discounts for seniors and those aged 19-24 with an ID. It's free to anyone 18 and younger.
  • You will find it at 151 Third Street in the South of Market District.
  • Plan to spend at least 2 to 3 hours here. If you enjoy admiring each piece longer, your visit could extend out to about 4 to 5 hours.
  • COVID-19 requirements are in place. Masks are required for anyone age 3 and older. Follow signage to stay distanced. Anyone not following the rules will be asked to leave with no refund.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Everything You Need to Visit the SF Museum of Modern Art

SF MomaThe front of the SF Moma from the Yerba Buena Gardens.

How much does it cost to visit the SF Museum of Modern Art? Are there any discount passes? Do they have any free days?

What are their hours? What days is the SF MOMA closed? What holidays are they open? 

When is the best time to visit? How long should I plan for my visit?

What is currently showing? What are some of the must see pieces

Are you allowed to take pictures

Do they have a restaurant? What are the hours

Do they offer docent led tours? Do they provide special audio tours?

Is there parking in or near the museum? 

What is the best public transit to use to get here? Which BART Station is best? 

Is it ADA accessible? Do they offer wheelchair rentals

Do they have a gift shop? Can I enter the gift shop without visiting the museum? 

What is the history of this SF museum

SF Museum of Modern Art Visiting Details

New Moma LobbyThe skylight in the lobby at the SF MOMA.

The SF Museum of Modern Art is amazing. It's well laid out with plenty of room to look around without it feeling too crowded. It's the perfect treat for anyone that loves modern art.

Tickets & Admission Fees

The cost to visit is:

  • Adults: $25
  • Seniors (65 and older): $22
  • Age 19 - 24 (with ID): $19
  • Age 18 and under: Free*
  • Members: Free*

There may also be a small fee for some of their traveling exhibits.

Buy your ticket online today.

*Free: Even though you can get in free within these two groups, you must still have a ticket for entry. For those 18 and under, you can book your free ticket with the purchase of a full priced ticket or member ticket online on the SF MOMA website. Members must book their free ticket online in advance before they arrive. A limited number of free tickets are available at the door, but they go quickly.

Free Days

The SF Museum of Modern Art currently does not offer any free admission days. However, they do have a large public area (over 45,000 square feet) that is admission free. You are free to wonder around this area and check out the free art displays during their regular museum hours.

They do participate in certain city wide and district programs that offer free days to the community a couple of times a year.

Visit my free days page to learn more.

Discount Passes

You can also save on your admission by purchasing one of San Francisco's great discount passes. There are more than a dozen to choose from and some of them include admission to the SF Museum of Modern Art. 

These are the ones that I recommend checking out before buying individual tickets for your stay.

City Pass: The most popular discount card for San Francisco is the City Pass. It includes admission to the SF Museum of Modern Art. You will also receive a ticket to the California Academy of Sciences and the Aquarium of the Bay. You will also get a ticket to a 60-minute bay cruise.

You can use the pass over multiple days, so you don't have to squeeze it all into one day. I recommend using it over the course of three days, so it doesn't feel so rushed. This card offers you the chance to save more than 40%.

>> Visit the City Pass site for details

Go City: The Go City is one of our more popular discount passes. It's offered by Smart Destinations and includes admission for more than 25 SF and Bay Area attractions. 

This pass is based on the number of days you want to visit attractions. You will buy a 1-, 2-, 3- or 5-day pass and then see as much as you can during that time. You can also just select the attractions or the museums you want to see in order to save.

It includes admission to the SF Museum of Modern Art, the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and more with a savings of up to 50%.

>> Visit the Smart Destinations website to learn more 

Hours

The SF Museum of Modern Art galleries are now open Friday - Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The MOMA is open on Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The free public spaces open an hour earlier than the galleries, at 9am.

The museum is closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays.

The museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Last admission is half an hour before closing. They are open all other holidays that do not fall on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Best Times to Visit

SF Moma Photography

When is the best time to visit the SF Museum of Modern Art? My recommendation is to visit during the week if possible. Monday and Friday mornings are often not as busy. When they first open on Thursday at 1 p.m., you will also find it not as busy. 

The busiest times are Thursday evenings and on the weekends. 

However, the new museum has opened up the space quite a bit. You will find that even when the museum is busy, there is still plenty of space to spread out and enjoy their displays.

NOTE: The SF Museum of Modern Art is currently on timed entry and only running at 25% capacity, so anytime is a good time to visit. Book your advanced tickets.

How long should you plan for your visit? I typically visit a couple of times a year. Each time, I usually spend about two to three hours. If this is your first or only time, you might spend 3 to 4 hours here. If you like to walk through quickly, it will be only a couple of hours. If you enjoy really admiring the art, then plan for a little bit of a longer stay. 

Current Exhibits

Outdoor Art

The newly expanded SF Museum of Modern Art currently has 19 exhibits. Four of them are ongoing. The others are temporary exhibits. New exhibits will be brought into these spaces regularly.

The four ongoing exhibits are:

  • Approaching American Abstraction, The Fisher Collection
  • German Art After 1960, The Fisher Collection
  • Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art, The Fisher Collection
  • Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900

>> Visit my exhibit calendar page for a list of all of their current and upcoming temporary exhibits as well as exhibits at other museums around town

Must See Pieces in the SF Museum of Modern Art

Free Exhibit SpaceA large piece of art in their free exhibit space on the first floor of the building

I always love to point people in the direction of the most famous or popular pieces in each museum. These are just a few of the highlights I recommend you check out during your visit.

Note: They rotate their pieces often, so this list is subject to change.

Floor 2: Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900 Henri Matisse: Marine (Bord de mer), 1906 painting

  • Henri Matisse: Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), 1905 painting
  • Jackson Pollock: Guardians of the Secret, 1943 painting
  • Georgia O'Keeffe: Black Place I, 1944
  • Pablo Picasso: Nature morte "la cafetiere" (Still Life "The Coffee Pot"), 1944 painting
  • Diego Rivera: The Flower Carrier, 1935

Floor 4: Approaching American Abstraction Clyfford Still: PH-919, 1974 painting

Floor 5: Pop, Minimal, and Figurative Art Andy Warhol: Triple Elvis [Ferus type], 1963 

Other Visiting Details

Are you allowed to take pictures? You are allowed to take pictures for personal use. You are not allowed to sell them or use them commercially unless specifically noted. 

To preserve the work, flash photography is not allowed. You are also not allowed to use a tripod or selfie stick.

Do they have a restaurant? What are the hours? Yes, the museum does have a couple of food options. 

  • Cafe 5: Right now, this is the only option that is open. It's grab and go food. There are tables and outdoor seating on the museum's fifth floor patio. It is open Friday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It's also open from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
  • Situ: This is their fine dining restaurant which will open at a later date.
  • Coffee Bars: Their coffee bars will also open at a later date.

Do they offer docent led tours? Yes, the SF Museum of Modern Art usually offers free docent led tours. Due to current health regulations, they are on hold. I'll update you once they start to offer them again.

Do they provide special audio tours? Headphones are not currently available for their regular audio tour. However, you can download their free audio app and access stories and more during your visit.

Parking Near the SF Museum of Modern Art

The SF Museum of Modern Art is easy to get to from all around San Francisco. It's about a half mile from Union Square, across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens, and just about a block from most of the Moscone Center.

However, if you do drive, there are several parking options nearby. Here are a few of my recommendations. Parking rates can change, but I've given you some estimates below.

  • Museum of Modern Art Lot: Right behind the museum, you will find this indoor parking garage. The rates are $4 for each 30 minutes or up to $35 for the entire day. The address is 147 Minna Street.
  • Hotel W - Lot: This lot is less than a block away at the Hotel W at 181 Third Street. The rates start at $15 for the first hour and $14 an hour after that. Maximum daily rate is $64.
  • Moscone Center Garage: You will find it at 255 3rd St about a block away from the SF Museum of Modern Art. Parking rates range from $1 to $5.50 an hour with a maximum daily rate of $29.
  • Fifth & Mission Garage: This is another large lot about two blocks away at 833 Mission Street. Parking rates here are about $1.50 to $3.50 an hour. Daily rate is more than $30.

>> More parking tips for SF

Other Ways to Get Here

Public transit is the best way to get to the SF Museum of Modern Art. They are centrally located in San Francisco's South of Market District and just a few blocks south of Market Street.

What is the best public transit to use to get here?

There are a number of options along Market Street that will get you within 10 minutes of the museum. Some of these include the 5, 7, and the 38. You can also access the museum using the 8, 30, 45, and 91 buses which will drop you off on either 4th Street or along Mission. All drop off within a couple of blocks of the museum. 

From Union Square: If you are coming to the SF Museum of Modern Art from Union Square, your best option is to walk. It's about a half mile from the heart of Union Square and the walk is mostly flat. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes. 

From Fisherman's Wharf: If you are coming from Fisherman's Wharf, you can take the #8 bus. Pick it up at the corner of Powell Street and North Point. You will get off the bus at the stop at 4th and Mission. You will then head east, past the Yerba Buena Gardens to the museum. The bus ride is about 30 minutes and the walk takes about 5 minutes. 

>> More about getting around San Francisco

Which BART station is closest?

From the East Bay: If you are coming over from the east bay, the best BART Station for the SF Museum of Modern Art is the Montgomery Street Station. The walk is about 5 to 10 minutes.

From the South Bay: Those coming from the south bay should exit BART at the Powell Street Station. From here, it's about a 10-minute walk to the museum. 

ADA Accessibility

The SF Museum of Modern Art is ADA accessible. They offer a specific drop off area for those that are not able to walk in from the parking garage. 

Inside, you will find level floors and elevators. 

They allow service dogs that are under the control of the owner. They also offer free admission to anyone helping another guest with accessibility needs.

Services for Blind or Partially Sighted Guests

They offer a few services for those that are blind or partially sighted. You will find both Braille and large print versions of their maps at the ticketing desk. They also offer free audio content on their SF Museum of Modern Art app.

Services for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Visitors

Assisted listening devices are available to those at the museum free of charge. Just request the device when you enter. 

If you need an ASL interpreter, please reach out to the museum at least two weeks in advance with your request.

They also have full text transcripts for each audio stop through their SF Museum of Modern Art app.

Do they offer wheelchair rentals? Yes, they offer manual wheelchairs free of charge. They are on a first-come, first-served basis, so they cannot guarantee that they will always have one available. 

They also offer light weight, portable gallery stools for those that will need just a little extra support during their visit. You can use these to sit down for a few minutes anywhere in their galleries.

Gift Shop

The SF Museum of Modern Art has a gift shop on their first level. It offers a variety of specialty items and gifts including books, note cards, bags, and more. They also offer jewelry, kid's items, puzzles, exhibition products, custom prints, and so much more.

It's the perfect place to find a gift for your art loving friends and family.

Can you enter the gift shop without visiting the museum? Yes, the museum store is accessible without needing to visit the museum. 

SF Museum of Modern Art History

The SF Museum of Modern Art first opened in 1935. It was originally called the San Francisco Museum of Art. It was the first museum on the west coast dedicated to modern art. It's first home was on the 4th floor in the War Memorial Veterans Building in the Civic Center District.

They added "modern" to the name of this museum in 1975. The SF Museum of Modern Art was one of the first to showcase photography as fine art. 

The museum in the Civic Center District closed in 1994 and they opened the facility on 3rd Street in January 1995. Over the years, the museum was gifted a variety of important pieces from collectors from around the world.

As the museum expanded, they needed more room. The SF Museum of Modern Art closed in 2013 for their large renovation and expansion. The new museum which is almost three times its original size reopened in May 2016.

SF Museum of Modern Art
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