Popular Museums in the San Francisco Bay

San Francisco is a bustling city by the sea, with a variety of rich cultural offerings, including fabulous world-renowned museums. There are more than 50 public and private museums in San Francisco allowing visitors to experience contemporary art, hands-on science, and sites of distinct historical significance. Here are some of the more notable San Francisco Museums.

Alcatraz Island

Located in the middle of the beautiful San Francisco Bay and managed by the National Park Service, Alcatraz is steeped in historical intrigue. The historical museum is situated on a relatively small, rocky island. Visitors, who arrive by boat, will get a close-up look at the west coast’s first lighthouse and learn about the infamous private prison and the 18-month occupation of the island by native tribal peoples. In addition to housing the intriguing history museum, the island is also a place of incredible beauty, with lush gardens, tide pools, and bird colonies.

Alcatraz is open every day except Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. It is accessible by a private ferry, offering tours every half hour on most days. Advance reservations are recommended, as tours often sell out.

The Exploratorium

This huge, hands-on science museum is a treat for both kids and adults. Located on Pier 15, on San Francisco’s waterfront, the Exploratorium offers several floors of more than 1,000 hands-on exhibits. Exhibits are divided into galleries based on content and include Light and Sound, Human Behavior, Living Systems, Tinkering, the Outdoor Gallery, and the Bay Observatory Gallery. Plan for a whole day to explore these amazing exhibits.

The Exploratorium is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. On Thursday nights, the museum reopens for an adults-only experience from 6 – 10 p.m. The museum complex includes an upscale food court and a museum gift shop.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Offering one of the most comprehensive exhibits of Asian Art, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco aims to serve as a bridge of understanding between Asia and the United States by allowing visitors to steep themselves in rich Asian culture, music, and art. The museum features more than 18,000 objects of cultural and artistic significance from Asian cultures spanning the past 6,000 years.

Galleries display jewelry, porcelain, clothing, and furniture as well as traditional paintings and sculptural works. Many celebrated works of art are included such as the oldest known Chinese Buddha, a gilded bronze work dated back to the year 338.

The museum is located in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center District, and is easily accessible by car or public transportation. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. On Thursdays, it stays open until 9 p.m. Special, self-guided multimedia tours are available at the visitor’s desk.

Get an insider's view of this historic city, by visiting these incredible museums. Each offers a different taste of the city’s cultural offerings and is sure to delight any San Francisco visitor.

Last Updated: January 08, 2015