Here are the outdoor destinations you're definitely going to make it to on a trip to San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge (obviously), the Painted Ladies (the famous row of houses from Full House's opening sequence), and Dolores Park. But do you have your must-see list of SF museums figured out yet? They're just as worthy of a visit, so don't worry, we've got you covered.
The iconic northern California city has plenty of outdoor destinations to hit up, but it's also got some amazing museums to call its own. And since the weather can be pretty unreliable, it's a good move to have a Plan B. Whether you get a rainy afternoon and want to take in some culture, or you're looking for a host of artsy Instagrams to bank (no judgment, whatever gets you to a museum), here are the seven best museums to visit in San Francisco.
de young museum
The de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park boasts more than 27,000 pieces of art, including contemporary, American, African, and oceanic collections. The state-of-the-art facility intersects architecture, natural landscape, and art for an unparalleled visual experience. Amazingly, this summer is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love—the infamous 1967 birth of the hippie counterculture in San Francisco—and the museum is hosting an exhibit called: "The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll," replete with interactive music and light shows, films, and iconic photographs and posters.
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences
Part research institute, part natural history museum, the California Academy of Sciences is a must-visit for children and adults alike. It's in Golden Gate Park right near the De Young Museum, so if you're in the area, definitely hop over to this one after. Designed by acclaimed architect Renzo Piano, it features an incredible green roof (photographed above), under which is an indoor rainforest. There are also penguins, a coral reef exhibit, and much more.
55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco
This incredibly cool independently owned museum houses more than 300 antique carnival games and arcades in their original working order. There are terrifying clown dolls, macabre execution games, antique slot machines, and more. The best part? There's free admission every day of the week. Just bring a bag of quarters to play the games! We guarantee you won't want to leave for hours.
Pier 45 Fisherman's Wharf at the foot of Taylor Street, San Francisco
The San Francisco Maritime Museum, erected in 1939, was designed to resemble an Art Deco ocean liner. The ship-shaped structure, located in the Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building is a beautiful place to visit for some seafaring knowledge and eye candy: The walls inside are covered with colorful psychedelic murals depicting the underwater world. Bonus: It's open seven days a week and has free admission.
900 Beach Street, San Francisco
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a feat of dazzling architecture—just the exterior is a sight to see. Like its peers in New York City and Los Angeles, the museum offers unparalleled collections and exhibitions, including interactive media arts, contemporary cinema, and cutting-edge photography from modern artists. The ongoing Pop Art Collection with original Warhols and Lichtensteins is definitely worth seeing.
151 Third Street, San Francisco
Exploratorium is as interactive as museum experiences get, dubbed "a public learning laboratory" that blends science, art, and human perception. You can step inside a tornado, turn upside down in a curved mirror, walk on a fog bridge, and more while exploring its 650 hands-on exhibits.
Pier 15, Embarcadero at Green Street, San Francisco
The Interval at Long Now
What's better than a great museum experience? A great museum experience with a craft cocktail program. The Interval at Long Now is a bar, café, and museum in one that houses The Long Now Foundation. It features a handsome library full of the books you'd need if you were to start civilization over from the beginning, old mechanical prototypes and artifacts, and a custom cocktail menu with a commitment to the history of alcohol (classic drinks like martinis) as well as unique regional beverages from around the world.
In short, it's a weird, wonderful place full of curiosities—best paired with alcohol.
Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Boulevard, San Francisco
CHILDREN'S CREATIVITY MUSEUM
If you're traveling to San Francisco with kids, this is the place to take them. It's full of different "labs" from animation and imagination to music and tech. There's also a merry-go-round, patio exhibits, and theatrical performances.
221 Fourth Street, San Francisco
Legion of Honor
Head to the Legion of Honor, a fine arts museum that sits right at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the bay onto the Golden Gate in an old Spreckels family landmark. Aside from the consistently incredible exhibits, just walking through the neoclassical space alone is a dazzling experience.
100 34th Avenue, San Francisco
Looking for more fun things to do while you're in San Francisco? Check out this guide, broken down by neighborhoods throughout the city.