San Francisco Museums Free Days

San Francisco Bay Area Museums

San Francisco Museums: Free Admission & Discounts

The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the best museums and attractions around. Many offer free days. Top picks include California Academy of Sciences, de Young Museum, SFMoMA, Alcatraz Island, Aquarium of the Bay, and Fisherman’s Wharf. But many others provide unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else, like the Cartoon Art Museum and GLBT History Museum.

SF BAY AREA Museums FREE Admission (free days, always free)
SAN FRANCISCO Museums & Attractions (with deals and coupons)
EAST BAY Museums & Attractions (Berkeley, Oakland, etc.)
NORTH BAY Auseums & attractions (Marin, Napa, Sonoma, etc.)
SOUTH BAY Museums & Attractions (San Jose/Santa Clara, etc.)

San Francisco Bay Free Admission

Tuesday Free Admission

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) – Free First Tuesday
de Young Museum – Free First Tuesday
Legion of Honor – Free First Tuesday
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – Free First Tuesday
Conservatory of Flowers – Free First Tuesday
Contemporary Jewish Museum – Free First Tuesday
Cartoon Art Museum – First Tuesday Pay What You Wish Day
San Francisco Botanical Garden – Free Second Tuesday

Wednesday Free Admission

Bay Area Discovery Museum – Free First Wednesday
GLBT History Museum – Free First Wednesday

Thursday Free Admission

Berkeley Art Museum – Free First Thursday
Pacific Film Archive – Free First Thursday
Pez Museum – Free First Thursday
Classic Toy Museum – Free First Thursday

Sunday Free Admission

California Academy of SciencesCalifornia Academy of Sciences discount tickets – Free Quarterly Sundays
CuriOdyssey – Free First Sundays
Asian Art Museum – Free First Sundays
Oakland Museum of California – Free First Sundays
Tech Museum of Innovation — Free Second Sundays
San Francisco Botanical Garden – Free Second Sundays
Sonoma Valley Art Museum — Free All Sundays

Free First Weekend (with BofA or Merrill Lynch card)

Contemporary Jewish Museum
de Young Museum
Legion of Honor
Chabot Space & Science Center
Discovery Science Center
San Jose Museum of Art
The Tech Museum of Innovation

Always Free Admission

Cable Car Museum
Cantor Arts Center
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site
Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society
Museum of American Heritage
Museo Italo Americano 
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
San Francisco Fire Department Museum
San Francisco Botanical Garden (SF locals free)
Marine Mammal Center
Wells Fargo History Museum
Jesse Peter Anthropology Museum

If you’re visiting San Francisco for a couple weeks or a month and want to see several attractions for less, the San Francisco combo passes and discount cards are worth a look: San Francisco CityPASS (best SF attractions, valid for nine days), Go Select San Francisco (editor’s pick, choose any two or more and save 20% or more) and Go San Francisco Card (most attractions available).

San Francisco Museums & Attractions

Although not all SF Bay Area attractions have free days, many are worth a visit if you have the time. Noted here are the recommended venues, along with any available free days, coupons or discounts.

  • Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz Tour Discount: The site of the first lighthouse and US fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public, and the 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes which saved the tribes. Rich in history, there is also a natural side to the Rock – gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and bay views beyond compare. Also discounted with the Go San Francisco card and Go SF Select Pass.
  • Aquarium of the Bay {discount}:Aquarium of the Bay, sea nettles A unique educational facility dedicated to the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters, including a 707,000-gallon aquarium, walk through 300-foot clear acrylic tunnels, and hands-on meetings with sea stars, urchins and sharks. Also discounted with San Francisco CityPASS & Go San Francisco cards.
  • Asian Art Museum {free first Sundays}: One of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art, housing nearly 15,000 treasures spanning 6,000 years of history, representing cultures throughout Asia. Located in San Francisco. Also discounted with Go San Francisco cards.
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum {discount, free 1st Wed.}: Indoor/outdoor family museum with activities for children ages six months to eight years, including hands-on art and science exhibits, special performances and cultural festivals, near Golden Gate Bridge, in Sausalito.
  • Blue & Gold Fleet {discount}: The Bay Area’s largest provider of ferry and water excursion services, and the exclusive provider of tours to Alcatraz under concession to the National Park Service. Provides Bay Cruises, ferries to Sausalito, Tiburon, Alameda/Oakland, Vallejo and Angel Island. Also discounted with San Francisco CityPASS.
  • Cable Car Museum {free admission}: Interactive demos on how cable cars work, cable car route maps with popular destinations, cable car fares and etiquette, and the location and hours for the San Francisco Cable Car Powerhouse.
  • California Academy of Sciences {discount/free days}Cal Academy Discount: Newly remodeled one of a kind science museums with many amazing attractions, including Steinhart Aquarium, and many animal and natural history exhibits. Also discounted with CityPASS & Go San Francisco cards.
  • Cartoon Art Museum: {First Tuesdays Pay What You Wish} One of three museums in the United States preserving and exhibiting cartoon art in all its forms, housing approximately 11,000 original pieces and a complete volume research/library facility. Also discounted with Go Select & Go San Francisco cards.
  • Conservatory of Flowers {Free 1st Tues.}: features four permanent galleries with plants rotated into the galleries as they bloom. Also discounted with Go San Francisco cards.
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum (SOMA): {Free 1st Tuesday} Dynamic exhibitions and programs that explore contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. Also discounted with Go Select & San Francisco cards.
  • de Young Museum – {Free First Tuesdays} Newly remodeled, the de Young is a landmark art museum that showcases many priceless collections of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, and art of the native Americas, Africa, and the Pacific. Also discounted with CityPASS & Go San Francisco cards.
  • Exploratorium San FranciscoExploratorium {resident discount, free days}: Now in a new and beautiful building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, the Exploratorium features hundreds of science, art, and human perception exhibits. Located at Pier 15, between the Ferry Building and Pier 39. Also discounted with CityPASS & Go San Francisco Passes.
  • Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco: San Francisco’s largest public arts institution, comprised of the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.
  • GLBT History Museum {free 1st Wed.}: Located in San Francisco’s Castro District, the GLBT History Museum is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. The museum celebrates 100 years of the city’s vast queer past through dynamic and surprising exhibitions and programming.
  • Hornblower Cruises {discount}: Sail under the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy the festive lights adorning the Bay Bridge at night.A great way to see the San Francisco skyline, including the landmark TransAmerica Pyramid, Embarcadero Center’s four “fingers”, and Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.Legion of Honor discount tickets
  • Legion of Honor {free 1st Tues.}: Art museum displaying an impressive collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art in an spectacular setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Also discounted with CityPASS & Go San Francisco cards.
  • Muir Woods Monument: Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), one of the largest urban national parks in the world.
  • Museum of the African Diaspora: By reminding us that Africa is the birthplace of humankind, MoAD seeks to transform the way we perceive each other and ourselves. MoAD celebrates how we all, as one world, have changed and influenced the history and cultures of the African Diaspora.
  • Pier 39 {discount, coupons}PIER 39 sea lions: Provides visitors with postcard views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, the San Francisco Bay and the City skyline. Visitors can enjoy shopping, entertainment, dining, and more.
  • Presidio {free admission}: Part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Centuries old architecture, a national cemetery, an historic airfield, forests, beaches, and spectacular San Francisco vistas.
  • Red and White Fleet Cruise {discount}: Offers several cruises including a Golden Gate Bay Cruise with headphone audio in twelve languages. Onboard the cruise, you’ll sail along San Francisco’s waterfront, under the Golden Gate and around Alcatraz. Located at Pier 43½ at Fisherman’s Wharf. Also discounted with Go San Francisco cards.
  • San Francisco Botanical Gardens {free 2nd Tues.}SF Botanical Garden: Escape to a unique urban oasis of extraordinary beauty at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Explore our world of gardens, horticulture library, bookstore, and education programs. They also offer free guided walking tours and have amazing plant sales. Open 365 days a year. Located at the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, CA.
  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park: Walk onto the pier to visit the park’s collection of floating historic ships and for breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Located on the edge of San Francisco Bay, in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood.
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) {Free First Tuesdays}: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is considered one of the world’s most innovative museums of modern and contemporary art.
  • San Francisco Zoo {coupon, local free days}: The largest zoological park in Northern California and one of the Bay Area’s most popular cultural and recreational attractions, the San Francisco Zoo is home to over 250 species of exotic and domestic mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates
  • USS Hornet Museum {Occasional Discounts}: An historic aircraft carrier and national treasure docked in Alameda, just across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco. The USS Hornet took part in both World War II and the Apollo 11 manned space mission when humans first set foot on the moon. Discounted with Go Select & San Francisco cards.
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum: Walt Disney’s simple sketch of Mickey Mouse launched an entertainment phenomenon that has spanned generations and revolutionized movies, music, television and theme parks around the world. Here in San Francisco, just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, Walt’s remarkable story and achievements have been brought to life.
  • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts {free 1st Tues.}: Presents arts and entertainment reflecting the San Francisco Bay Area’s diverse cultural populations. Program areas include visual arts, performing arts, film/video and education.

East Bay Museums & Attractions

John Muir National Historic Site
John Muir National Historic Site

Museums and attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay are among the most popular for both visitors and locals, especially for families — from Habitot to Children’s Fairyland to the Oakland Zoo. But don’t overlook the sciences — Chabot Space and Science Center, Lawrence Hall of Science, Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Art and nature museums find a place in the East Bay as well.

  • Berkeley Art Museum {Free First Thursdays}: Houses a notable collection of late twentieth-century art. Located at the University of California, Berkeley, CA.
  • Chabot Space and Science Center: A science museum, set amid 13 trail-laced acres of East Bay parkland, with views of San Francisco Bay and the Oakland foothills, CSSC providing hands-on science sensations, including space games. Located in Oakland, CA.
  • Children’s Fairyland: An historic 10-acre outdoor park where children’s literature is brought to life through fairy tale exhibits, animals, and talking storybooks that children activate by turning a magic key. Located in Oakland, CA.
  • Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site: {Everyday Free Admission and Free shuttle} Memorabilia from America’s only Nobel Prize winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill, who chose to live in Northern California at the climax of his writing career. Located in Danville, CA.
  • Habitot Children’s Museum: The East Bay’s Discovery Museum for young children, featuring hands-on exhibits and drop-in art activities tailored for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and families. Located in Berkeley, CA. AAA discount, Military discount, $1 first visit coupon.
  • Hall of Health – The Hall of Health, sponsored by Children’s Hospital Oakland, is a community health-education museum and science center dedicated to promoting wellness and individual responsibility for health. Located in Berkeley, CA.
  • John Muir National Historic Site: Historic site dedicated to John Muir, the environmentalist who convinced President Teddy Roosevelt to protect Yosemite (including Yosemite Valley), Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Grand Canyon and MT. Rainier as National Parks. Located in Martinez, CA.
  • Lawrence Hall of Science: An entertaining family center featuring hands-on exhibits, events, classes, and summer camps, workshops, labs and planetary shows, located at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Lindsay Wildlife Museum: A wildlife rehabilitation and educational center that focuses on native California wildlife and natural history. The museum exhibits live, non-releasable native wildlife and treats more than 6,000 injured and orphaned wild animals each year. Located in Walnut Creek, CA.
  • Oakland Museum of California: {Free First Sundays} Art, history and natural sciences exhibits showcasing all things California.
  • Oakland Zoo:Oakland Zoo  A 525-acre zoo with over 300 native and exotic animals that live in naturalistic habitats at the Zoo. Located in Knowland Park in Oakland, CA.
  • Pacific Film Archive {Free First Thursdays}: The visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley, CA.
  • Preservation Park: The Park’s 16 turn-of-the-century buildings have been renovated and with their facades restored, are set among manicured lawns and lush plantings, complete with Victorian park benches and street lamps. Located near Oakland’s City Center.
  • Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology: Houses the oldest and largest anthropological collection in the West, including more than 3.8 million objects. Located in Berkeley, CA.
  • Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial {Daily Free Admission and Free shuttle}: WW II location where 320 men were instantly killed when the munitions ships they were loading with ammunition for the Pacific theatre troops mysteriously blew up. Located at Concord Naval Weapons Station, CA.
  • Ripley’s Believe it or not Museum: Over 10,000 square feet of exhibits on two floors with 11 galleries displaying art interactive displays, illusions. Discounted with Go San Francisco cards.
  • The Ruth Bancroft Garden: Internationally recognized as one of the finest private gardens in North America, presenting garden design and a water-conserving landscape. Located in Walnut Creek, CA.
  • University of California Botanical Garden: Features one of the most diverse plant collections in the United States, with 34 acres containing over 13,000 species and more than 21,000 plants from all over the world arranged by region. Located in Strawberry Canyon above the Berkeley campus overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

North Bay Museums & Attractions

 Point Reyes Lighthouse
Point Reyes Lighthouse

The San Francisco Bay Area’s North Bay has more to offer than wine tasting. Museums and attractions are a great way to spend the day. Some of the following venues offer free admission days, coupons, and ticket deals.

  • Bay Area Discovery Museum TicketsBay Area Discovery Museum: {Free First Wednesdays} {Coupon} Indoor/outdoor family museum with activities for children ages six months to eight years, including hands-on art and science exhibits, special performances and cultural festivals, near Golden Gate Bridge, in Sausalito.
  • Charles M. Schulz Museum: A Family friendly museum featuring exhibits and programs that highlight the life and art of the beloved Peanuts cartoon creator Charles M. Schulz.
  • Jesse Peter Anthropology Museum: {Everyday Free Admission} Located on the campus of Santa Rosa Junior College, the Jesse Peter Museum houses Multi-Cultural Exhibits and Anthropology Displays representing the Americas and parts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
  • Muir Woods National Monument: A beautiful old grove redwood forest that contains 75,398 acres that extend from Tomales Bay in Marin County to San Mateo County in the south, encompassing 59 miles of shoreline. One of the nation’s largest coastal preserves and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Located in Mill Valley, CA.
  • Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society: {Everyday Free Admission}Permanent and changing exhibits of the colorful and comprehensive permanent displays describe various aspects of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma County history.
  • Marine Mammal CenterMarine Mammal Center: {Everyday Free Admission} – A nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured, sick and orphaned marine mammals (seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, whales and sea otters) along a 600 mile stretch of California coastline, from Mendocino County through San Luis Obispo County. The Center operates from five locations: the hospital site in the Marin Headlands (just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco); the field offices in Anchor Bay, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo; and a gift store and interpretive center at San Francisco’s PIER 39.
  • Old Faithful Geyser of Napa Valley California: One of three geysers in the world with the designation “old faithful.” These are the geysers that perform at regular intervals, throwing a tower of thousands of gallons of water skyward. Located in Calistoga, CA.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore: A dramatic preserve that protects wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States. Camping, guided tours, and more. Located in Point Reyes, CA.
  • Sharpsteen Museum: Permanent exhibits present the upper Napa Valley from its pre-history to post World War I with an emphasis on people and changes brought by the period of U.S. emigration and development. Located in Calistoga, CA.
  • Six Flags Discovery KingdomSix Flags Discovery Kingdom: {Discount tickets} Wildlife and wild rides at America’s popular theme park, wildlife park, and oceanarium. Includes more than 30 rides, 10 shows, and 35 exotic animal attractions. Located in Vallejo. Also discounted with Go San Francisco cards.
  • Sonoma County Museum: A museum in the North Bay’s wine country that celebrates and interprets the region’s rich history, art, and culture by exhibiting and collecting relevant objects and artworks. Admission rates are $7 general admission/$5 students, seniors and disabled, and free for children 12 and under.
  • Sonoma Valley Art Museum: {Free All Sundays} Local, national, and international collections of painting, drawings, sculptures, photography, ceramics, architecture, design, print-making, film, video and crafts.

South Bay Museums & Attractions

Winchester Mystery House
Winchester Mystery House

The San Francisco Bay Area’s South Bay offers many amazing museums and attractions to visit. Some offer free days and/or discounts. Many are worth a look at their regular affordable admission price.

  • Burlingame Pez Museum: {Free First Thursdays} More than you ever wanted to know about the ubiquitous Pez dispenser. Next to the Classic Toy Museum.
  • California Great America theme park ticket dealCalifornia’s Great America Theme Park: {Discount Tickets} Amusement park with shows, thrill rides and family entertainment. Located in Santa Clara, CA. Also discounted with Go San Francisco cards.
  • Cantor Arts Center: {Always Free} Diverse collections span continents, cultures, and 4,000 years of art history and include the largest gathering of Rodin bronzes outside Paris. At Stanford University in Palo Alto.
  • Children’s Discovery Museum: An interactive learning and discovery center for children and families encompassing the broad themes of community, connections and creativity. Housed in a striking 52,000 square foot purple building in San Jose, CA.
  • Classic Toy Museum: {Free First Thursdays} Showcases the classic toys we all grew up with. On display are many childhood favorites that are still popular today. In Burlingame, next to the Pez Museum.
  • CuriOdyssey Deal CuriOdyssey: Provides a variety of programs and exhibits that help children and families appreciate the natural world.
  • Filoli Center: An historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this 650 acre estate is one of the finest remaining country estates of the early 20th century. A grand Georgian mansion with majestic gardens where hundreds of rare flowers, plants and trees flourish. Located in Woodside, 30 miles south of San Francisco.
  • Gilroy Gardens: This unique theme park features more than 40 family rides, attractions, and exhibits set among six colorful gardens
  • Happy Hollow Park and Zoo: A peaceful, creative and safe place for families, especially for children ages of 2-10. Contains creative play areas, children’s rides, hand puppet and marionette shows, special events, and birthday areas. Located in San Jose, CA.
  • Hiller Aviation Museum: {Discount Tickets} A collection dedicated to man’s concept of flight. Our Museum exhibits highlight the many historic advancements native to Northern California, and show how technologies resident here today will shape the future of air transportation. Located at the San Carlos Airport.Hiller Aviation Museum
  • Intel Museum – Presents an experience of the power of computer chips first hand, with more than 30 interactive exhibits, educational programs, docent-led tours, and family fun. Located in Santa Clara, CA.
  • Hakone Japanese Gardens: The oldest Asian and Japanese estate in the Western Hemisphere–eighteen acres of magnificent beauty nestled in the verdant hills of Saratoga overlooking Silicon Valley. Located just 1/10th of a mile above the Village of Saratoga.
  • Mexican Heritage Plaza: The Mexican Heritage Plaza/Centro Cultural de San José features a theater, thematical gardens, a pavilion, plaza, festivals and events for the entire family. Located in the heart of San José’s oldest and largest Mexican-American community.
  • Montalvo Arts Center: A century-old, Mediterranean-style villa on 175 acres of the beautiful Saratoga foothills. Gallery exhibitions, concerts, literary readings, and special events take place throughout the year.
  • Museum of American Heritage: The Bay Area’s only museum exclusively dedicated to the history of technological innovation in the pre-transistor age. MOAH is an interactive learning center whose mission is to create innovators of the future through inventions of the past.
  • Raging Waters: The Bay Area’s largest water theme park with water slides, thrill rides and attractions, including an interactive family play structure and pint-sized attractions for the little ones. Located inf Lake Cunningham Regional Park in San Jose, CA.
  • Roscicrucian Egyptian Museum & Plamentarium: A stunning complex housing several Egyptian-style buildings on a five-acre park-like setting featuring broad lawns, palm trees, rose gardens, and exotic plants from around the world. Located in San Jose, CA.
  • Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park: Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, located in the wartime boomtown of Richmond, California, preserves and interprets the stories and places of our nation’s home front response to World War II. Located in Richmond, CA.
  • San Jose Museum of Art: San Jose’s premier art museum, with a focus on contemporary art in all media. The Museum also offers a unique store and café.
  • San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles: Exhibits and programs promoting the appreciation of quilts and textiles, highlighting the role in the lives of their makers in cultural traditions and as historical documents.
  • Santa Cruz Boardwalk: {Always Free} Recently named the world’s “Best Seaside Amusement Park” by industry experts, the 102-year old Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk features both modern and classic thrill rides, restaurants, miniature golf, video game arcades, and family bowling, all located on a mile of sandy beach.
  • Tech MuseumTech Museum of Innovation: {Discount Tickets} {Free Second Sundays}  A hands-on technology museum with over 250 interactive high-tech exhibits in a 132,000-sq.-ft. museum. Includes Northern California’s only IMAX® Dome theater. Located in San Jose, CA.
  • Winchester Mystery House {Discount Tickets}: Historic 160-room Victorian mansion built by rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. Beautiful details mixed in with bizarre oddities, such as doors opening onto walls and stairs going nowhere. Guided tours offered daily. Located in San Jose, CA.

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