The 11 San Francisco Museums That Offer Free Admission Days

|July 11, 2018

This post was updated on January 30, 2019 to include up-to-date information and recommendations.

San Francisco has served as a center of art, culture and education for over a century. As a result, our communities have developed some of the world’s best museums displaying art, architecture, gardens, history, global cultures and more.

Even better, many of those museums offer free admission either monthly or on special dates throughout the year. We gathered all the free admission days together in one place so you can celebrate local learning, art and history on a budget. Keep reading to find out which museums you can visit for free and remember to arrive early on free days because these award-winning institutions can get crowded.

Asian Art Museum

Civic Center | First Sunday of the month

San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum serves to build a bridge of understanding between Asia and the United States, and between the various cultures that make up Asia. Based on the diverse communities of the region and the historical significance of those cultures in our city, their collections pre-date written history and inspire guests to encounter new thoughts, styles and ideas upon every visit. Inside, you’ll see contemporary and historical textiles, sculptures, paintings and even digital media.

Target First Free Sunday each month allows guests to see the regular exhibits and collections at no cost!

Conservatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park | First Tuesday of the month

Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Conservatory of Flowers is one of the most photographed and beloved attractions in the city. It’s the oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America and is constructed in beautiful Victorian style. Today, the interior is home to tropical plants of all kinds, aquatic plants, and the famous Amorphophallus Titanum, otherwise known as the corpse flower which blooms only once every few years and emits an odor of rotting flesh.

On the first Tuesday of every month, guests can see it all for free!  

California Academy of Sciences

Golden Gate Park | Special dates

California Academy of Sciences free museum admission San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Tim Griffith via California Academy of Sciences

Located in Golden Gate Park, Cal Academy is the only place in the world to house an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and education — all under one living roof. Exhibits include educational displays on gems and minerals, coral reefs, space, the rainforest and more.

San Francisco residents in specific zip codes receive free admission to the Academy on several designated Neighborhood Free Weekends per year. You can see the upcoming weekends here.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

SoMa | First Tuesday of the month

The Contemporary Jewish Museum explores the culture, history, art and ideas of the diverse Jewish experience. The architecture of the museum itself fuses a historic power station, originally built in 1881, to a soaring blue steel geometric superstructure and has become one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. Upon entering, you’ll find a massive globe and lamp sculpture by Sacramento-based artist Dave Lane. The 90-foot-long, six-ton work is suspended high over the heads of visitors — and that’s just the beginning! The museum hosts exhibits as well as educational events and workshops for all ages.

de Young

Golden Gate Park | First Tuesday of the month

de Young Museum view San Francisco California

Photo courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, de Young isn’t just a destination for painting, sculpture and textile art-lovers. From the top-floor observation deck, you can take in an iconic 360-degree view of the entire city—a piece of art in itself. On the lower levels, collections encompass American art, art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, as well as textile arts. From the front door to the observation deck and back again, you’ll encounter local styles inspired by Bay Area history as well as global creations that transport viewers to another setting entirely.

In addition to free admission on the first Tuesday of each month, de Young offers free general admission to San Francisco residents every Saturday. And tickets to the museum include same-day general admission to the Legion of Honor. For more information, click here


Embarcadero | Special dates

Exploratorium free museum admission San Francisco

Image by Amy Snyder © Exploratorium,

The Exploratorium was opened in 1969 by artists, educators, developers and one man with a passion for education. Today, the museum is located on Pier 15 along San Francisco’s Embarcadero and still serves to bridge the gap between formal and informal education through immersive experiences, hands-on investigation and fascinating exhibits.

Throughout the year, the museum offers several pay-what-you-wish Community Days. To see the full list of upcoming dates, click here. In addition to these dates, they offer free admission to several groups, including California Public School Teachers and EBT Cardholders. 

GLBT History Museum

Castro | First Wednesday of the month

The GLBT History Museum exhibits over 100 years of Bay Area GLBT history with additional programming throughout the year. In the Main Gallery alone, you’ll find gallery displays covering historical events you may know something about to happenings and artifacts you’ve never seen before.

Thanks to a grant from the Bob Ross Foundation, visitors are admitted for free on the first Wednesday of the month!

Legion of Honor

Golden Gate Park | First Tuesday of the month

Legion of Honor museum San Francisco California

Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park – “El Cid Campeador” by Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington; photo courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Referred to as San Francisco’s most beautiful museum, the Legion of Honor displays 4,000 years of ancient and European art in an unforgettable setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Designed in Beaux-arts style, the building was built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I and is a work of art on its own.

In addition to free admission on the first Tuesday of each month, Legion of Honor offers free general admission to San Francisco residents every Saturday. And tickets to the museum include same-day general admission to de Young. For more information, click here

Museum of Craft and Design

Presidio | First Tuesday of the month

As San Francisco’s only museum dedicated to modern and contemporary craft and design, this institution is one of the most inspiring and creative in the city. As a non-collecting museum, the team collaborates with artists, designers, other museums and universities to craft experiences for visitors of all ages. Their diverse exhibitions can cover architecture, furniture design, sound, the creative process and so much more.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Golden Gate Park | Second Tuesday of the month

A living museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco Botanical Garden offers 55 acres of landscaped gardens and open spaces, showcasing over 8,500 different kinds of plants from around the world. And thanks to our unique climate of wet winters, dry summers and coastal fog, the gardens provide a range of conditions found in very few other botanic gardens across the globe.

On the second Tuesday of every month, all guests can enjoy free admission! But if you’re a San Francisco resident, garden member, toddler or school group, you can enjoy free admission every day of the year. For more information, click here

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

SoMa | First Tuesday of the month

One of the nation’s most innovative arts institutions, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was founded in 1993 as the cultural anchor of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens development. Covering contemporary art, civic engagement and public life, YBCA showcases culture through visual arts, performing arts, the art of film and civic engagement work.

On the first Tuesday of the month, you can explore the general exhibits of YBCA. Then, you can again on the third Thursday of the month from 4 to 8 p.m. Additionally, students, teachers, seniors, nonprofit workers, military personnel, public transportation riders and library card holders can get 10% admission any day! For more information, click here


Do you have a favorite museum in San Francisco? Let us know in the comments below.

Category Community Guides, San Francisco

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