Out & About: San Francisco Heritage and Cultural Museums

May 23, 2018
Out & About: San Francisco Heritage and Cultural Museums

Sure, you've taken the kids to the latest exhibits at the de Young and SFMOMA, but did you know there's a free museum downtown on the site of the original US Branch Mint? With summer break upon us, now's a great time to explore the city's hidden cultural gems. Check out Megan Bushnell's list of lesser-known museums and hit up a spot you never even knew existed!

Museum of the African Diaspora

MOAD showcases modern art and cultural history resulting from the migration of Africans throughout the world. Grab a Family Passport with a museum map and colored pencils to guide your visit.

OPEN: Wednesday through Sunday

ADDRESS: 685 Mission St.

COST: $10 (children 12 and under free)

The Mexican Museum

Inside Fort Mason, the Mexican Museum includes artwork from Latinos across the Americas. Once a month you can join Family Sunday for an interactive project for parents and kids of all ages.

OPEN: Thursday through Sunday (noon to 4 p.m.)

ADDRESS: 2 Marina Blvd., Building D

COST: Free

GLBT Historical Society Museum

Take advantage of our unique opportunity as residents of SF to explore exhibitions of queer life from the 1940s onward. A trip here can broaden the views of even the smallest minds among us.

OPEN: Wednesday through Monday

ADDRESS: 4127 18th St.

COST: $5 (first Wednesday of the month free)

Pacific Heritage Museum

Currently housed in the U.S. Subtreasury Building, the museum honors Pacific Rim peoples and has both a replica bank vault from the 1800s and a rare coin display.

OPEN: Tuesday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on bank holidays)

ADDRESS: 608 Commercial St.

COST: Free

Wells Fargo History Museum

Learn how to drive a stagecoach and send a telegraph across the country in the same afternoon!

OPEN: Monday through Friday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

ADDRESS: 420 Montgomery St.

COST: Free

Contemporary Jewish Museum

On second Sundays, the museum opens early just for preschoolers, with performances, story time, and art projects. Families can also enjoy the Drop-in Art Studio with a guest artist every Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

OPEN: Thursday through Tuesday

ADDRESS: 736 Mission St.

COST: $12 (children under 18 free)

Asian Art Museum

On first and third Sundays, stART Tours use storytelling to expose young children to Asian art and culture. For kids 5 and older, grab an Elements of Art Explorer Pack at the family activity table. Stroller tours, docent-led tours for parents and caregivers with babies ages 0-2 years old, begin at 9:30 am on the first Friday of every month and are one hour in length. Tickets for stroller tours must be purchased in advance.

OPEN: Tuesday through Sunday

ADDRESS: 200 Larkin St.

COST: $20 (children 12 and under free)

Museum of Craft and Design

Craft with the littles on Saturday afternoons (1-3:30 p.m.) during MakeArt Family sessions.

OPEN: Tuesday through Sunday

ADDRESS: 2569 Third St.

COST: $8 (children under 12 free)

Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts

The center promotes Latino cultural expression and awareness by offering an incredible array of classes (Mexican folk dance, guitar lessons), workshops (graphic design, Venetian mask-making), and more.

OPEN: Tuesday through Saturday (gallery)

ADDRESS: 2868 Mission St.

COST: $2 (gallery admission)

Museo ItaloAmericano

Take a look inside the first museum dedicated entirely to Italian and Italian-American art and culture.

OPEN: Tuesday through Sunday (noon to 4 p.m.)

ADDRESS: 2 Marina Blvd. Building C

COST: Free

Museum of Russian Culture

Exhibitions and archives related to Russian emigration across the globe.

OPEN: Wednesdays and Saturdays

ADDRESS: 2450 Sutter St.

COST: Free

North Beach Museum

Educate yourself on the history of local Beat poets and the Italian influence of the famous neighborhood.

OPEN: Monday through Friday

ADDRESS: 1435 Stockton St.

COST: Free

Society of California Pioneers

Find exhibitions focused on California art, history, and culture inside.

OPEN: Wednesday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

ADDRESS: 101 Montgomery, Suite 150 (the Presidio)


California Historical Society Museum

The gallery and library emphasize the environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural heritage of the entire state.

OPEN: Tuesday through Sunday

ADDRESS: 678 Mission St.

COST: $5 (children 12 and under free)

Megan Bushnell is a former marine biologist who spends much of her time trying to get two little girls to experience as much of the outdoors as possible. She also digs museums.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of GGMG Magazine. All information is current as of May 2018, but please check the museums' websites when planning visits. Photo via Flickr.


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