The Asian Art Museum recently launched a new attitude. After a major rebranding effort, an upside-down “A” is the new logo, symbolizing a fresh perspective and distinctive promise to “awaken the past” and “inspire the next.” With these and other changes, the museum hopes to attract a wider audience through its San Francisco Civic Center doors. Parents with young museum-goers are definitely invited to be part of all the excitement – kids 12 and under always get in free.

Go: The Art Explorer’s Docent-Led Family Tours and the ongoing Stories tours are reason enough to go. Offered Saturdays at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm and Sundays at 1:00 pm, the 45-minute tours mean to answer a very important question your little one is sure to ask: “What am I looking at?” Mommy and daddy will be off the hook as docents and storytellers explain instead, using animated discussions and meandering myths that accompany the artwork in the galleries.

Getting there: The museum is a block away from the Civic Center BART/MUNI station, steps from the Civic Center Plaza and an easy walk from nearby attractions in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods. Drivers have of lots of parking options to choose from, including the Civic Center Plaza Garage on McAllister.

What to see: Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts is the latest major exhibition on view through April 8, 2012. This exhibit takes on the wonderful world of Indian art, spanning about three centuries of kings. After roaming galleries filled with regal swords, jewel-studded gowns, and lavish wall hangings, stop at the Educational Activity Room, where children may create symbols of power to hang on the wall and make a power poll by dropping a giant pretend gemstone into a clear plastic tube. Other current exhibitions include Phantoms of Asia and Poetry in Clay.

Possible lunch spots: On Wednesdays and Sundays, the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market is conveniently situated all day in the UN Plaza, which is practically outside the museum’s front door. There’s food in the museum at Café Asia, and numerous sandwich shops nearby, including Saigon Sandwich on Larkin.

How to dress: Bring a coat and a tote to stow it in once indoors. You can also use the Coat Check service on the first floor, where strollers are available for check-out if you didn’t bring your own.

Need to know: New grants have made way for increased community access at the museum, including Persian education programs that include school tours, a family-friendly guide to the Persian gallery, and a Noruz Family Celebration day. Speaking of celebrations, look out for a Family Fun Day every month, featuring themed hands-on activities and performances, and remember, first Sundays are free for all. And! part of the Target First Free Sunday program is Yoga Flow for kids from 2:00 to 3:00 pm.

Bonus: Planning a self-guided tour? Download one of several Gallery Guides from Family Programs section of the Asian Art Museum website before you go.

Cost of trip: Admission is $7 to $12, with children under 12 getting in free. Bring extra cash for travel and lunch.


200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, Ca

–Renee Macalino Rutledge

Photo by: Angela N.