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The Ultimate Free Museum Days Guide

The Bay Area museums are amazing and especially so on days when admission is free! Get there early and enjoy the wonderful museums, science centers and zoos. Here’s our ultimate list to help you plan and enjoy without a dent in the bank.

photo: Kathryn Whitney California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

San Francisco residents get a special treat: you get two free weekends each year, once in the fall and once in the spring, based on your zip code.  Check this out, to find the next free date.

This ultra-cool museum also lets the general public get in for free, four Sundays a year. Check here for the next free day. Pro-tip: get their early because the crowds are sure to be in full effect.

55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-379-8000
Onlinecalacademy.org

photo: Rainbow slime Bay Area Discovery Museum

Bay Area Discovery Museum

Hop on over to a museum that’s sure to tucker your little one out both physically and mentally. Bay Area residents get in for free on first Wednesday every other month (dates listed here). If you can’t make it then, check out your local library, many carry Bay Area Discovery Museum membership cards.

Fort Baker
557 McReynolds Rd.
Sausalito, CA
415-339-3900
Onlinebayareadiscoverymuseum.org

Habitot

Pop by the uber-tot friendly Habitot to let your little engage in everything from water play to blasting off to outer space. Keep an eye here for the free admission dates as they pop up.

2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA
Phone: 510-647-1111
Onlinehabitot.org

photo: FoldHaus, Shrumen Lumen by Ron Blunt, OMCA

Oakland Museum of California

Experience No Spectators with Late-Night Events, a Burning Man-Themed Block Party, Artist Studio Tours, Conversations with Burning Man Founders, and more at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) whose mission is to encourage all Californians to create a brighter future.

Every first Sunday of the month, you can get in for free with a suggested donation. To check out their calendar, head here.

1000 Oak Street
Oakland, CA
Phone: 510-451-3322
Onlinemuseumca.org

photo: San Francisco Zoo, Lauren C via Yelp 

San Francisco Zoo

Let your little animals run wild for free at the SF Zoo on certain days if you’re a San Francisco resident. Check here for the next free Wednesday and don’t forget to bring proof of your address and a photo I.D.

Sloat Blvd. & Great Highway
San Francisco, CA
415-753-7080
Onlinesfzoo.org

photo: Ole Haupt

de Young Museum

Why not expose your kiddo to the cultural heart of the city at an early age? You can get in for free on the first Tuesday of the month (special exhibition fees still apply.) and all Bay Area residents get in free on Saturdays. Kids are always free!

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.
San Francisco, CA
415-750-3600
Onlinedeyoung.famsf.org

Museum of Craft and Design

Makers gonna make—so bring your mini-me the first Tuesday of each month for free! Bonus: the museum just started offering a free hands-on craft to go along with your free admission.

2569 Third St.
San Francisco, CA
415-773-0303
Onlinesfmcd.org

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Film and art for the win! Galleries are free, first Thursdays of each month.

BAM at 2626 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA
510-642-0808
Onlinebampfa.berkeley.edu

photo: Monet_Tracyjuang via flickr

Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor just introduces free Saturdays for all Bay Area residents. You can also take your kids to this treasure the first Tuesday of every month for free. Special exhibit fees still apply. Kids are always free!

Lincoln Park
100 34th Ave.
San Francisco, CA
415-750-3600
Onlinelegionofhonor.famsf.org

photo: Erin Feher

SF Botanical Garden

Enjoy this beautiful botanical garden for free in a number of ways: every day from 7:30-9 a.m.; all day on the second Tuesday of every month; plus, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

9th Ave. & Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
415-661-1316
Onlinesfbotanicalgarden.org

photo: Kate Loweth

Exploratorium

For 2020, the Exploratorium will be offering a community free day on Mother’s Day so get it on your calendar and be sure to head there early to show mom around!

Pier 15
Embarcadero at Green Street
San Francisco, CA
Onlineexploratorium.edu

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Children will get a kick out of this contemporary arts center. Free days are the first Tuesday of every month.

701 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
415-978-2787
Onlineybca.org

photo: Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

File this one for the whole family: free first Sunday of every month, including the family programs offered that day.

200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA
415-581-3500
Onlineasianart.org

UC Botanical Garden

Another beautiful botanical option, free the first Wednesday of every month.

200 Centennial Drive
Berkeley, CA
Phone: 510-643-2755
Onlinebotanicalgarden.berkeley.edu

photo: WolfmanSF via Wikimedia Commons

Conservatory of Flowers

Take your kids to experience the outdoors with an intimate up-close experience with rare and endangered plants unlike any other. Open 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and free on first Tuesdays of the month. 

100 John F. Kennedy Dr.
San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-831-2090
Online: conservatoryofflowers.org

photo: Andria Lo

Contemporary Jewish Museum

The first Tuesday of the month gets you in free to this museum that offers hands-on art for kids and loads of inspiration.

736 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA

Online: thecjm.org

photo: Cartoon Art Museum

Cartoon Art Museum

If you enjoy cartoons, animation, comic books and graphic novels, historic cartooning, then this is a must! The first Tuesday of every month is pay what you wish. Located near Ghirardelli Square, the SF Maritime Museum and not far from Fisherman’s Wharf, this a great place for all ages. 

Open: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

781 Beach St.
San Francisco
Online: cartoonart.org

photo: Museum of African Diaspora

Museum of African Diaspora

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena arts district, MoAD, is one of the few museums focused exclusively on the African Diaspora. Free on first Thursday of the month, this small but intriguing museum with diverse displays is a must visit. Kids 12 and under are free.

Open 11am-6pm

685 Mission Street (at Third)
San Francisco, CA

Online: moadsf.org

Cantor Arts Center

Located at Stanford’s campus, this art center has an outdoor Rodin Sculpture Garden where the kids can soak in beauty and jump up and down as much as they like, before heading to the galleries inside. Free for families on the second Sunday of the month they host special family programs to get kids excited about making art.

328 Lomita Dr.
Stanford, CA

Onlinemuseum.stanford.edu

The Walt Disney Family Museum

In celebration of Walt Disney’s birthday, the museum is offering free admission to the main galleries on Wednesday, December 4. There will also be a number of exciting activities throughout the day that highlight Walt’s life, work, and legacy. Happy Birthday, Walt! 

104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio 
San Francisco, CA 

Online: waltdisney.org

Pro-tip: Use your library Discover and Go passes for days other than the free days.

—Shruti Priya Bapna, Kate Loweth, Meghan Kalkstein, Melissa Bouse and Erin Feher

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