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Free Monthly Museum Days

Our guide to the best free monthly museum days in the Bay Area for 2019
By - posted 1/1/2019 No Comment

Whether the economy is strong or sour, most of the museums in San Francisco and the Bay Area throw their doors open once a month to allow free admission to all comers.

Generally on the first Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of each month, these free days are often crowded, but if you arrive early, you’ll stand a great chance of seeing some of the Bay Area’s best museums for free.

Please note that holidays can affect opening days, so please check with the museums first before attending.

Updated December 2018

Free Admission to San Francisco Bay Area Museums

California Academy of Sciences
FREE 3-Day Celebrations (Bianual) – Next Date: TBA – updated 12/18/18
Instead of quarterly free days, the Academy now has two three-day Community Free Days a year. Other free admission deals – San Francisco Free Neighborhood Days (twice a year, Spring and Fall) for SF residents only – Spring 2019 dates  March 1-24. Fall 2019 dates TBD
– 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. 

Asian Art Museum
FREE First Sundays  – confirmed 12/18/18
One of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art with a collection of over 17,000 artworks spanning 6,000 years of history. Special collection surcharges may apply.
– 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco – BART: Civic Center

Legion of Honor
FREE First Tuesdays – confirmed 12/18/18
This exquisite Beaux-Arts building, located on a perch with an unbelievable view overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, houses a collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European arts. Special exhibition surcharges may apply.
– 100 34th Ave, San Francisco

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
FREE First Tuesdays – confirmed 12/18/18
Multidisciplinary art center features exhibitions, performances, film/video and rotating art exhibits with a focus on contemporary and emerging artists from the Bay Area and beyond.
– 3rd and Mission, San Francisco – BART: Powell Street

de Young Museum
FREE First Tuesdays – confirmed 12/18/18
One of the most visited art museums in the country, the de Young showcases a priceless collection of American art from the 17th through 20th centuries along with art from Central and South America and the Pacific, in addition to an impressive collection of textiles. Special exhibition fees may apply. The de Young also hosts a free “Friday Nights at the de Young” program which runs seasonally (typically in the Fall).
– 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Museum of Craft and Design
FREE First Tuesdays – confirmed 12/18/18
After six years in Union Square and two years of pop-ups, the Museum of Craft & Design opened up their permanent location in the Dogpatch. Rather than featuring paintings or traditional sculpture, the museum showcases other types of artwork that range from furniture, kinetic sculptures, and jewelry.
– 2569 Third Street, San Francisco

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
FREE Third Thursday Evenings | 5-8 pm – confirmed 12/18/18
The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) offers free entry during Third Thursdays in Yerba Buena. The museum is dedicated to sharing the art and stories of our common African heritage with audiences from around the world.
– 685 Mission St (at 3rd), San Francisco (Ground floor of the St. Regis)

The Exploratorium
FREE Days – Five or six times a year – updated 12/18/18
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is a museum of science, art and human perception with hundreds of interactive exhibits, many geared towards children and families. Free days typically include Pi Day (3/14) and Mother’s Day (May). 2019 Free Days are Mar. 14, May 12, Sept. 21 (Saturday), and Oct. 20.
– Pier 15, San Francisco

Bank of America Free Days
Free weekends at seven Bay Area museums for cardholders – updated 12/18/18
Holders of Bank of America credit cards and debit cards get free admission to seven Bay Area museums for one weekend each month – typically (but not always) the first full weekend of the month. Museums include Legion of Honor (SF), de Young Museum (SF), San Jose Museum of Art (SJ), and The Tech Museum of Innovation (SJ). 2019 dates are January 5th & 6th, February 2nd & 3rd, March 2nd & 3rd, April 6th & 7th, May 4th & 5th, June 1st & 2nd, July 6th & 7th, August 3rd & 4th, September 7th & 8th, October 5th & 6th, November 2nd & 3rd, December 7th & 8th

Oakland Museum of California
First Sundays “$5 Donation” Days– confirmed 12/18/18
Covering four city blocks in Oakland, the museum specializes in collections of art, history and natural science to tell the story of California.
– 1000 Oak Street, Oakland – BART: Lake Merritt

Contemporary Jewish Museum
FREE First Tuesdays confirmed 12/18/18
The Contemporary Jewish Museum engages audiences of all backgrounds through dynamic exhibitions and programs that explore contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. Plus the architecture of the Museum itself is a work of art.
– 736 Mission Street, San Francisco – BART: Montgomery Street

SFMOMA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
FREE Family Days (Periodic) –
Next Date is TBA – confirmed 12/18/18
While the museum doesn’t have a regulary-recurring free day for the general public, the SFMOMA does have many free options. There are periodic “Free Family Days” where up to two adults may claim a free tickets when accompanied by a visitor 18 and under. Everyone 18 and under gets free admission every day. The museum features over 45,000 square feet of art-filled public spaces (no ticket required). The public spaces are open daily at 9:30 am with last admission a half hour before closing. 

BAMPFA Berkeley Art Museum
FREE First Thursdays 
– confirmed 12/18/18
BAMPFA, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, is the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley. Their mission is to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.
– 2155 Center Street, Berkeley – BART: Downtown Berkeley

Walt Disney Family Museum
Thursday, December 5, 2019 – Annually in early December  
– not yet officially confirmed for 2019
The Presidio’s Walt Disney Family Museum typically only has one free day a year – to celebrate Walt Disney’s birthday. The free day is typically on December 5th (Walt’s actual birthday) unless that falls on a Tuesday, when the museum is closed. Then it typically changes to be on December 4th. The date is usually announced and made official in August.
– 105 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, San Francisco

Discover & Go
Valid almost anytime for SF Public Library cardholders
 – confirmed 8/31/17
The San Francisco Public Library offers free museum admission and deals for through its “Discover & Go” program – You have to have an active library card to participate.  You just have to reserve the pass (passes are limited – weekends tend to book up early – and not all museums are available on all days) The lineup and the offers can change, so please log in for the latest details.

Discover & Go FAQ

  • You must be a resident of SF
  • You can have up to two active reservations at the same time
  • You can make reservations up to 3 months in advance.
  • Some venues allow you to use the pass only once per calendar year.
  • Read more in the FAQ

Please note that venues listed with an * are extremely popular and rarely have tickets available.

Here’s the highlights:

  • Asian Art Museum – Family Pass – Free admission for up to two adults accompanied by up to four children.
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum* (Sausalito) – Family Pass: Free admission for 1 adult and 1 child. Children under 6 months are free. These passes always book up early.
  • California Academy of Sciences* – Family Pass: Free admission for up to two adults accompanied by up to four children. Library card holders may check out 1 pass per calendar year. These are rare and, when they are availble, they book up early.
  • California Historical Society – General Pass – Free admission for 2 adults. Children under 18 are free.
  • Children’s Creativity Museum* – Library card holders may check out 1 pass per calendar year. These tend to book up early.
  • Chinese Historical Society of America Museum – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult and 1 guest, plus 10% off gift shop purchase. Discover & Go pass must be presented at the time of purchase.
  • Conservatory of Flowers* – Library card holders may check out 1 pass per calendar year. These are rare and when they are available they book up early.
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 adults and all children under 18
  • de Young* – General Pass: Free admission for 1 person. Good towards general admission ticket only. Present Discover & Go pass at box office to receive admission ticket. Library card holders may check out 1 pass per calendar year. These are rare and, when they are availble, they book up early.
  • Exploratorium* – Family Pass: Free admission for up to 2 adults accompanied by up to four children. These are rare and, when they are available, they book up early.
  • Haas-Lilienthanl House – Family Pass – Admits up to two adults accompanied by up to four children under 18. Typically Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, but only available periodically throughout the year and rarely far in advance.
  • Hamilton Swimming Pool – Family Pass – Free admission for up to two adults accompanied by up to four children under 18. Passes to the pool are only valid during recreational swim times.
  • Japanese Tea Garden* – Library card holders may check out 1 pass per calendar year. These are rare and, when they are available, they book up early.
  • Legion of Honor* – General Pass: Free admission for 1 person. Good towards general admission ticket only. Present your Discover & Go pass at box office to receive admission ticket. These are rare and, when they are available, they book up early.
  • Lindsay Wildlife Experience (Walnut Creek) – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult and 1 youth (ages 2-17) from the same household. Limit one pass per household per visit.
  • Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 people (children 12 and under always free).
  • Oakland Museum of California (Oakland) – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult and 2 children. Children 8 and under are free. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Special exhibitions and programs may include an extra charge or may be first-come, first-served.
  • Pacific Pinball Museum (Alameda) – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult (ages 12 and up) and 1 child (under 12).
  • Peralta Hacienda Historical Park (Oakland) – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 adults and 2 children. Children 10 and under are free.
  • Richmond Museum of History (Richmond) – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 people. Children 12 and under are free. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • The Ruth Bancroft Garden (Walnut Creek) – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 people (children 12 and under always free).
  • San Mateo County History Museum (Redwood City) – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 adults and 2 children. Children 5 & under are free.
  • UC Botanical Garden (Berkeley) – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult and 1 child (ages 5-12). Children under 5 are free.
  • UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley) – Family Pass – Free BAMPFA gallery admission for up to two people. (Those 18 or under and one accompanying adult are always free.) Good for gallery admission only; it does not include films at the Barbro Osher Theater, or separately ticketed events.
  • Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum (Vallejo) – Family Pass – Free admission for 5 people in one family (children under 12 are always free).
  • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – Family Pass – Free admission to gallery for up to 2 people.

Other Free & Pay-What-You-Can Days

  • Autodesk Gallery (Embarcadero) – Every Wednesday – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito) – First Wednesdays – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Conservatory of Flowers (Golden Gate Park) – First Tuesdays – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Cartoon Art Museum (Fisherman’s Wharf) – First Tuesdays “Pay What You Can” Day – confirmed 12/21/18
  • GLBT Museum (Castro) – First Wednesdays – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Pez Museum (Burlingame) – First Thursdays – confirmed 12/21/18
  • San Francisco Zoo (Outer Sunset) – Next Free Day: TBD – For SF residents only. Free days typically on periodic Wednesdays, but they are no longer on a regular schedule and may be months apart. Dates often are only announced with one week’s notice or less. – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz) – First Fridays – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Japanese Tea Garden (Golden Gate Park) – Free admission before 10 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – confirmed 12/21/18
  • San Francisco Botanical Garden – Free for all SF residents with valid ID. For everyone else, the gardens are free daily from 7:30 to 9:30 am, the second Tuesday of every month, and on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Berkeley Botanical Garden – First Wednesday of each month – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Chabot Sapce & Science Center Observatory Deck –  Most Friday & Saturday nights (7:30 – 10:30 pm) – Although this doesn’t include general admission to the museum, on most Friday and Saturday nights, it’s free to visit the observatory deck and see the telescopes in action for spectacular night sky viewing (weather permitting) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (SoMa) – This historic courthouse from 1905, a National Historic Landmark, offers free docent-led public tours a few Tuesdays a month at 1 pm whenever court isn’t in session – confirmed 12/21/18

Free Museums (Everyday)

  • SF Camerawork (SoMa) – Free admission everyday (Tue-Sun) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • San Francisco Railway Museum (Ferry Plaza, 77 Stewart St.) – Free admission everyday (Tue-Sun) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Cable Car Museum (Nob Hill, Mason and Washington) – Free admission everyday (Tue-Sun) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Wells Fargo History Museum (Financial District, 420 Montgomery St.) Free everyday (Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • San Francisco Fire Department Museum (Western Addition, Presidio Ave at Pine). Free everyday (Thu-Sun, 1-4 pm) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Museo Italo Americano (Fort Mason) Free everyday (Tue-Sun, 12-4 pm) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • The Mexican Museum (Fort Mason) Free every day (Thu-Sun, 12-4 pm) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Musee Mechanique (Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf) – One of the world’s largest (over 200) privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in their original working condition. Prices range from 1¢ (it’s true!) to $1. Most games cost 25¢ to 50¢. Free admission every day – 365 days a year,  10 am-8 pm – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum (Polk Gulch)  – Free and open during regular business hours (typically 10 am to 9 pm, daily) – Free guided docent tours every 3rd Sunday at 3 pm – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Toilet Seat Museum (Hayes Valley, Fell & Gough) – Weird collection at Isotope Comic Book Lounge of original artwork on toilet seats by comic writers and artists from all over the world – Free admission offered daily during normal business hours (Tue-Fri, 11 am-7 pm; Sat/Sun, 11 am-6 pm) – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Presidio Visitor Center (The Presidio) – Open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day – confirmed 12/21/18
  • Treasure Island Museum (Treasure Island) – Typically open from 8:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Please note that construction on Treasure Island and special events can affect opening times. They are planning on opening a new museum in Building One. – Unconfirmed as of 12/21/2018
  • Maritime Museum (Aquatic Park) With gorgeous, WPA-era murals. Open 7 days a week from 10 am to 4 pm – confirmed 12/21/18

No Regular Free Days

  • Chinese Historical Society (Chinatown) – It used to be free first Sundays, but now it’s only free through the SF Public Library’s “Discover & Go” program – On Hiatus as 7/31/18
  • California Historical Society (SoMa) – Closed Mondays, otherwise it’s typically open from 11 am to 5 pm for $5 admission. It’s also free through the SF Public Library’s “Discover & Go” program – confirmed 8/31/17
  • Tenderloin Museum (Tenderloin) – Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm for $10 admission – confirmed 12/21/18
  • American Bookbinders Museum (SoMa) – Historic collection of bookbinding equipment that can only be seen by a guided tour. Tours are conducted daily, Tuesday through Saturday, at 11 am and 2 pm for $15 (adult admission) – confirmed 12/21/18

Categories: City Guide - Ongoing, Free Museum Day

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