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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 8/8/2019 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 October 21, 2019

Free Admission to SF & Bay Area Museums

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences used to have quarterly free days, but now they have periodic free weekends as well and free neighborhood days for residents of San Francisco.

  • San Francisco Free Neighborhood Days for SF residents only – Fall 2019 dates September 13 to October 27. Spring 2020 dates TBA.
  • Community Tickets – Community Tickets are a new way to provide free Academy admission for families and individuals for whom cost of admission is a barrier. Dates to be announced Fall 2019.
  • $3 Admission “Museums for All” –  $3 Academy admission tickets to EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer), WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and Medi-Cal cardholders. Present your EBT, WIC, or Medi-Cal card at the Academy ticket window to purchase your $3 tickets. Limit 4 per group per visit. Available every day of the year. This program may close at any time so please contact venue first
  • Free “Discover & Go” Tickets via the SF Library – Free admission passes to the Academy and a variety of other cultural institutions are available through the Discover & Go program at participating neighborhood libraries in low- to moderate-income areas across the Bay Area. Library cardholders 14 and older can check out passes good for free Academy admission for one adult and one youth (17 and under).

– 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
– confirmed 10/21/19

Asian Art Museum

FREE First Sundays  
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Legion of Honor

FREE First Tuesdays 
FREE Every Saturday for SF Residents – Starting April 6, 2019
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

FREE First Tuesdays
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

de Young Museum

FREE First Tuesdays 
FREE Every Saturday for SF Residents
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Museum of Craft and Design

FREE First Tuesdays 
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

FREE Third Thursday Evenings | 5-8 pm 
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)
– confirmed 10/21/19

The Exploratorium

FREE Days – Five or six times a year 
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Bank of America Free Days

Free weekends at seven Bay Area museums for cardholders
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Oakland Museum of California

First Sundays “$5 Donation” Days
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Contemporary Jewish Museum

FREE First Tuesdays
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

SFMOMA 

FREE Culture for Community Day –  Next Date: TBA (RSVP required – open to everyone)
FREE “Family Days” (Periodic) –
Next Date: November 3, 2019 @ 10 am

While the museum doesn’t have a regularly-recurring free day for the general public, the SFMOMA does have many free options. There are periodic “Culture for Community” Free Days for everyone, plus “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.
– 151 Third Street, San Francisco
– last date checked 10/21/19

BAMPFA Berkeley Art Museum

FREE First Thursdays
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
– confirmed 10/21/19

Walt Disney Family Museum

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 – Annually in early December  
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
– Officially confirmed for 2019 as of 8/19/19

Conservatory of Flowers

FREE First Tuesdays
Opened in 1879, the wood and glass greenhouse is the oldest existing conservatory of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and features 1,700 species of rare, exotic and endangered plants from more than 50 different countries.
– 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco – Golden Gate Park
– confirmed 10/21/19

San Francisco Zoo

FREE Days for SF Residents – Periodically (but not always) the first Wednesday – Next Date is TBA
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. Free days are typically either listed on the SF Zoo calendar, or near the bottom of the Tickets & Hours page. Free for San Francisco residents only. Valid ID required.
– Sloat Blvd & Great Highway, San Francisco
– last date checked 10/21/19

GLBT Historical Society Museum

FREE First Wednesday  
The GLBT Historical Society Museum, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District, is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender history and culture in the United States.
– 4127 18th Street, San Francisco – The Castro
– confirmed 10/21/19

Discover & Go

Valid almost anytime for SF Public Library cardholders – last updated 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. Other Bay Area county libraries also participate in the “Discover & Go” program with free or discounted tickets for many Bay Area museums and venues. Check with your local library for participation details. Similar restrictions apply.

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 available, 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 available, 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 – unconfirmed 6/21/19
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito) – First Wednesdays – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Cartoon Art Museum (Fisherman’s Wharf) – First Tuesdays “Pay What You Can” Day – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Pez Museum (Burlingame) – First Thursdays – (Museum is closed until further notice) 4/11/19
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz) – First Fridays – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Japanese Tea Garden (Golden Gate Park) – Free admission before 10 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – confirmed 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19
  • Berkeley Botanical Garden – First Wednesday of each month – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Chabot Space & 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 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19

Free Museums (Everyday)

  • SF Camerawork (SoMa) – Free admission everyday (Wed-Sat) – confirmed 10/21/19
  • San Francisco Railway Museum (Ferry Plaza, 77 Stewart St.) – Free admission everyday (Tue-Sun) – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Cable Car Museum (Nob Hill, Mason and Washington) – Free admission every day except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Wells Fargo History Museum (Financial District, 420 Montgomery St.) Free everyday (Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm) – confirmed 10/21/19
  • San Francisco Fire Department Museum (Western Addition, Presidio Ave at Pine). Free everyday (Thu-Sun, 1-4 pm) – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Museo Italo Americano (Fort Mason) Free every day (Thu-Sun, 12-4 pm) – confirmed 10/21/19
  • The Mexican Museum (Fort Mason) Free every day (Thu-Sun, 12-4 pm) – confirmed 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19
  • 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. – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Maritime Museum (Aquatic Park) With gorgeous, WPA-era murals. Open 7 days a week from 10 am to 4 pm – confirmed 10/21/19

No Regular Free Days

  • Chinese Historical Society (Chinatown) – No longer has a free monthly day, but now it’s only free through the SF Public Library’s “Discover & Go” program – confirmed 10/21/19
  • California Historical Society (SoMa) – Closed Mondays, otherwise it’s typically open from 11 am to 5 pm for $10 admission. It’s also free through the SF Public Library’s “Discover & Go” program – confirmed 10/21/19
  • Tenderloin Museum (Tenderloin) – Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm for $10 admission – confirmed 10/21/19
  • 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 10/21/19

Categories: City Guide - Ongoing, Free Museum Day

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