Home » City Guide » ,

Free Monthly Museum Days

Our guide to the best free monthly museum days in the Bay Area for 2023
By - posted 1/26/2023 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 as of January 26, 2023

Free Admission to SF & Bay Area Museums

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 12/2/22
Next Free Dates: February 5, 2023, March 5, 2023

Legion of Honor

FREE First Tuesdays (for everyone)
FREE Every Saturday
(for Bay Area residents w/ valid ID)
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 12/22/22
Next Free Dates: February 7, 2023

de Young Museum

FREE First Tuesdays (for everyone)
FREE Every Saturday (for Bay Area residents w/ valid ID)
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. Free admission to permanent galleries only. Special exhibition fees may apply.
– 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
– confirmed 12/2/22
Next Free Dates: February 7, 2023

Museum of Craft and Design

FREE Every Wednesday (Pay-what-you-can)
Rather than featuring paintings or traditional sculpture, the museum showcases other types of artwork that range from furniture, kinetic sculptures, and jewelry. Admissions for Pay What You Can Wednesdays may only be purchased at the front desk and are not available online.
– 2569 Third Street, San Francisco
– confirmed 12/2/2022
Next Free Dates: Every Wednesday (pay-what-you-can)

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

FREE Every Second Saturday (11a-6p)
The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) offers free entry for “Thrive @ MoAD Community Day”. 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 12/2/22
Next Free Dates: December 10, 2022, January 14, 2023, January 16, 2023 (MLK Day,) February 11, 2023

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 eight 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), Contemporary Jewish Museum (SF), SFMOMA (SF – Sundays Only) San Jose Museum of Art (SJ), and Computer History Museum (SJ).
– confirmed 12/2/22
Next Free Dates: January 7-8, 2023, February 4-5, 2023, March 4-5, 2023

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. Suggested donation is $5 for general admission. Additional fee might be required for special exhibitions in the Great Hall. “First” Sundays date sometimes move a week due to major holidays.
– 1000 Oak Street, Oakland – BART: Lake Merritt
– confirmed 12/5/22
Next Free Dates:  January 8, 2023, February 5, 2023, March 5, 2023

Contemporary Jewish Museum

FREE First Fridays
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 12/5/22
Next Free Dates:  February 3, 2023, March 3, 2023

SFMOMA 

While the museum doesn’t have a regularly-recurring free day for the general public, the SFMOMA does have many free options. Bay Area locals get free admission every  “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
– confirmed 12/5/22

FREE First Thursdays (Bay Area residents only)
All residents of the nine Bay Area counties are invited to spend a day at the museum on us! From 1–8 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month, Bay Area residents can enjoy SFMOMA’s galleries filled with lively and inspiring art and related events — for free. Tickets and event details become available about two weeks in advance, and reserving online is highly encouraged. Limit two adult tickets per reservation. Qualifying counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.
Next Free Dates:  February 2, 2023, March 2, 2023

FREE “Family Days” (Periodic) 
Enjoy a day of art and family fun at SFMOMA! These special days include art-making activities for the whole family in our Koret Education Center, located on Floor 2, plus additional activities and activations. Admission to the museum is free for up to four adults accompanying one child or teen (eighteen and younger). Reserve your free tickets here when they become available.
Next Free Family Day:  TBD

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. Galleries free for all on the first Thursday of each month. Open 11am to 7pm.
– 2155 Center Street, Berkeley – BART: Downtown Berkeley
– confirmed 12/5/22
Next Free Dates:  February 2, 2023, March 2, 2023

Walt Disney Family Museum

December 2023 Date – TBA  
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. In 2022 there was no Walt’s birthday due to the “Free Museum Weekend” promotion in San Francisco
– 105 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, San Francisco
– confirmed 12/5/22

Conservatory of Flowers

FREE First Tuesdays (Everyone)
Free Admission for San Francisco Residents (Every day w/ valid ID)
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. The Conservatory of Flowers is free any day for San Francisco residents (and veterans) with valid ID.
– 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco – Golden Gate Park
– confirmed 12/5/22
Next Free Dates:  February 7, 2023

Japanese Tea Garden

FREE Hour – 9am to 10am Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays (Everyone)
Free Admission for San Francisco Residents (Every day w/ valid ID)
Originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, the Japanese Tea Garden endures as one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, featuring classic elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden. Cherry blossom trees bloom throughout the garden in March and April. The Japanese Tea Garden is free any day for San Francisco residents (and veterans) with valid ID.
– 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco – Golden Gate Park
– confirmed 12/5/22

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Free Daily: 7:30–9am (enter via the Main Gate) (Everyone)
Free Monthly: Second Tuesday of every month (Everyone)
Holiday Free Days: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day (Everyone)
Free Admission for San Francisco Residents (Every day w/ valid ID)
One of the most diverse gardens in the world. A unique urban oasis, the garden is a living museum within Golden Gate Park, offering 55 acres of both landscaped gardens and open spaces, and showcasing over 9,000 different kinds of plants from around the world. The SF Botanical Garden is free any day for San Francisco residents (and veterans) with valid ID.
– 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco – Golden Gate Park
– confirmed 1/3/23
Next Free Dates:  February 13, 2023, March 14, 2023

San Francisco Zoo

FREE Days for SF Residents – Periodically (but not always) the first Wednesday
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 – sometimes just 24 hours notice. Free days are typically listed on the SF Zoo calendarFree for San Francisco residents only. Valid ID required.
– Sloat Blvd & Great Highway, San Francisco
– confirmed 1/31/23
Next Free Date: February 2, 2023 (special day for Groundhog Day w/ free admission to everyone, not just SF residents)
Next Possible Free Date: March 1 or 8, 2023* or since they have a free day for Groundhog Day they might skip the SF resident day for February altogether. (*possible date – check calendar to confirm. Dates often announced on VERY short notice as little as 24 hours in advance and sometimes months are skipped altogether)

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 12/5/22
Next Free Dates:  February 1, 2023

The Exploratorium

FREE Admission on Mother’s Day
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. In the past, the Exploratorium typically had 4-6 “Community Days” a year, but starting in 2020 there has been only one “pay what you wish” day a year –  Mother’s Day. Pay what you wish on Community Days, when museum entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. Entry is subject to capacity; admission is not guaranteed.
– Possible Next Free Day*: Mother’s Day, May 14, 2023
– Pier 15, San Francisco
– checked 1/26/23

*Not yet officially scheduled. Check the Free + Community Events page or the upcoming calendar for updates

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences used to have quarterly free days and bi-annual free neighborhood days for residents of San Francisco, but we don’t see anything like that on the upcoming calendar

  • San Francisco Free Neighborhood Days for SF residents only –  Suspended in 2020 and no upcoming dates scheduled yet. 
  • $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 12/5/22

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

FREE Every Day? 
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. It now appears that except for special events, the YBCA galleries are free every day (Thu to Sun, Noon to 6p)
– 3rd and Mission, San Francisco – BART: Powell Street
– confirmed 12/2/22

Discover & Go

Valid almost anytime for SF Public Library cardholders – last updated 12/6/22
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 all children under 12.
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum* (Sausalito) – Passes rarely available
  • The Beat Museum – Free admission for 1 person
  • Bedford Gallery (Walnut Creek) – Free admission for 2 people.
  • California Academy of Sciences – Free admission for 1 adult and 1 youth (ages 17 and under).
  • California Historical Society – General Pass – Free admission for 2 adults. Children under 18 are free.
  • Cartoon Art Museum – Free admission for 1 adult and 2 children (ages 6-12). Children 5 and younger are free.
  • Charles M. Schulz Museum (Santa Rosa) – Free admission for 1 child between the ages of 4-18 (children under 4 are free).
  • Children’s Creativity Museum* – Passes rarely available
  • Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (Santa Rosa) – New passes available monthly.
  • Contemporary Jewish Museum – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 adults and all children under 18
  • Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento) – Free admission for up to 4 people. Children 5 and under are always free.
  • CuriOdyssey (San Mateo) – Free admission for 1 child when accompanied by 1 paying adult.
  • Dana Adobe Cultural Center (San Luis Obispo) – 50% off child’s admission. Pass is good for the museum and for access to the gallery. (Tours are available on Saturday and Sunday from 11-3 and during the week by appointment only.)
  • de Young – Free admission for 1 person. Good towards general admission ticket only. General admission tickets allow you to see the permanent collection and select exhibitions in the museum. Special exhibitions require an additional paid ticket.
  • di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art (Napa) – Admission provides self-guided access to Gallery 1 and Gallery 2 for two adults (17 & under are free), and includes the option to join a guided tour at no additional cost (space permitting)
  • Exploratorium* – Free admission for 2 people. Not valid for Thursday After Dark events, 6-10:00 p.m.. These are rare and, when they are available, they book up early.
  • Hidden Villa (Los Altos Hills) – New passes available monthly.
  • Legion of Honor – Free admission for 1 person. Good towards general admission ticket only.
  • Lindsay Wildlife Experience (Walnut Creek) – Family Pass – New passes available monthly.
  • Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (Novato) – Free admission for up to 4 people per pass for the Main Gallery. (Children 12 and under are always free. The Second Floor Gallery and Ron Collins Gallery are always free.)
  • NUMU – New Museum Los Gatos – Free admission for 1 person. Admission is free for youth 18 & under. Valid only for general museum admission. Not valid for programs or special events,
  • Oakland Museum of California (Oakland)Family Pass: Each pass admits 1 adult and 2 youths for all galleries including any special exhibitions. (Children 12 and under are always free.) Children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Pacific Coast Air Museum (Santa Rosa) – Children’s Pass: Free admission for 1 child (age 6-17). Children 5 and under are free. Child must be in the company of an adult. $2.00 discount off for a single adult admission. Limit one pass per household per visit.
  • 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 are always free). One pass per household. Pass is good Tues.-Fri. only.
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Free admission for 2 adults and all children 18 and under. Good towards general admission ticket only.
  • San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles – Free admission for 2 adult. Children 17 and under are free.
  • San Mateo County History Museum (Redwood City) – Family Pass – Free admission for 2 adults and 2 children. Children 5 & under are free.
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History – Free admission for 2 adults and up to 4 kids from the same household. (Children under 5 are always free.)
  • Seymour Marine Discovery Center (Santa Cruz) – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult and 1 child (3-17 years old). For use during regular hours only. May not be used for special after-hours events.
  • Shadelands Ranch – Walnut Creek Historical Society – Family Pass – Pass is good for museum tours for up to 5 people (at least one adult must be present).
  • The Tech Interactive* (San Jose) – New passes available monthly
  • UC Botanical Garden (Berkeley) – Family Pass – Free admission for 1 adult (18+) and 1 child (ages 7-12). Children under 6 and under are always free
  • UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley) – Family Pass – Free BAMPFA gallery admission for up to two people. (Visitors 18 or under are always free. One accompanying adult is free with each child 13 and under.) Good for gallery admission only – 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).

Other Free & Pay-What-You-Can Days

  • Autodesk Gallery (Embarcadero) – “Re-Opening 2022” but no official date has been set
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito) – First Wednesdays for Bay Area Residents – confirmed 12/6/22
  • Cartoon Art Museum (Fisherman’s Wharf) – First Tuesdays “Pay What You Can” Day – confirmed 12/6/22
  • Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz) – First Fridays w/ special hours 11a-8p – confirmed 12/6/22
  • Japanese Tea Garden (Golden Gate Park) – Free admission before 10 am on Wednesdays, and Fridays – confirmed 7/25/2020 
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • Berkeley Botanical Garden – First Wednesday of each month – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020

Free Museums (Every Day)

  • SF Camerawork (SoMa) – Free admission everyday (Wed-Sat) confirmed 2/20/2020
  • San Francisco Railway Museum (Ferry Plaza, 77 Stewart St.) – Free admission everyday (Tue-Sun) – cconfirmed 2/20/2020
  • Cable Car Museum (Nob Hill, Mason and Washington) – Free admission every day except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • Wells Fargo History Museum (Financial District, 420 Montgomery St.) Free everyday (Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm) – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • San Francisco Fire Department Museum (Western Addition, Presidio Ave at Pine). Free everyday (Thu-Sun, 1-4 pm) – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • Museo Italo Americano (Fort Mason) Free every day (Thu-Sun, 12-4 pm) – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • The Mexican Museum (Fort Mason) Free every day (Thu-Sun, 12-4 pm) – (Museum is permanently closed; new space TBA) – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • Maritime Museum (Aquatic Park) With gorgeous, WPA-era murals. Open 7 days a week from 10 am to 4 pm – confirmed 2/20/2020

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 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020
  • Tenderloin Museum (Tenderloin) – Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm for $10 admission – confirmed 2/20/2020
  • 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 2/20/2020