San Francisco’s 6 Best Museums, Video Review from a Local

San Francisco, often regarded as a hub of culture, arts, and sciences, boasts a variety of world-renowned museums that offer unique and diverse experiences. Here are some of the best ones to explore, whether you’re a local or a visitor.

First, a bit about me. I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years. I’m a professional travel photographer whose works appears in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and more. I’ve been to all these museums many times, so I can give you advice on the best ones.

Here’s my full video review.

Asian Art Museum

Founded in the 1960s by Olympian Avery Brundage, the Asian Art Museum holds over 18,000 works of art in its permanent collection, with some pieces as old as 6,000 years. The museum originally opened in 1966 as a wing of the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park, and it eventually moved to its own building in 2003, thanks to a funding campaign launched by a generous $15 million donation from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Chong-Moon Lee.

The Asian Art Museum is situated in the Civic Center neighborhood of San Francisco. The beautiful atrium is a must-see, and visitors can enjoy the contemplative fountain, as well as a variety of art from all across Asia. There are also rotating exhibits for specific topics, so there’s always something new to discover.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Bright red sign for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) in the South of Market or SoMA neighborhood of San Francisco, California, August 2, 2018.

SFMOMA is a wonderful place for contemporary and mid-century art. It’s a venue full of exciting, interesting, and sometimes even bizarre new artwork. It also houses a fantastic café, where the pie comes highly recommended.

de Young Museum

The de Young Museum, located in the Golden Gate Park area of San Francisco, is another fantastic art museum to check out. It offers a blend of older works and Victorian collections, including Impressionists. The museum also hosts large touring exhibitions, which are often the highlight of the experience. Visitors can also enjoy beautiful city views from the museum’s large tower.


If you’re visiting San Francisco with kids, you definitely have to try the Exploratorium. Situated on the Embarcadero near Fisherman’s Wharf, the Exploratorium is a unique museum offering interactive science exhibits that are both educational and fun. It’s best suited for children aged three and up, but younger teenagers might also find it engaging, especially with some of the more climate and ecology-focused exhibits.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Contemporary Jewish Museum in the Yerba Buena neighborhood of San Francisco offers exhibits about Jewish history as well as rotating exhibits. The museum is also home to a location of Wise Sons Deli, a fantastic Bay Area institution. The deli offers a taste of East Coast or Los Angeles-style deli food right in the museum’s lobby.

California Academy of Sciences

Arguably one of the best museums in San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences offers a multitude of exhibitions. Designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, the museum features an impressive green roof with over a million plants.

Inside, visitors can explore natural history exhibitions, a full aquarium, an indoor rainforest, live penguins, and much more. Located in Golden Gate Park, it’s right across from the de Young Museum, making it easy to visit both in a single day.

Each of these museums offers its own unique experience and a wealth of knowledge, so whether you’re a fan of art, science, history, or culture, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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