Must-Visit Museums in California

| Nicolas HIPPERT / Unsplash
Deanna Morgado

California is jam-packed with exciting things to do and see. But what about the history? What about the art? The galaxy around us? Up and down the state, there are museums that highlight all of these things and so much more. Educate yourself, have fun, and experience the interesting collections at these must-see museums in California.

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Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum, located in San Francisco’s Nob Hill, has one of the most comprehensive art collections pertaining to Asian culture in the world. The pieces are beautifully curated to exposed visitors to Asia’s unique art world. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, especially since there’s a pretty tasty café right on-site too.

Pasadena Museum of California Art

If you’re looking to experience all sorts of interpretations of what California means and is, check out the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The exhibits showcase art and design that originated from the Golden State. They also change pretty frequently, so there’s always something different and new to see. This is a great museum to keep returning to in order to discover the dynamic California influences.

Chabot Space and Science Center

Here, visitors can get a peek at space, stars, and the universe the surrounds us. The Chabot Space and Science Center features hands-on exhibits, a beautiful planetarium, an entire theater, three large telescopes that allow you to take a gander into the stars, and more interactive activities. The center allows anyone, young or old, to learn about the magic of astrophysics in the most amazing ways.

USS Iowa Museum

This exquisite place of American history is a maritime museum located at the Port of Los Angeles. USS Iowa Museum is a great place for anyone interested in American history. Make sure to check out the most exciting artifact, the USS Iowa, which was the lead ship of the Iowa class of battleships. Donated in 2012 to the Pacific Battleship Center, the USS Iowa fought back in WWII, and has been maintained by the museum.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Not just a museum, not just a library – the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is also the final resting place of Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, as well as his wife, Nancy Reagan. The museum follows Reagan’s life; before and during his presidency, visitors even get to check out Air Force One and Marine One. Not only is the museum dripping with American and political history, the Simi Valley location also offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

de Young

Building, Museum, Park
The de Young is a place of fine art collections from all over the world. The everchanging exhibits make the de Young exciting to return to time and again to learn about fine art from cultures all over the planet. Climb up the observation towers to check out the sweeping views of the Golden Gate Park around the museum.

The Museum of Northern California Art

Art Gallery, Museum

The Museum of Northern California Art, Chico

Similar to the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Museum of Northern California Art concentrates on specific artists and collections from the northern region of the state. The specific concentration of the art brings out a richness in the collections and exhibitions. You certainly don’t have to be from northern California to appreciate it.

Roseville Telephone Museum

Follow the changes of technology as we know it at the Roseville Telephone Museum. Boasting a vast collection showcasing the history of the telephone industry, this museum is like a time capsule of old communication. Antique phones dating back to the 1800s, an actual working switchboard, and local history are all wrapped in one incredibly interesting space.

Maidu Museum and Historic Site

Take a trip back in time about 3,000 years and meet the indigenous Maidu people, who were an ancient civilization. Exhibitions include walking trails with a knowledgable tour guide, learning some of the Maidu’s words and language, and even seeing where some of the Maidu people lived. Get to know how an entirely different culture lived at this exciting and amazingly informative museum.

Empire Mine State Historic Park

Museum, Park
Not just a state park, Empire Mine used to be a real working mine, with immigrant miners that risked their lives doing back-breaking work. Gold was among the elements mined here, and contributed to the mansion and museum estate. Visitors can check out the miners’ display in the engineer’s office inside, take guided tours, admire the 3D model of the mine, or just wander the grounds.

Sutter’s Fort

Built back in 1939, as a trade and agriculture colony in the Mexican Alta California province, it also played a big role as a destination in the infamous Gold Rush in California. At Sutter’s Fort, visitors get to experience what life was like in the Gold Rush era through interactive activities. It’s also a two-for-one museum experience, touring the fort itself and exploring the Native American museum on-site, too.

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