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10 Unique Museums In San Francisco

10 Unique Museums In San Francisco

Picture of Adriana Jones
Updated: 13 January 2017
A city overflowing with art and culture, San Francisco has many museums. Besides the numerous art galleries, the city has many one-of-a-kind museums that are worth seeing, because they offer experiences and sights that reflect the soul and character that is specific to San Francisco’s makeup and history. 

The Beat Museum

The beat generation included a series of authors and artists that emerged in the 1950s across the United States, with one of the most important epicenters located in San Francisco. The Beat Museum is dedicated to this movement and it is home to various original manuscripts, personal effects, and letters. The museum was opened in 2003 and is currently open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday. 

The Beat Museum, 540 Broadway, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 399 9626

The Beat Museum © Christian Heilmann/flickr

The Beat Museum © Christian Heilmann/Flickr

Walt Disney Family Museum

Founded by Walt Disney’s daughter, the Walt Disney Family Museum is one of San Francisco’s most unique museums, as well as being one of its treasures. The museum was created to inform the public about the life and legacy of Walt Disney, as well as to inspire future generations. It features much of Disney’s work, including cartoons, drawings, films and music, as well as a model of Disneyland, and is certainly worth a visit.

The Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 345 6800

An Exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum © R. Lex-M/flickr

An Exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum © R. Lex-M/Flickr

Musée Mécanique

Advertised as an antique coin operated arcade, this museum is one of the most intriguing places to visit in San Francisco. The things on display include a steam powered motorcycle, as well as antique slot machines and coin operated pianos. Admission is free throughout the week and the museum is open every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., although the museum will stay open later if there are people around and eager to play games.

Musée Mécanique, Pier 45, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 346 2000

The Músee Mécanique © Allison Meier/flickr

The Musée Mécanique © Allison Meier/Flickr

The Tenderloin Museum

A museum regaling the history of this unique, and often stereotyped, part of town, the Tenderloin Museum has a permanent collection of historical artifacts, and also offers tours of the neighborhood, including a nighttime tour. The museum hosts events throughout the year, including a recent exhibition called unSHELTERED, a critique of the homeless shelters developed for the area.

The Tenderloin Museum, 398 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 351 1912

Cable Car Museum

Undoubtedly, San Francisco has had a significant history surrounding transportation, especially cable cars. The Cable Car Museum, open since 1974, is home to both antique cable cars, as well as the mechanics that run the current cars on the street. The museum also houses various other displays, including historic photographs and pieces of cable cars. The museum is open everyday (except some holidays) from 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., depending on the season. 

Cable Car Museum, 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 

Cables running through the bottom of the Cable Car Museum © Sonny Abesamis/flickr

Cables running through the bottom of the Cable Car Museum © Sonny Abesamis/Flickr

The Exploratorium

One of San Francisco’s most popular museums to visit, the Exploratorium contains a massive collection of interactive scientific exhibits. A common location for school field trips, the Exploratorium is the best place to release your inner child and innate curiosity. The museum recently moved locations, putting it directly on the bay, with phenomenal views and all new restaurants. Definitely worth seeing. 

The Exploratorium, Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 528 4444

The view from the new location of the Exploratorium © Sonny Abesamis/flickr

The view from the new location of the Exploratorium © Sonny Abesamis/Flickr

Museum of the African Diaspora

As one of the only museums in the world that is directly focused on the African Diaspora, the Museum of the African Diaspora, or MoAD, is in a unique spot in the museum ecosystem of San Francisco. The museum’s exhibits are centered around the culture of the African Diaspora, specifically the origins, movement, adaption, and transformation that occurred. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 358 7200

The MoAD © Erik Hersman/flickr

The MoAD © Erik (HASH) Hersman/Flickr

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Known for its stunning architecture, the Contemporary Jewish Museum was founded in 1984, and contains exhibitions and educational programs that relate to the Jewish experience. The pieces that the Jewish museum houses change all the time, and it doesn’t have a permanent collection that it stores. The museum is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Friday until Tuesday, and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. 

The Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 655 7800

The Contemporary Jewish Museum © Helder Ribeiro/flickr

The Contemporary Jewish Museum © Helder Ribeiro/Flickr

Chinese Historical Society of America Museum

Similar to the MoAD in its uniqueness, the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum is the oldest museum in the United States and was designed by Julia Morgan, one of the first female admits to the École des Beaux-Arts department of architecture. Like the Tenderloin Museum, the CHSA Museum offers tours of the surrounding area, which in this case is appropriately Chinatown.

Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, 965 Clay St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 391 1188

Creatures from the Deep © Ed and Eddie/flickr

Creatures from the Deep © Ed and Eddie/Flickr

Museum of Craft and Design

Opened in 2004, the Museum of Craft and Design has innovative exhibitions that go beyond typical art galleries. The museum recently relocated to a new location and has been able to expand greatly since then, adding in new programs, including craft lab activities and guest speakers. The museum is open Tuesday until Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. as well as Sunday from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m.

The Museum of Craft and Design, 2569 3rd St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 773 0303