10 Unique Museums In San Francisco

Photo of Adriana Jones
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

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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.

Walt Disney Family Museum

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Walt Disney Family Museum
© Chris LaBasco / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Musée Mécanique

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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.

The Tenderloin Museum

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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.

Cable Car Museum

Museum, Library
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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.

The Exploratorium

Bookstore, Museum, Shop
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One of San Francisco’s most popular museums to visit, theExploratoriumcontains 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.

Museum of the African Diaspora

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The MoAD
The MoAD | © Erik (HASH) Hersman/Flickr
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.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

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The EndUp
The EndUp | Courtesy theendup.com
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.

Chinese Historical Society of America Museum

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Creatures from the Deep
Creatures from the Deep | © Ed and Eddie/Flickr
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.

Museum of Craft and Design

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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.

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