San Francisco’s family-oriented museums are free at least one day each month and, in many cases, always free for children 12 and under.
The Asian Art Museum has created its special Target Sundays family programming. The free admission on the first Sunday of each month features storytelling and yoga sessions.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) offers free public access to nearly 45,000 square feet of ground-floor galleries, as well as free admission for visitors 18 and younger. SFMOMA offers educational experiences for the entire family, with the looming curves of Richard Serra’s Sequence sculpture (Floor 1, Atrium), the Alexander Calder Motion Lab (Floor 3), the largest living wall in the United States (Floor 3), and the Photography Interpretive Gallery (Floor 3). The Museum Store offers an amazing selection of kid-friendly items from modern and contemporary art books, innovative design objects, and children's books to toys, posters, and stationery, and more.
Located in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences' “inside-out” design provides a behind-the-scenes look at the aquatic life support systems for the Steinhart Aquarium. Visitors can meet biologists who care for more than 5,000 animals, and — if they’re lucky — can even help them feed the fish. Admission is free on four select Sundays each year.
The rooftop above Moscone Center South on Howard Street is the perfect setting for a lighthearted escape. There’s a playground, carousel, ice skating rink, and bowling alley. The western corner is anchored by the Children's Creativity Museum, a multimedia arts and technology museum where families can explore creativity through hands-on programs such as clay animation, video production, and more. It’s free for tots two and under.
The face of a child, composed of more than 2,000 photographs submitted from individuals around the world, beckons at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), located at Third and Mission streets. Through the coupling of art, culture and technology, MoAD is telling the story of the African Diaspora. History comes alive with “first person” narratives, storytelling and poetry events, and living history presentations. MoAD is free for children 12 and under.
The Exploratorium, along the waterfront at Pier 15, is a playground for ideas. The Exploratorium offers hundreds of interactive exhibits in the areas of science, art and human perception. Admission is free on five select days each year.
The Cartoon Art Museum, located on Fisherman's Wharf, is always free for children five and younger. Let the little ones see where their favorite characters began, with a tremendous archive of comic strips, graphic novels, and animated films. Your aspiring artist can even make his or her own cartoon!
The Randall Museum reopened in February 2018 after a $9 million renovation and focuses on exposing children to the wonder of the sciences. It's free and not far from the breathtaking views atop Corona Heights Park.
The one-of-a-kind San Francisco Cable Car Museum deserves special attention. In the historic Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse, the site where the cable system has operated since 1907, visitors can view the actual cable-winding machinery as it reels 11 miles of steel at a steady pace of nine-and-a-half miles per hour. Antique cable cars are also on display, including one dating from 1873. The museum is always free and it only takes $8 to ride a cable car.
Just as the cable car is the United States’ only mobile national landmark, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in Fisherman’s Wharf is its only floating National Park. Home to the world’s largest collection of historic ships, it includes the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha, an 1890 ferryboat Eureka and the steam tug Hercules. Admission to board the ships is $10 (age 15 and under free when accompanied by an adult), but strolling the pier is free. Scheduled events and activities include sea chantey sing-a-longs, birding, tours of the Eureka engine room, and crabbin’ “how to's” off Municipal Pier. An enormous Fresnel lens, once used in the Farallon Island lighthouse, marks the entrance of the nearby Visitor Center at the corner of Hyde and Jefferson streets in the 1907 Haslett Warehouse building. Uniformed rangers staff the information desk or one can just simply sail through the fun and interactive panels and displays to learn more about San Francisco’s colorful and diverse maritime heritage.