Nightlife At San Francisco Bay Area Museums

Some of San Francisco's hottest nightlife can be found in its incredible museums. Find out more!

San Francisco has plenty to offer visitors after dark: trend-setting restaurants, world-renowned performance venues, and bars and nightclubs that cater to every crowd. But did you know that San Francisco Bay Area museums are some of the hottest spots for a memorable night out? Check out the full list below for the best opportunities to learn a little while having a lot of fun.

Asian Art Museum 

200 Larkin St.

On Thursdays in the mid-winter through fall, the Asian Art Museum stays open to 9 p.m. Visitors can enjoy special exhibitions, fun talks and encounters with the artists themselves. Drinks are served at a cash bar, and DJs keep the music playing. Schedule: Thursdays, 5-9 p.m. Admission: $5 after 5 p.m. Surcharges may apply for special exhibitions.

Autodesk Gallery at One Market 

One Market St., Second Floor

At each Design Night at the Autodesk Gallery explore a new and unexpected theme and discover how tech is transforming it - all with a bar, food, music and activities. Design Night events are held periodically in San Francisco and around the world. Schedule: Visit website for schedule. Admission: Visit website for information.

California Academy of Sciences 

55 Music Concourse Dr.

A new adventure unfolds every Thursday night at California Academy of Sciences. You can explore the seas and the stars without leaving the building or your cocktail. Rock out to live music or listen in on talks about cutting-edge science. It’s all here, with additional seasonal specials and options for group/private events. Schedule: Thursdays, 6-10 p.m. Admission: $15 per person ($12 for Academy members). Open to adults age 21 and older.

California Historical Society 

678 Mission St.

Dedicated to inspiring and empowering people to make California’s rich past a part of their present, the California Historical Society offers a variety of evening programs and events. Schedule: Third Thursday of every month. Admission: $5-10 per person (free for members).

Chinese Historical Society of America Museum

965 Clay St.

The Chinese Historical Society of America Museum is the oldest organization in the country dedicated to the history and contributions of the Chinese people in America. The Museum hosts special evening events throughout the year. www.chsa.org

Contemporary Jewish Museum 

736 Mission St.

This dynamic and welcoming space offers visitors a chance to experience art, music, film, literature, debate and—most importantly—people. CJM's evening programming, “Night at the Jewseum,” features live music, crafts, and other activities usually associated with current exhibitions that allow visitors to mingle and enjoy each other’s company. Schedule: Quarterly; look for updates on program page. Admission: Free with museum admission, $5 after 5 p.m. for adults 21 and older.

de Young Museum 

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.

After-hours Fridays at the de Young are “happenings” that feature live music, dance, discussions, in-gallery art making and opportunities to interact with local artists. Extended bar offerings and a special social media lounge are part of the fare; the museum’s famous observation tower stays open until 8 p.m. Schedule: Every Friday, 5:30-8:45 p.m., late September through end of November. Admission: Discounted admission. 


Pier 15 Embarcadero at Green Street

After Dark at the Exploratorium combines aspects of a gallery, a theater, and a cabaret to create a unique experience for visitors. Each evening showcases a different topic—from music to sex to electricity—but all include a cash bar, live music, and access to hundreds of interactive exhibits. Where else can you find an intellectually stimulating playground for adults? Schedule: Thursdays, 6-10 p.m. Open for ages 18+. Admission: $17.95, $19.95 at the door (free for After Dark Members). 

Museum of Craft and Design 

2569 Third St.

Opened in 2004, the museum provides innovative exhibitions and programming around craft and design that engage and stimulate visitors. Evening programs for adults are frequently offered. Check the museum website for full details.

Museum of the African Diaspora 

685 Mission St.

Dedicated to providing local artists the opportunity to showcase work reflecting the artistic and cultural richness of the African Diaspora, the museum hosts public dialogues, artist open houses, and film discussions intended to stimulate conversations on race, identity and culture. Visit the museum website for full details. www.moadsf.org

Oakland Museum of California 

1000 Oak St., Oakland

Just a short ride across the bay is the Oakland Museum of California, which combines art, history, and the natural sciences to tell the story of California’s evolving character and identity. On Fridays, the museum offers family-friendly programming into the evening hours, with hands-on activities, live music, and a variety of food and wine vendors. Schedule: Fridays, 5-10 p.m. Admission: $16 general admission for adults; ages 8 and under are free. Food and beverage prices vary.

Presidio Live 

The Presidio Officers’ Club, 50 Moraga Ave., Presidio Main Post

The Presidio Officers’ Club offers free programs and performances that can be enjoyed with a cocktail from the bar or the adjoining Arguello Restaurant. Presidio Live features films, literary readings, music and dialogues by notable authors, artists, and conversation starters exploring themes from ancient history to current events. Schedule: Every Thursday, 7 p.m.  Admission: Free.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 

151 Third St.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is open until 9 p.m. every Thursday evening. However, throughout the year, look for special programs such as the three-week Modern Cinema mini-film festival. Co-presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and SFFILM, Modern Cinema screens films on select evenings in SFMOMA’s Phyllis Wattis Theater. The series often focuses on a singular director and/or genre. In partnership with the San Francisco Public Library, SFMOMA also offers its monthly Public Knowledge series. Hear from a diverse range of speakers invested in the Bay Area’s urban culture as they discuss civic life today. Special lectures and presentations are also often scheduled as part of current exhibitions. Schedule: Open until 9 p.m. every Thursday. Admission: Reserve tickets now; free for 18 and under. 

Tenderloin Museum 

398 Eddy St.

The newest museum in the city celebrates one of its most overlooked neighborhoods. A melting pot that played host to some of the city’s most historic events, the Tenderloin Museum celebrates the individuals who shaped this community and the world beyond it. Special event details can be found on the museum website.

Yerba Buena Gardens 

760 Howard St., Terrace Level

Get your culture on in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena neighborhood with arts, food, and drink. Take a walk around Yerba Buena Gardens and visit the nearby galleries and museums to pick up your wristband for all-night happy hours at participating bars and restaurants. Schedule: Third Thursday of every month, 5-7 p.m. Admission: Free.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 

701 Mission St.

A nationally recognized leader in connecting audiences and arts programming, YBCA also presents special initiatives that nurture local artists, provide youth education, and create unique experiences for members of the community. Events covering the visual and performing arts, film and video and civic engagement are offered year-round. Visit their website for a full schedule.

Author Brenda Tucker
Brenda Tucker

Brenda Tucker is the Director of Arts Marketing at San Francisco Travel. She has lived in San Francisco since 1998, after driving cross-country to a home she secured sight unseen. Brenda enjoys swimming out-of-doors year-round, being inspired by the incredible art scene in the City, and living in the best place on earth.