Totally Free Museums in San Francisco

There is no denying that San Francisco is a hub of culture, and one of the most exciting things about raising kids in the city is the access to it’s many great museums. While some of these museums can be pricey to visit, I’m always looking for ways to enjoy them while staying under our budget. An excellent way to do that is to take advantage of the free museums in San Francisco!

Read on to discover the free museums in the city, plus ways to get discounted tickets on popular museums! From free days for Bay Area residents, free days for all, and other discounts available, everyone can visit the city’s wonderful museums.

Disclaimer: Discounts subject to change, please check with the museum for the most up-to-date information before visiting.

Totally Free Museums in San Francisco

Free to San Francisco Residents

Other ways to get discounts on Popular Museums in San Francisco

Totally Free Museums in San Francisco

Musée Mécanique

This totally-free-to-visit museum/ working arcade is one of the world’s largest privately owned collection of antique carnival and arcade games and attractions.

There are over 300 coin-operated mechanical arcade artifacts to choose from, ranging from turn-of-the-century hand-cranked music boxes to modern arcade games.

The Musée Mécanique pays special homage to Playland at the Beach, a former amusement park on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Learn about the origins of Playland, Sutro Baths, and the Cliff House in their special exhibits.

Open every day from 10am – 8pm. Bring quarters! (Change machines available.)

Located at Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco, CA 94133.

Randall Museum

The Randall Museum is located on top of a hill with a breathtaking view of San Francisco. This science, art, and natural history museum in Corona Heights focuses on the cultures and environments of the San Francisco Bay Area. It has live animals from California, such as quails!

There’s also a miniature railroad there, with replicas of real Bay Area trains. The model layout was donated by Golden Gate Model Railroad Club.

The museum is free to visit and is open Tuesday- Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

Located at 199 Museum Way San Francisco, CA 94114

Wells Fargo History Museum

children at wells fargo history museum table looking at old coins
Image courtesy of

The Wells Fargo wagon was once one of the only ways to get packages across country. The Wells Fargo museum, located on the first two floors of the Wells Fargo Bank headquarters is a small, interactive museum for kids.

Experience what it’s like to sit in a stagecoach, send a telegraph, and discover the history of banking.

Located at 420 Montgomery St. San Francisco, CA 94104

Open Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Closed on bank holidays)

Cable Car Museum

For kids with engineer brains, the cable car museum is perfect for learning how cable cars work. Watch the giant cables turn on a huge mechanism below and discover the history of cable cars.

Located at  1201 Mason Street San Francisco, CA 94108

Admission is Free! Open every day except Monday.

San Francisco Railway Museum

two adults pretending to drive a cable car in museum

In this small museum, kids can play on full-sized exact replica of the motorman’s platform of 1911 streetcar. While there isn’t a ton to see inside, it’s a great little shop for fun San Francisco treasures.

It’s free to visit and open Tuesday- Saturday noon – 5 pm.

Located at 77 Steuart Street San Francisco CA 94105 (Near the Ferry Building)

Fort Point

This National Historic Site of California sits directly under the Golden Gate Bridge at the San Francisco entrance of the San Francisco Bay. Built between 1853- 1861, it’s one of the only buildings in San Francisco built before the Civil War that remains unchanged.

Though it never saw combat, this military fortress was armed during the Civil War against potential confederate attacks, and then again in WWII to defend against potential submarine threats.

If the flag is up, it’s open to visitors. It’s free to visit and explore! Check their website for specific hours.On the second floor is a small Buffalo Soldiers exhibit.

While the first floor is wheelchair and stroller accessible, I don’t recommend taking kids who are still learning to walk. The stairs are steep with no rails and there are lots of trip hazards. It’s great for older kids who want to climb and explore.

It’s cold here! Bring a sweatshirt and be prepared for wind.

This is the place for some of the best views of the bridge! It’s pretty fascinating and a little creepy! Especially on a windy day, you really hear the wind blowing through the golden gate bridge safety nets.

Located at 201 Marine Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

Free to San Francisco Residents

Japanese Tea Garden

Located in Golden Gate Park, the iconic Japanese Tea Garden recently changed its admission rates to allow San Francisco Residents and Veterans in for free!

The beautiful garden and tea house is home to an arched bridge, large pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden.  In March and April Cherry blossom trees bloom!

The Japanese Tea Garden also participates in Museums For AllAll visitors receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) are offered free general admission. Free admission may be redeemed by presenting a valid EBT card upon entry.

Conservatory of Flowers

large white victorian greenhouse in san francisco

Built in 1879, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park is a national and state historic landmark. Inside there are tons of exotic and rare flowers and plants, like a titan corpse flower. It’s a fun and interesting place to visit.

As well as being free for San Francisco residents, the Conservatory of Flowers is free for all on the first Tuesday of every month.

SF Botanical Garden

The beautiful San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park is home to over 8,000 different types of plants found all over the world. It’s also a place to find wildlife like geese, ducks, koi, turtles and squirrels.

From native California Redwoods to beautiful Magnolia trees, the 55 acre Garden is a serene place to spend the afternoon.

In addition to always being free to San Francisco residents, the Botanical Garden is free to everyone from 7:30am-9am daily. It’s also free to everyone on the second Tuesday of every month and on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Bay Area Residents Free Days

While these Museums don’t offer Bay Area Residents Free Admission every day, they do offer it on select days. Visit the websites to get the most up-to-date information about these free days.

Every Saturday

First Thursdays of the month

First Wednesday (every other month)

Other ways to get discounts on Popular Museums in San Francisco

Discover and Go Passes

Discover and Go, a museum pass program created by the Contra Costa County Library, offers California library cardholders free and discounted admission to nearby museums and cultural institutions. All you need is a library card to take advantage of these discounts.

Some of the San Francisco Museums that participate in Discover and Go are:

Advanced reservations are usually required, and passes are released on a first come, first serve basis. Visit the website to learn more.

Museums for All

A national program called Museums for All encourages people from all backgrounds to visit museums by offering discounted or free tickets to those who qualify for assistance programs in the United States.

By presenting their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can use Museums for All to gain free or discounted admission to more than 900 museums across the country.

At some museums, like the California Academy of Sciences, this discount offer is extended to WIC, Lifeline Pass, and Medi-Cal cardholders.

Free or Reduced Admission for Teachers

If you’re a public school teacher, you can get into certain museums for free or a discounted rate. Show proof of employment at time of purchase.

Blue Star Museums/ Military Discount

Guests with an active Military ID receive complimentary admission to a number of museums in San Francisco.

Museums that participate include:

Bank of America Museums on Us

Bank with Bank of America or Merrill? Holders of credit or debit cards from Bank of America, Merrill, or Bank of America Private Bank (U.S. Trust) have access to Museums on Us® a program that allows free general admission on first weekend of every month.

In San Francisco, these museums include:

Free Days for All

These museums and attractions offer free admission on certain days of the month for everyone, not just Bay Area residents. Check their websites for the most up-to-date information.

First Tuesday of the month:

First Friday of the month:

First Sunday of the month:

Second Tuesday of the month:

Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reciprocal Admissions

Before you pay full price to visit a zoo or an aquarium, first check to see if a membership you already have will give you a discount. Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), members can receive free or reduced admission to many other participating destinations.

In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Zoo, the Aquarium of the Bay, the Oakland Zoo, CuriOdyssey and Happy Hollow Zoo participate in the reciprocal AZA program.