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8 Wonderful SF Museums And Gardens Offering Free Admission Days

By Jamie Ferrell

8 Wonderful SF Museums And Gardens Offering Free Admission Days

See what the City has to offer without breaking the bank!

We love San Francisco for its vibrant culture, history, and resources, but it’s no secret that living here costs a pretty penny. Whether you’re a college student on a budget, or a bargain hunter wanting to see the sights, this list will certainly help you get started!

This list shows museums and gardens currently offering free admission days. Most museums also take part in Museums for All, which gives free or reduced admission to low-income visitors.

1. SFMOMA

Free admission to Bay Area residents on the first Thursday of every month from 4-8pm.

According to a caption on the museum’s Instagram, all residents from the nine Bay Area counties may reserve their free spot for first Thursdays, simply by using their zip code as the promo code. These will sell out quickly, so keep a close eye on the SFMOMA website for reservations to open up.

SF MOMA is one of the City’s most famous museums, and you’ll find both large- and small-scale exhibitions  to help you think critically about contemporary art in today’s society. If fine art isn’t your thing, this museum might change your mind! Be sure to take some awesome pictures while you’re at it. Current exhibitions include “Nam June Paik,” an enormous multisensory experience featuring over 200 works from the famous artist. Be sure to check out One-Way Colour Tunnel on the fifth floor, and Diego Rivera’s [trackLink link_url=”https://secretsanfrancisco.com/diego-rivera-mural-sfmoma/”]Pan American Unity[/trackLink] mural on the first floor while you’re at it.

2. de Young Museum and Legion of Honor

[Photo by @garysextonphotography]

Free admission days: (full price still applies to special exhibitions unless otherwise indicated)

  • Free admission for the general public on the first Tuesday of every month.
  • Free admission for Bay Area residents every Saturday.
  • Free admission and $15 discount to special exhibitions for essential and frontline workers, including emergency services, health care, grocery stores, city operations and maintenance, social services, public transit, and delivery services. See full list here.
  • Free admission for visitors receiving Medi-Cal and food assistance (SNAP benefits) as part of Museums for All. Must show valid EBT card upon entry.
  • Free admission for CA library cardholders.
  • Free admission for Bank of America, Merrill, of Bank of America Private Bank (U.S. Bank) cardholders on the first full weekend of every month as part of Bank of America Museums on Us.

The de Young Museum has been one of SF’s most iconic fine art museums since it was founded in 1895. Their collections include African art, arts of the Americas, oceanic art, photography, and textiles. Current exhibitions feature a beautiful dedication to Frida Kahlo and a multimedia exhibition of artificial intelligence.

3. Asian Art Museum

Free admission days: 
  • Free admission for the general public on the first Sunday of every month.
  • Free admission for social service agencies and nonprofit groups serving disadvantaged communities, schools, and youth groups via Community Access Fund. Apply for tickets 2 weeks in advance by emailing groupvisits@asianart.org.
  • Free admission for patrons and employees of certain member organizations, libraries and small businesses via the Community Membership Program. Join by emailing members@asianart.org.
  • Free admission for employees of select corporate partner companies at the $10,000 level and above. See list of Corporate Members here.

This stunning museum is home to over 18,000 magnificent works of Asian art, ranging from ancient ceramics to contemporary video installations. The museum began over 50 years ago, and has since evolved several times to keep up with the changing artworks and mediums.

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4. GLBT Historical Society Museum

Free admission days: 
  • Free admission for all visitors every Saturday, courtesy of the Bob Ross Foundation.
  • Free admission for NARM, SNAP EBT and Medi-Cal cardholders.

The GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) Historical Society Museum delves into the history of the queer community in San Francisco. It’s recognized internationally as a leader in LGBTQ public history. Exhibitions include a segment of the original 1978 rainbow flag; textiles, costumes, and art from Gilbert Baker; and a collection of photos and documents from SF’s queer history.

5. Museum of Craft and Design

(Almost) free admission days:
  • “Pay what you can Wednesdays” every Wednesday. Visitors can pay whatever they wish for admission.

This exciting museum endeavors to make creativity accessible to everyone through fun, interactive exhibits for all ages. Their upcoming exhibition is Mode Brut, which features textiles and fashion in collaboration with people with developmental disabilities. It investigates the use of unconventional materials to make clothing more adaptive to the wearer.

6. San Francisco Botanical Garden

Free admission days:
  • Free admission for the general public every day from 7:30-9am.
  • Free admission for the general public on the second Tuesday of every month.
  • Free admission for all SF City & County residents with proof of residency. Proof of residency may be:
    • CA drivers license or ID showing SF address.
    • Photo ID + recent utility bill, lease, or other documentation showing SF address.
    • Digital proof on your phone of San Francisco ID, screenshot of utility bill, etc is acceptable.
  • Free admission for visitors receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) as part of Museums for All. Must show valid EBT card upon entry.

The SF Botanical Garden features over 8,000 other kinds of plants across 55 acres. Be sure to check out the Ancient Plant Garden, the Garden of Fragrance, the Moon Viewing Garden, and many others for an awesome outdoor experience! The magnolia bloom during February and March is also a must. They are currently offering yoga classes in the garden, and the popular Flower Piano event will come in September.

7. Conservatory of Flowers

Free admission days:
  • Free admission for the general public on the first Tuesday of every month.
  • Free admission for visitors receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) as part of Museums for All. Must show valid EBT card upon entry. Full pricing still applies to special exhibitions, events and programs.

This beautiful, lush green space is one of SF’s favorite escapes from city life. Not only is it a national, state, and local landmark, but it’s been curating a vast collection of rare and unusual plants since 1879. Enjoy this up-close view of some of the world’s most beautiful plants and flowers, and try their Night Bloom experience to see them in a new light. The giant water lilies are in bloom through the summer!

8. Japanese Tea Garden

Free admission days:
  • Free admission for the general public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays if entered before 10:00am (garden opens at 9:00am).
  • Free admission for visitors receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) as part of Museums for All. Must show valid EBT card upon entry. Full pricing still applies to special exhibitions, events and programs.

The Japanese Tea Garden is one of Golden Gate Park’s most iconic destinations, and for good reason. The tea house, or ochaya, dates back to 1894, making it the oldest ochaya in the United States. Take a stroll through the pagodas, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, and more. Remember to visit in March and April for a glimpse of the cherry blossoms.

 

[Featured Image: @luiscon3.mx via Instagram]