The country’s most expensive city offers free museum day

Exploring local history and culture doesn’t have to break your budget. Some San Francisco museums offer free admission to San Francisco residents periodically, while others don’t charge for admission at all.

The California Historical Society, a free museum located in Chinatown, is currently displaying “Chinese Pioneers: Power and Politics in Exclusion Era Photographs” through June 25. This collection examines the heartbreaking reality of being Chinese American after the Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed, halting immigration from China and making Chinese immigrants ineligible for citizenship. The California Historical Society is open Thursday through Saturday from 12-5:30 p.m.

Exciting permanent exhibitions that never require paid entry are all over the city as well. The Museum of Russian Culture, just a few blocks from campus on Sutter St, offers documents and artifacts from the Russian Revolution, as well as more contemporary Russian culture in the city of San Francisco and the United States. The Railway and Cablecar Museums are also free, and show the ongoing development of the city’s public transportation. 

Every first Thursday of the month, San Francisco residents can visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for free from 4-8 p.m. SFMOMA is a world-class art museum that offers timeless exhibitions by artists Henry Matisse and Georgia O’Keeffe as well as niche exhibitions such as “German Art after 1960” and “San Francisco Walls,” which celebrates murals and graffiti in San Francisco. 

The Asian Art Museum offers free admission to San Francisco residents every first Sunday of the month. This museum houses centuries of art and artifacts from every part of Asia. Through Feb. 28, visitors can experience teamLab: Continuity, a multimedia experience that you can see, hear, feel, and smell as you walk into a seemingly new world. It has installations all over the world, and only a short amount of time left here in the Bay. Note that TeamLab requires a small fee, regardless of free museum days. 

A notable exhibition at free museums include “The Monument as a Living Memory” at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). “The Monument as a Living Memory” is a collection of paintings on large industrial plyboards, showcasing the strengths of various artists who were brought together by artist Caleb Duarte. Duarte is a visionary, creating art using basic, readily available materials in order to make the collaborative process more accessible to the other artists he works with those he collaborates with as well as aspiring artists. He’s also a huge advocate for immigrant youth, whose resilience and creativity inspire much of his work. The YBCA is currently closed due to flood damage, but is hoping to reopen in March. 

There are many lesser known museums that also offer free admission days; the Tenderloin Museum is free to Tenderloin residents on Wednesdays and the Contemporary Jewish Museum is free to San Francisco residents the first Tuesday of the month. 

Experiencing great works of art doesn’t always have to come at a high price. Free museum days offer students the opportunity to enrich themselves without having to worry about extra expenses in addition to their education. 

MuseumFree Admission Days
Asian Art MuseumFirst Sunday of the month
Botanical GardenSecond Tuesday of the month 
Cartoon Art Museum// IAMATuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m
Contemporary JewishFirst Tuesday of the month
Conservatory of FlowersFirst Tuesday of the month 
Craft and DesignWednesdays — pay what you can
de Young MuseumSaturdays
Discovery MuseumFirst Wednesday every other month
GLBT Historical SocietyFirst Saturdays
Japanese Tea GardenWednesday 9-10 a.m.
Legion of HonorSaturday
SFMoMA4-8 p.m. first Thursday of the month
TenderloinWednesdays free for Tenderloin residents
Always Free:
California Historical Society
Randall MuseumRailway Museum
Cablecar MuseumFire Department Museum
Pacific Heritage Museum
Russian Culture Museum
Museo Italo Americano
SF CameraworkYerba Buena Center For the Arts


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