Do you want to take your kids out to a fun museum in San Francisco?

Although museums are usually not the first thing that comes to mind, there are some that kids will find interesting.

We’ve had a look at the most engaging places to keep everyone busy.

And they’re much more interactive than the typical school teacher!

Here are the most fun museums we recommend in San Francisco if you have active kids. 

1. Exploratorium

If your kids have even the slightest interest in science, then you shouldn’t miss visiting the Exploratorium.

They will find out how simple gadgets work and discover mind-blowing tricks of nature.

It will make you question how you perceive the world around you.

In this interactive science museum, the installations require touching, building, playing, and experimenting.

Education is a major focus at the Exploratorium and the venue is well organized into different themes.

Kids can learn how the eyes work, watch eggs explode, and find out how cacao beans become chocolate and why do people love it so much. 

You will also learn more about social interaction, light and sound, microscopic organisms, and have a chance to build something by themselves or with other visitors.

There are more than 650 interactive exhibits in this museum at Pier 15, that will entertain your children for three or four hours.

Kids ages 3 and under don’t need a ticket.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am-5pm
  • Prices: Adults $29.95; Students (13-17) $24.95; Youth (4-12) $19.95; Children under 4 Free
  • Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94100, United States

Check Deals Official site


2. Walt Disney Family Museum

If you can’t go to Disneyland, head to San Francisco’s Presidio to visit the next best thing.

While it focuses on the life of Walt Disney, it gives you the chance to explore stunning interactive displays, videos, and animations of your favorite Disney characters.

Lose yourself in 40,000 square foot space (3,715 square meters) of Disney history.

Watching original Mickey Mouse drawings, and artifacts from Disney classics like Snow White and Pinocchio.

Don’t miss the 12-foot diameter model of Disneyland, as Walt initially imagined it.

This one-of-a-kind exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum gives visitors a chance to glimpse into Walt Disney’s mind.

There are ten permanent galleries, and the lobby displays all the awards Disney won during his career.

Make sure to watch a Disney classic at the Fantasia-themed theatre.

  • Opening Hours: Thursday to Sunday 10am-5pm
  • Prices: Adults $25; Students $20; Youth (6-17) $15; Children under 5 Free
  • Address: 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States

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3. Children’s Creativity Museum

This museum in Yerba Buena Gardens offers interactive art and technology experiences for children ages 2-12 and their families.

It has a wide range of engaging activities that allow children to imagine and create.

Its educational approach encourages children to imagine, create and share the way they learn. 

Rather than simply viewing the exhibits, Children’s Creativity Museum is participatory and a hands-on space.

Kids can invent the new machine, bring clay to life in the animation studio, or record their own song in the music studio.

There are activities for younger kids too: think sandboxes, a dress-up area, and a storybook space.

Children can also learn how to program a robot, or take a “mystery box challenge” and create a solution to a problem.

Don’t forget to take a ride on the restored LeRoy King Carousel, the handcrafted machine from 1905.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-4pm
  • Prices: $12 per visitor
  • Address: 221 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States

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4. Cable Car Museum

The Cable Car Museum is the perfect place if your kid is machine-obsessed and wants to know how cable cars work.

It contains historical and explanatory exhibits that will teach you about the most iconic mean of transportation in San Francisco.

All of the systems mechanical are on display, and you can learn when they were first developed.

The Cable Car Museum is part of the complex that also houses the cable car powerhouse and the car depot.

Although the car depot is not open to the public, you can see the powerhouse which drives the cables.

Go underground and see the large wheels that still pull the cables today, in action.

Young conductors can check out three antique cars from the 1800s along with the gadgets.

Located in Nob Hill, this museum will take you a step back in time.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am-5pm
  • Prices: Free
  • Address: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, United States

Check Deals Official site


5. Cartoon Art Museum

This museum is home to more than 6,000 original pieces of cartoon and animation art.

The collection includes comic books, graphic novels, as well as Sunday funnies.

You can find anything from Spiderman to the Economist, and cartoons encompass everything from humor to politics, from profoundly simple to exquisitely complex.

It has something for everyone, and older kids will appreciate the visit.

This is the only museum on the West Coast devoted solely to cartoon art.

The museum gained support from Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip.

It’s located in Yerba Buena Gardens, and it also features a research library and a bookstore.

Several major exhibitions are held each year.

The Cartoon Art Museum hosts classes for children and adults as well as other educational events.

  • Opening Hours: Weekends 11am-5pm
  • Prices: Adults $10; Students $6; Kids (6-12) $4; Children under 5 Free
  • Address: 781 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94109, United States

Check Deals Official site


6. Randall Museum

The Randall Museum focuses on animals, plants, history, and science.

It offers hands-on science, live animals and bugs, as well as art experiences.

Children are encouraged to be creative and explore.

Kids can check out a full-size replica of an earthquake refugee shack, and visit native California wild animals.

It’s perfect for school-aged kids, although there is a toddler playroom too.

The museum also has an art and ceramics studio, science lab, woodshop, greenhouse, gardens, and a theatre.

The playground outside offers fun activities and amazing views.

Different classes are also available, including ceramics, woodworking, and robotics.

San Francisco Parks and Rec department run the Randall Museum. It’s located in Corona Heights, and open to the public.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm
  • Prices: Free
  • Address: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, United States

Official site


7. Bay Area Discovery Museum

This children’s museum is located on the North Bay, near Sausalito, on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

There are plenty of hands-on experiences indoors, as well as outdoor.

It’s perfect for kids aged 6 months to 10 years.

Your kids can discover how tall they are in apples, and build structures out of foam blocks.

Everything here is designed to spark creativity and imagination.

Younger children can explore outdoor tunnels.

The highlight is the Lookout Cove, a 2.5-acre interactive exploration area with tide pools, gravel pits, caves, and spider web installations.

There is so much to see and do, that your child will be running from station to station and from lab to lab trying out everything they can.

Although the Bay Area Discovery Museum is not actually in San Francisco, it will definitely be worth the trip.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-4pm
  • Prices: $18 per visitor
  • Address:  557 McReynolds Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965, United States

Official site


8. California Academy of Sciences

Activities in this museum can pique the curiosity of kids of all ages.

They can walk through a rainforest, be dazzled by galaxies, and meet Claude, an albino alligator.

Those who are younger than five can enjoy the Curiosity Grove, a play space with building blocks and dress-up area.

California Academy of Sciences is a science museum located inside the Golden Gate Park.

The museum also features an aquarium and natural history exhibits all under one roof.

It holds a collection of 38,000 natural wonders of nature.

Kids can meet penguins and parrots, fly to Mars, take a virtual safari in African Hall or see a living eco-roof.

Each part of this museum is engaging and entertaining.

There is something for everyone, and it’s perfect not just for the kids, but for the whole family.

  • Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm
  • Prices: Adults from $29.75; Students from $26; Children from $23.75
  • Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States

Check Deals Official site


9. Musee Mecanique

This antique arcade is one of the world’s largest privately-owned collections of arcade games.

The museum is located on Pier 45, at Fisherman’s Wharf, one big tourist attraction.

It will give you the chance to bring your kids back in time and show them an arcade game you played as a kid.

See your image distorted in trick mirrors, learn your fortune or listen to Laffing Sal cackle.

There is also a collection of mechanically operated musical instruments.

The Musee Mecanique owns over 300 mechanical machines including many rare and historical pieces.

One of them is a steam-powered motorcycle that is believed to be the only one in the world.

Don’t miss the collection of machines made out of toothpicks by prisoners at San Quentin.

Although the entrance to the museum is free, playing the games isn’t, so make sure to bring some extra coins.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10am-8pm
  • Prices: Free entry, games vary in prices
  • Address: Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

Official site


10. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

While you’re at Fisherman’s Wharf, check out this as well.

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park includes a maritime museum, research facility, visitors center, and a fleet of historic ships.

You and your kids will learn more about the fishermen that named this district, and how it’s like to live and work at sea.

Exhibits tell the story of San Francisco’s history as a port and give context to nearby ships.

Ships, schooners, and tugboats docked at Hyde Street Pier are dating back to 1886.

One of the ships is USS Pampanito, the World War II ship.

It now operates as a floating museum, and it can give you a glimpse into its naval history.

See its original sleeping quarters, kitchen, and dining room.

Your kids will love it!

It’s one of the most visited historic vessels in the US.

  • Opening Hours: Always open
  • Prices: Free
  • Location: San Francisco, CA 94109, United States

Check Deals Official site


11. De Young Museum

Although this is a fine art museum, located in Golden Gate Park, it has something to appeal to every visitor, including children.

It is, actually, an incredible opportunity to bring your kids into one of the traditional art museums.

The museum offers programs for kids of all ages, including toddler tours, and art classes after school.

There are free Saturday classes for kids aged 4 to 12 that offer a tour of the current exhibitions on display, and then creating a masterpiece of their own.

The view of San Francisco from the museum’s top floor will leave your kids speechless.

It is also known as the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum.

They showcase American art from the 17th to the 21st century, textiles, costumes, and art from the Pacific and Africa.

De Young Museum also has an unusual exterior with a unique sculpture garden which will surely wow the kids.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9:30am-5:15pm
  • Prices: Adults from $26; Students from $23; Kids (6-17) from $16
  • Address: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States

Check Deals Official site


Kid-Friendly San Francisco Museums Map

Also read:

Find More Kid-Friendly Things to do in San Francisco

FAQs

What are the best San Francisco museum to visit for free?


Cable Car Museum, Randall Museum, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park are the best places to visit for free.

There are some charges for various offers but you can decide on arrival.

More importantly, kids will have plenty of fun without you spending a dime.

Summary

San Francisco MuseumsPrices
ExploratoriumAdults $29.95; Students (13-17) $24.95; Youth (4-12) $19.95; Children under 4 Free
Walt Disney Family MuseumAdults $25; Students $20; Youth (6-17) $15; Children under 5 Free
Children’s Creativity Museum$12 per visitor
Cable Car MuseumFree
Cartoon Art MuseumAdults $10; Students $6; Kids (6-12) $4; Children under 5 Free
Randall MuseumFree
Bay Area Discovery Museum$18 per visitor
California Academy of SciencesAdults from $29.75; Students from $26; Children from $23.75
Musee MecaniqueFree entry, games vary in prices
San Francisco Maritime National Historical ParkFree
De Young MuseumAdults from $26; Students from $23; Kids (6-17) from $16
For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!

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