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Travel to San Francisco: San Francisco Museums

Museums | Movie Theaters | Modern Arts Museum | Ballet | Opera

There are so many great San Francisco museums and there is something for everyone in this great city by the bay. Spend a little time on this section of the site and you can make the next time you travel to San Francisco especially memorable.


Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102-4734
Phone: 415/581-3500

The Asian Art Museum has reopened in a new home, a reconfiguration by architect Gae Aulenti, whose previous projects include Paris ' Musee d'Orsay, of the former main library. The Asian's impressive, compared to many San Francisco museums, holdings include more than 13,000 sculptures, paintings, and ceramics from 40 countries, illustrating major periods of Asian art. Though the bulk of the art and artifacts come from China, the collection includes treasures from Korea, Iran, Turkey, Syria, India, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Japan, Afghanistan, and Southeast Asia. COST: $10. Tues.-Wed. and Fri.-Sun. 10-5; Thurs. 10-9.


California Academy of Sciences
Music Concourse Dr. off South Dr.
San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415/750-7145

This renowned, among other San Francisco museums, three-in-one attraction with an aquarium, numerous science and natural-history exhibits, and a planetarium, closes at the end of 2003 for a four-year renovation project. From 2004 until the reopening, the academy will operate a scaled-down museum and an aquarium near Moscone Convention Center at 875 Howard Street. In the meantime exhibits can be found at other San Francisco museums such as the mesmerizing Fish Roundabout, at Steinhart Aquarium. Feeding time is 1:30 PM. At the Touch Tide Pool, you can cozy up to starfish, hermit crabs, and other critters. Elsewhere at Steinhart swim dolphins, sea turtles, piranhas, manatees, and other sea life. Tropical reef sharks cruise their own tank, and there are also reptile and amphibian displays and an alligator pond. Vibrantly colored fish vie for attention with iridescent coral at the tropical coral reef. Always amusing to watch, the penguins dine at 11:30 AM and 4 PM.

The multimedia earthquake exhibit in the Earth and Space Hall at the Natural History Museum simulates quakes, complete with special effects. Videos and displays in the Wild California Hall describe the state's wildlife, and there's a re-creation of the environment of the rocky Farallon Islands. Dinosaur bones and a brontosaurus skull draw dinophiles to the Hall of Fossils. The African Hall contains animals (real, but stuffed) specific to Africa in their native vegetation; don't miss the sights and sounds of the African watering hole at the end of the room. The natural-history wing's other attractions include the gem and mineral hall, an insect room, Far Side of Science cartoons by Gary Larson, and an open play and learning space for small children.

There is an additional charge ($2.50) for Morrison Planetarium shows (415/750-7141 schedule), which you enter through the Natural History Museum. Daily multimedia shows present the night sky through the ages under a 55-ft dome, complete with special effects and music. A cafeteria is open daily until one hour before the museum closes. COST: $8.50 ($2.50 discount with Muni transfer), free 1st Wed. of month. Memorial Day-Labor Day, daily 9-6; Labor Day-Memorial Day, daily 10-5; 1st Wed. of month closes at 8:45 PM.


California Palace of the Legion of Honor
34th Ave. at Clement St.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415/863-3330 information

Spectacularly situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands, of all San Francisco museums this landmark building is a fine repository of European art. A pyramidal glass skylight in the entrance court illuminates the lower-level galleries, which exhibit prints and drawings, English and European porcelain, and ancient Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art. The 20-plus galleries on the upper level display the permanent collection of European art (paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, tapestries) from the 14th century to the present day. The noteworthy Rodin collection includes two galleries devoted to the master and a third with works by Rodin and other 19th-century sculptors. An original cast of Rodin's The Thinker welcomes you as you walk through the courtyard.

The Legion Cafe, on the lower level, has a garden terrace and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. North of the museum (across Camino del Mar) is George Segal's The Holocaust, a sculpture that evokes life in concentration camps during World War II. It is hauntingly eloquent at night, when backlit by lights in the Legion's parking lot. COST: $8 ($2 off with Muni transfer); free 2nd Wed. of month. Tues.-Sun. 9:30-5.


Musee Mecanique
Pier 45
Shed A, Embarcadero at the foot of Taylor St.
San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415/346-2000

Recently moved from this San Francisco museum's home at Cliff House to Pier 45, the splendid Musee Mecanique, is a time-warped arcade with antique mechanical contrivances, including peep shows and nickelodeons. Some favorites are the giant, rather creepy "Laughing Sal," an arm-wrestling machine, and mechanical fortune-telling figures who speak from their curtained boxes. A disturbing display is the "Opium-Den," a tiny diorama with Chinese figures clearly depicting the effects of heavy drug use. Admission is free, but bring change to play the games. COST: Free. Memorial Day-Labor Day, daily 10-8; early Sept.-late May, weekdays 11-7, weekends 10-8.

San Francisco hotels

The Argent Hotel San Francisco Argonaut Hotel Chancellor Hotel on Union Square Comfort Suites San Francisco Airport Commodore Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel Hotel Cosmo, A Kimpton Boutique Hotel Courtyard by Marriott Fishermans Wharf Dakota Hotel Hotel Diva Embassy Hotel