San Francisco Area Arts & Culture, Museums & History

San Francisco Area Arts & Culture, Museums & History

World–Renown Museums & Historic Sites In San Francisco & The San Francisco Bay Area. . .

San Francisco Bay Area museums are an eclectic mix. Some of the finest museums and galleries in the world can be found in this area, providing an amazing diversity of artistic expression, historical reference and scientific exploration. Here, you will find exhibits about everything from cable cars to submarines, and historic sites such as large brick forts under the Golden Gate Bridge and great wooden ships of another area anchored in the Fisherman’s Wharf area!

As anyone knows who ever planned a trip to the San Francisco Bay area, there are myriad of things to do, but do try to make time for at least one or two of the area’s wonderful museums or historic sites. San Francisco’s museums, particularly its small museums, are scattered about its colorful neighborhoods. Don’t overlook museums in the East Bay (Berkeley, San Francisco and Point Richmond) and South Bay (the Peninsula, Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz). There is “historic” gold everywhere that you look in the Bay Area.

From the oldest building in San Francisco (Mission Delores – 3.6 mi), to the newest of museum renovations (San Francisco Museum of California – 1.6 mi), you’ll find it within a short drive of the San Remo Hotel San Francisco.


Local Guide


Website   •   19.3 miles
LOCATION:10000 Skyline Boulevard, San Francisco, CA    (510) 238-2200

San Remo Hotel San Francisco California - Chabot Space & Science Center

Founded as an observatory in 1883, today Chabot offers visitors the very latest in hands-on, interactive exhibits, displays, and Planetarium and large-screen shows that explore the mysteries of the universe and of life here on earth

Combined with a full program of activity-filled classes, workshops, Space & Science Camp, outreach programs and special events, Chabot Space & Science Center has become the Bay Area’s go to destination for visitors of all ages who want to discover and learn about space and earth sciences.

Set amid beautiful redwood parkland in the hills above San Francisco, yet just 2.5 miles off the freeway, Chabot is also home to Nellie, Rachel and Leah, three magnificent telescopes and the largest public telescope facility in the country. Here visitors of all ages can experience for themselves the wonders of the cosmos as they gaze through the telescopes at distant stars and planets.

Chabot Space & Science Center is one of Northern California’s leading centers for informal science education. Each year they host literally thousands of students from throughout the Bay Area, visiting Chabot on field trips that can include curriculum-approved classes in subjects as diverse as chemistry, geology, space, biology, environmental science, and climate change.



Website   •   2.1 miles
LOCATION:3301 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123, (415) 563-6504

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprised of the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

San Francisco Fine Arts Museums

The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is in fact two organizations: the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and the DeYoung Memorial Museum. Founded as separate museums, the deYoung and Legion of Honor were merged in 1972.

The de Young showcases American art from the 17th through the 21st centuries, international contemporary art, textiles and costumes, and art from the Americas, the Pacific, and Africa. A collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art is displayed at the Legion of Honor in a neoclassical style building overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco has long been a cultural center and boasts some of the finest collections in the nation. At the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, visitors can view early castings of The Thinker and John the Baptist by Auguste Rodin, The Orator, a plaster casting by Picasso, and Saint Francis Venerating the Crucifix by El Greco. French tapestries, medievel and Byzantine artifacts are at the Fine Arts Museum along with master works of artists such as Degas, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Renoir, Le Nain, Nattier and others.


Website   •   0.7 miles
LOCATION:1201 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, (415) 474-1887

The Cable Car Museum was established in 1974, and is operated by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum. Located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area of the large sheaves and cable line entering the building through the channel under the street.

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

San Francisco’s cable cars are a major attraction here, and riding them is a special treat. They are the only cable cars currently operating in the world, making them a truly unique experience, and they can take you to many of the other attractions San Francisco has to offer. The Alexander Inn is located only about two blocks from the Powell Street cable car route.

Museum displays include various mechanical devices such as grips, track, cable, brake mechanisms, tools, detailed models, and a large collection of historic photographs. The museum houses three antique cable cars from the 1870s. The Sutter Street Railway No. 46 grip car & No. 54 trailer and the only surviving car from the first cable car company, the Clay Street Hill Railroad No. 8 grip car.

SF Municipal Railway (Muni) maintains the current fleet of 28 Powell St. cars and 12 California St. cars. The single-ended Powell Street cars are the older of the two types now in service. Some of these original cars (extensively rebuilt) are still in use today. The double-ended California type cars were developed later and have been used on California Street since 1891 when Leland Stanford’s California Street Cable Railroad (Cal Cable) began replacing their 2-car trains. These cars are equipped with a set of control levers at each end, thus eliminating the need for a turntable at each end of the line.


Website   •   1.5 miles
LOCATION: Fort Mason Center, Building E, San Francisco, CA 94123, (415) 447-5000

Stand on the stern of Balclutha, face west to feel the fresh wind blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Located in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Pacific Coast maritime history.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Located at the west end of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park includes a fleet of historic vessels tied up at Hyde Street Pier, a visitor center, and a library/research facility. Visitors can step aboard turn-of-the-century ships, visit the maritime museum’s exhibits and ship models, and learn traditional seafaring arts like boatbuilding and woodworking. Visitors to this National Park can also participate in a variety of educational, music and craft programs designed for all ages.

Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building (Maritime Museum): The Bathhouse building was built in 1939 as a joint project of the City of San Francisco and the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA), and is the focal point of the Aquatic Park Historic Landmark District. This unique structure was designed in the Streamline Moderne style, a late offshoot of the Art Deco period, and mimics the clean lines of an ocean liner. The building is a showcase for art created during the 1930s by Sargent Johnson and Hilaire Hiler. Dazzling murals cover the interior walls. Stop by to enjoy the vibrant colors depicting a dreamy and strange underwater world.


Website   •   4.0 miles
LOCATION: South anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of Marine Drive on the Presidio of San Francisco.    (415) 556-1693

From its vantage point overlooking the spectacular Golden Gate, Fort Point protected San Francisco harbor from Confederate and foreign attack during and after the U.S. Civil War. Its beautifully arched casemates display the art of the master brick mason from the Civil War period.

Fort Point

Fort Point has stood guard at the narrows of the Golden Gate for nearly 150 years. It has been called “the pride of the Pacific,” “the Gibraltar of the West Coast,” and “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America.” When construction began during the height of the California Gold Rush, Fort Point was planned as the most formidable deterrence America could offer to a naval attack on California. Although its guns never fired a shot in anger, the “Fort at Fort Point” as it was originally named has witnessed Civil War, obsolescence, earthquake, bridge construction, reuse for World War II, and preservation as a National Historic Site.

Fort Point was built between 1853 and 1861 by the U.S. Army Engineers as part of a defense system of forts planned for the protection of San Francisco Bay. Designed at the height of the Gold Rush, the fort and its companion fortifications would protect the Bay’s important commercial and military installations against foreign attack. The fort was built in the Army’s traditional “Third System” style of military architecture (a standard adopted in the 1820s), and would be the only fortification of this impressive design constructed west of the Mississippi River. This fact bears testimony to the importance the military gave San Francisco and the gold fields during the 1850s.

Although Fort Point never saw battle, the building has tremendous significance due to its military history, its architecture, and its association with maritime history.

In the late 1930s, plans for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge also involved plans for the demolition of Fort Point. Fortunately, Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss recognized the architectural value of the Fort and created a special engineer arch which allowed the construction of the bridge to occur safely over the Fort. In 1959, a group of retired military officers and civilian engineers created the Fort Point Museum Association and lobbied for its creation as a National Historic Site. On October 16, 1970, Fort Point became a National Historic Site.

Fort Point is cold and windy most of the time. You can probably count on the temperature being at least 10 degrees cooler that the current listing below. Spring and Fall generally offer the best weather. Dress warmly for your visit, with layers of clothing.


The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf   •  0.3 miles
145 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA 94133  (415) 202-0402
The spirit and energy of San Francisco is manifested in the history of one of its most popular landmarks – The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. Bedecked by colorful waving flags and surrounded by a complex of gift shops and entertainment sites, the museum welcomes guests to one of the world’s most visited spots.

Musée Mécanique   •  0.5 miles
Pier 45 at the foot of Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA  (415) 346-2000
Welcome to the Musée Mécanique, one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in their original working condition.

USS Pampanito Submarine   •  0.6 miles
Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, Taylor and Embarcadero Streets, San Francisco, CA  (415) 775-1943
USS Pampanito (SS-383) is a World War II Balao class Fleet submarine museum and memorial that is open for visitors daily at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Pampanito made six patrols in the Pacific during World War II during which she sank six Japanese ships and damaged four others.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco   •   2.1 mi
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102   415-581-3600
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art. But we are more than just an art museum – we are your ticket to Asia. Here, you can travel through 6,000 years of history, trek across seven major regions, and sample the cultures of numerous countries.

Museum of Children’s Art   •  2.8 miles
538 9th St # 210, San Francisco, CA 94607-3980    (510) 465-8770
MOCHA provides hands-on arts learning experiences for children and their families in our museum, in schools and preschools, and in public venues. MOCHA also prepares educators to teach art and integrate arts learning across academic subject areas. As well, we advocate for the arts as an essential part of a strong, vital and diverse community.

Alameda Historical Museum   •  15.4 miles
2324 Alameda Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501    (510) 521-1233
The Alameda Historical Society was founded in 1948, and the Museum was established in 1951. In 1983 the Alameda Museum was designated as the official repository of historical documents and artifacts for the City of Alameda.

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