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Arts & Entertainment

How to get in free to the best museums in San Francisco

John Dascoulias views photos in the Dr. Ernest Bates Gallery at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

San Francisco is blessed with dozens of museums—from world-class houses of fine art to quirky, personal one-of-a-kind collections—but admission doesn’t always come cheap.

Want to see the Fridas and Rothkos at SFMOMA? It’s going to cost you a cool $25 this year for general admission. A trip to see the famed white alligator, Claude, or the saber-toothed cat, Kitty, at Cal Academy is now at least $35 per person.

But aim for the right day and time, and you can get into most major SF collections free of charge. 

Many institutions offer free or reduced admission to specific groups all year. The Free for All program means San Franciscans with EBT or Medi-Cal cards can get in free anytime at selected museums—the same goes for SF Public Library cardholders via Discover & Go and active military courtesy of Blue Star Museums. (Check each program for details because some require advance online reservations.)

Patrons view Diego Rivera’s "America" gallery at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

More good news? Many of SF’s boutique collections are always free to enter. Want to see a display of acid blotters, antique vibrators, ophthalmological history or Gold Rush artifacts? Those’ll cost you zero, no matter which day you go.

The Standard gathered all the opening times, admission prices, discounts and membership information for 47 museums in San Francisco. Just click on each location shown on the map below for more details and mark your calendar for the best days to visit this year.

Shelley D. Fargo contributed additional research for this story.