For fine art on the West Coast, San Francisco is the only place to be. With honorable reproductions of French master museums, like San Francisco's Legion of Honor, to the best of the world's contemporary art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco is truly an artistic city.
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
200 Larkin St., Civic Center, San Francisco, CA; Tel. 415.581.3500
Hours: Tues - Sun, 10am-5pm (open until 9pm on Thurs)
Admission: $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for 12-17 year olds, free for children under 12. Free admission on the first Tuesday of every month.
Recently re-housed in the city's former Main Library in Civic Center Plaza, the Asian Art Museum features an eclectic collection of artworks spanning the entire Asian continent and 6,000 years of history. The museum rotates portions of its 15,000 strong collection making repeated visits worthwhile. Visitors are encouraged to begin on the third floor with the South Asia gallery and wind their way through the India, Southeast Asia and China galleries before heading down to the second floor where later artworks from China are displayed, as well as the Korean and Japanese collections. This recommended route is designed to mirror the gradual spread of Buddhism across the continent. Visiting exhibits share the first floor with the popular museum gift shop and Cafe Asia, a cafeteria-style Asian restaurant.
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr., San Francisco, CA; Tel. 415.379.8000
Hours: 10-5 every day, including all holidays. Admission: $7.00 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, students with ID and youth 12-17, $2 for children 4-11, 3 and under are free. Free admission on the first Wednesday of every month.
The California Academy of Sciences is a worthwhile and intriguing tourist stop for the science lover as well as parents and youngsters. Founded in 1853, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the oldest scientific institutions in the West. The San Francisco-based museum's mission is to explore and explain the natural world. The Academy is a must-see San Francisco attraction for the San Francisco tourist and museum aficionado.
Conservatory of Flowers
JFK Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.666.7001
The Conservatory of Flowers is the oldest public conservatory in the Western hemisphere and features some of the best floral and horticultural exhibits in the world. San Francisco visitors will be treated to a spectacular living museum of rare and beautiful tropical plants amid the urban greenery of Golden Gate Park. A stroll through the Victorian-era greenhouse offers a visual display of palms, orchids, tropical flowers and carnivorous plants. Whether a flower lover or just a dappling gardener, the extraordinary displays across the San Francisco Conservatory's five galleries leave lasting impressions of the regional flora and fauna, as well as the habitat beyond California, and rarely fail to stimulate Conservatory visitors on a physical, intellectual and emotional level. (Sonja Pecavar)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF)
Two of San Francisco's most beautiful and visited fine art museums, the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum, fall under the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's well-heeled umbrella.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street, San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.655.7800
The Jewish Museum of San Francisco, located in the SoMa Yerba Buena District, houses fascinating and sometimes controversial exhibits on Jewish history and culture. The new San Francisco museum stays away from an artifact-based collection, defining itself as a multi-faceted art center where visitors can view Jewish cultural art and explore the issues and complexities affecting Jewish Americans today. While in San Francisco, the Jewish Museum is a must-see for every nationality to further an understanding and appreciation of Jewish life. (Sonja Pecavar)
Legion of Honor
34th Ave. and Clement, Lincoln Park, San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.863.3330
With permanent collections of of European painting, including works by art-textbook greats, including Monet, El Greco and Rembrandt, and an extensive collection of ancient art from around the globe, all housed in an exquisite Beaux-Arts building (an actual three-quarter scale of the 18th-century Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris) overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, the Legion of Honor is undoubtedly San Francisco's most beautiful and picturesque museum. Admission is free on Tuesdays ala Ford Free Tuesdays and the Legion of Honor is easily accessible by public transportation.
de Young Museum
2501 Irving St., San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.682.2481
Soon to be reopened in 2005 after many years of expectant planning and design, the de Young Museum originally opened in 1895 atop leveled sand dunes in Golden Gate Park and the new version will preserve the eclectic and curiously exotic feel for which the original de Young Museum was renowned. Aside from exhibiting and collecting anything from Teotihuacan murals to San Francisco cartoonists, the de Young Museum also hosts an all-ages arts education facility, the de Young Art Center.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA)
151 Third St., San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.357.4000
The San Francisco museum for modern and contemporary fine art, housed in a magnificently building designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, shows a wide array of modern arts, from photography, architecture and design, media arts as well as painting and sculpture. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (the Modern was added in the 1970s to reflect its undisputed West Coast stake on contemporary art) bustles most every day of the week and past exhibits have included the photo-perfect paintings of Gerhard Richter and a Marc Chagall exhibit opens this coming July 26th.
San Francisco Wax Museum
Fisherman's Wharf, 145 Jefferson St., San Francisco CA; Tel. 800.439.4305
The San Francisco Wax Museum, located in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, is an unexpected and worthwhile find among the Wharf's crowded San Francisco souvenir shops and seafood vendors. San Francisco visitors will be delighted at the wide selection of wax figures on display: Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts and Britney Spears; White House ex-Presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton; and for horror fans, wax figures of Elvira, Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera. The enormous amount of time spent creating true-to-life details like laugh lines, moles and specific eye color astonish visitors and lend to the San Francisco Wax Museum's wacky mass appeal. (Sonja Pecavar)
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission St., San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.978.2787
A fine art museum representing the local, San Francisco art scene and host of the Bay Area Now Show, which highlights the best emerging artists from around the Bay Area and takes risks in showing new and upcoming artists. The Yerba Buena Center hosts cocktail parties before each new exhibit and is an easy within easy walking distance from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Located on in the Sony Metreon Center, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is surrounded by lush waterfalls, an open-air stage and green grass, a favored downtown spot for lounging in the sun.