Must-have SF museum memberships

Discover the best museum memberships in San Francisco and why you should sign up.

Editorial Team

By Editorial Team

view of large 3D mural and blue sky in San Francisco

Museums and exhibitions can challenge your assumptions about the world and leave you feeling more curious than when you arrived. They are spaces to enjoy with the company of family and friends or to explore solo. More than just places that exhibit, San Francisco’s museums are multifaceted spaces.

New openings happen on the first Thursday of the month, and many galleries stay open late with interesting events and performances. Museums or galleries can be a location to meet up for a coffee or eat in a stunning location – handy if you’re new in town. On the other side, museums and galleries are great alternative places to try out if you’ve exhausted your regular haunts.

Why it’s cool to have a museum membership

First of all, If you’re passionate about culture, a museum membership is not only beneficial for your gallery visits. Museums and galleries enrich and serve the community through exciting exhibits, educational programs, and events. So by joining as a member you are supporting the preservation of your local creative institutions.

Luckily, if you’re in San Francisco you can enjoy seeing some of the best traveling exhibitions in the US, as well as landmark contemporary art institutions and museums with highly acclaimed permanent collections to see with a museum membership.

Many of the museum memberships below offer free guest privileges meaning you can enjoy the experience with a partner, friend, or family member. Some others also offer entry to sister institutions or other associated museums around the world.

Similarly, if you’re moving to San Francisco and looking for a furnished apartment, looking into the flexible options through Blueground. Discover one neighborhood of the city at a time by moving from Nob Hill to SoMa, even as far as San Jose, all on the same lease.

Here is our selection of essential museum memberships to try in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art membership

The San Francisco museum of modern art

The SFMOMA is located in San Francisco’s bustling SoMA district. It prides itself in pushing the boundaries of the art world, with over 30,000 internationally acclaimed paintings, sculptures, and performance art pieces from contemporary and modern artists, including Frida Kahlo, Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, and Julie Mehretu.

Notably, visitors can also enjoy the outdoor sculpture garden with a ‘thirty-foot living wall’, or try out one of the three eateries onsite with handcrafted coffee.

Members benefit from wide-open access to amazing exhibitions and events, like most modern museums, SFMOMA has an app to guide visitors through exhibitions.

To begin with, dual membership is $180 making it a great option for visiting with friends and family:

  • Discounted admission to films, lectures, and other education programs
  • Free museum admission all year long, tickets for special exhibitions for an additional member and guest(s)
  • Members-only parties
  • Free subscription to SFMOMA’s member publications

Furthermore, If you’re enamored by the SFMOMA and also have time and a passion for the arts, you can also consider becoming a volunteer. Best of all, the membership includes admission year-round.

Cartoon Art Museum membership

This fun museum is dedicated to cartoon art and animation is one of a kind in the San Francisco Bay Area. Including editorial cartoons, Sunday funnies, graphic novels, and moving animation.

The Cartoon Art Museum is the only museum in the Western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of all forms of cartoon art. To round out a visit, members can view original cartoon art as well as produce their own comics and animations at classes and workshops. Plus, there’s the chance to meet and mingle with professional and aspiring cartoonists.

An individual membership costs $45 and includes:

  • Free admission for member and a guest
  • 15% discount in the bookstore
  • Invitations to openings and special receptions
  • Also, it includes reduced rates at special events

De Young Fine Arts Museum membership

de young,Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,California

A fine arts museum founded in 1895 and located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It’s housed in a state-of-the-art building designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects in San Francisco. A destination with many sides, it integrates art, architecture and the natural landscape, with free access to its gardens and observation tower.

In addition, their permanent collections span American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, with modern and contemporary art and textiles from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

First of all, an individual membership goes for $119 and includes:

  • Free admission for one member and a guest to the permanent collections and special exhibitions at the de Young and Legion of Honor
  • Invitations to members previews
  • Discounts on audio tours, lectures, films, curator talks, and other programs and events
  • Insider information, tips, and perks with your free subscription to Fine Arts magazine and to the Member Monthly e-News are also included

Yerba Buena Arts Museum membership

Located next to the Yerba Buena Gardens, the YBCA is a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts center in San Francisco. The museum showcases visual arts, performance, and video that celebrates local, national, and international artists.

Reflective of the Bay Area’s diverse communities, it’s a place to see edgier exhibits and performances. From the city’s vibrant cultural district, the museum’s two modern buildings offer areas both indoors and outside to experience the visual arts.

A Discoverer membership goes for $165 which offers you:

  • Unlimited free gallery admission for four people
  • 20% off tickets for all YBCA programs and events
  • Free admission to Opening Night Parties for up to four people
  • Discounts on YBCA catalogs and merchandise

Asian Art Museum membership

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

With deep ties to the Pacific Rim, the museum exhibits distinctive materials, aesthetics and intellectual achievements of Asian art and cultures. The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has a mission to connect diverse communities to historical and contemporary Asian art. They do this through the world-class collection, exhibitions, and programs that are welcoming for all ages, from stroller tours to tea and talk tours. Moreover, the museum’s store is not to be missed, with handcrafted items sourced directly from across Asia for one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

A Get Connected membership will cost you $89 which includes:

  • Unlimited, free admission for two adults, with free tickets for all special events
  • Invites to monthly Tour, Talk & Tea
  • Subscription to Asian, the members’ magazine
  • Additionally you get a discounted parking at the UC Hastings Parking Garage, Tuesday through Sunday

California Academy of Sciences membership

Fasten your seatbelt – the California Academy of Sciences is an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum. All of them in the heart of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  A renowned scientific and educational institution, its exhibits and tours are dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth.

Events highlights include the Coral Reef Dive – a spectacle watching as a diver plunges into one of the world’s deepest living coral reef tanks. Additionally, the Swamp Talks, where you can learn about alligators and their other swamp-dwelling residents. You can also sleep over – if you’re brave enough.

An individual membership, at $109, includes:

  • Unlimited daily admission
  • Members-only hours on Tuesday and Sunday
  • 20% off tours and sleepovers
  • Members-only events

Public Art in San Francisco

large colorful mural in parking area in San Francisco

From sculptures to murals – San Francisco has lots of public art spread across the city to discover that doesn’t require museum membership. Out with San Francisco’s museums and galleries, these free public artworks are an alternative way to experience art and different neighborhoods across the city. The perfect way to make a staycation in the city, when you’re not sipping through Napa.

Diego Rivera murals

San Francisco is home to three Diego Rivera murals. His largest piece, Pan American Unity, is 2 feet tall and is 75 feet wide. Over 10 panels it depicts stories from Pre-Columbian Mexico to scenes of WWII. Also, his wife of many years, the artist Frida Kahlo can be spotted in the mural. To visit, it can be found on the campus of the City College of San Francisco.

The Wave Organ

The Wave Organ is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture on the shore of San Francisco Bay. Located at the end of a small jetty, the sound is created by waves hitting the ends of the pipes. The public sculpture has several listening stations that capture the sound of the sea.

The Philosopher’s Way

The Philosopher’s Way in McLaren Park is a hiking trail created by artists Peter Richards and Susan Schwartzenberg. It features stones or “musing stations” with quotes photography and historic maps.

In conclusion, San Francisco is the home of several great and top-of-the-world museums where someone can enjoy their time while staying in the city. So finding the best membership is essential to start deep diving into the rich culture of the South Bay

Editorial Team

Editorial Team

The Blueground editorial team covers the best things to see, do, and experience in our cities around the world.