Did you know you can visit most of the Bay Area's major museums and cultural attractions for free every month? Just about all museums have one day a month set aside as a free day. They all aren't on the same day, too, so if you plan it right you can take in several museum outings without having to pay a thing.
Note that most museums charge for admission to special exhibitions and usually only the special exhibition fee is charged on free days; see details with each museum listing below.
Also, groups are generally not admitted on free days; check with each museum for their free day group policy.
Bank of America Museums on Us—January 3 & 4
Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card holders get free general admission on the first full weekend of every month. Present your card and a photo ID for admission (one free general admission per cardholder). Get full details here. Participating museums include:
San Francisco's Presidio is a great destination for family fun and a gem right in our own back yard. The Walt Disney Family Museum, located in an historic building at the Presidio's Main Post, is a fantastic and fascinating place for you and your family to visit when you're there.
The Walt Disney Family Museum chronicles the life and work of Walt Disney himself, and is a must-visit for any Disney fan. Learn about Walt's life and legacy through artwork, historic artifacts, movies, music, animation, and interactive activities. It's a fascinating look at how Disney became a pop culture powerhouse in 20th-century America, and it offers behind-the-scenes insights into the creativity and imagination of its creator.
This winter break, take in some holiday cheer and meet some real live reindeer at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Through Sunday, January 4, you can take in not only classic Cal Academy sights like the giant T-Rex skeleton, aquarium, planetarium, rain forest, and African hall, but special winter-themed programming and attractions as well as part of its "'Tis the Season for Science" lineup.
Visit with Willow and Yukon, a pair of live, six-year-old reindeer, in the east garden and learn about how they live in their cold northern homeland. Then, step inside the Snowman Theater to see Roaming with Reindeer, a family-friendly show that explores what life on the tundra is like for these amazing creatures.
While you're there, you'll also enjoy indoor snow flurries, caroling special holiday performances, and more. You can even meet "Santa Claude", the Academy's albino alligator mascot, and watch "Scuba Santa" at work in the Steinhart Aquarium.
Bundle up and come on down to the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito this Friday-Sunday to play in the snow! The museums first-ever Snow Days Family Fundraiser takes place on Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. In addition to playing in the snow, museum visitors can learn about the science of snow, participate in winter-themed acitivities, and have a frozen good time!
The real snow at Snow Days is provided by event sponser Northstar California ski resort near Lake Tahoe. Play in the snow, then find out how a snow storm is formed and learn how Northstar makes its own snow using state-of-the-art technology. Snow Days fun also includes train rides through the museum grounds, snowmen building, storytimes, ice exploration, an ice sculpture demo, and more.
Admission to Snow Days is $10 for museum members and $15 general. Buy advance tickets online here. Proceeds from the Snow Days Family Fundraiser go to supporting the Bay Area Discovery Museum's mission to ignite and advance creative thinking for all children.
The Presidio Officers' Club re-opened to the public back in October, and if you haven't had a chance to check it out yet you definitely should put it on your list of things to do with the family! This "new" destination is actually one of California's most historic buildings, with portions dating back over 200 years to when it was created as part of the Spanish colonial El Presidioin 1776.
Once a gathering spot for military officers and their families, the Presidio Officers' Club underwent a $30-million-dollar renovation and now serves as a public space offering fascinating exhibits, fun family activities and public programs, unique works of art, and more. Admission is free, too! We had a chance to visit last weekend, and it's a fantastic destination for families in the Bay Area.
Boo! Come get a jump on Halloween at the 28th annual Goblin Jamboree at the Bay Area Discovery Museum! Bring your little goblins to this year’s spooky fundraiser on Saturday and Sunday, October 18 and 19 from 10 am–4 pm. Come in costume and explore the Bay Area Discovery Museum transformed into a haunted Halloween wonderland complete with games, attractions and live entertainment.
Ride a spooky train or real ponies, make potions in the Witches' and Wizards' School, and enjoy a full brew of games, activities and live entertainment. This year the museum's Lookout Cove will be transformed intot the spooky (but not scary) Haunted Cove, and favorite exhibits like the shipwreck and Peekaboo Palace will get a Halloween makeover. Make sure you also stop in the Bay Hall to experience the glowing train table, too!
Tiburon, that "nearly perfect" Marin town on the end of its namesake peninsula, is a fantastic place for families to visit. Tiburon has long been a favorite of locals and tourists, and boasts amazing views of San Francisco, plenty of boutiques, shops, and restaurants, and lots for everyone to see and do. So pack up the kiddos and head out to Tiburon for a day of fun!
You'll probably want to head straight for downtown Tiburon. We love to walk along the path in Shoreline park and watch the sailboats as they glide by on San Francisco Bay. Along the way, you'll find a fun and interesting museum that's perfect for kids, as well as grassy areas that are ideal for a picnic or just relaxing.
Downtown Tiburon, along Main Street, is home to plenty of places to dine, many of which have a spectacular view of the Bay and San Francisco. Main Street is also home to historic Ark Row, where many of the buildings are actualy converted Victorian-era houseboats. There always seems to be some sort of fun special event taking place in downtown Tiburon, too, from a classic car show to the family-friendly fun at Friday Nights on Main to a holiday festival and tree lighting in early December.
Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum, Marin's favorite hands-on place for kids to learn and explore, will be closed for its annual maintenance the next two weeks—from Monday, September 8 through Monday, September 22, 2014. They close at this time each year for two weeks to clean and undertake improvement projects that can't be done when they're open to the public. The museum will re-open on Tuesday, September 23, 2014.
We're looking forward to some of the museum's great fall and winter programs, like the Goblin Jamboree (October 18 and 19), the Harvest Festival (November 8), Gingerbread Architecture Extravaganza (November 29 and 30, and the new Snow Days Family Fundraiser (December 12–13, complete with real snow). Get the full schedule of upcoming events and programs on the museum's website.
Bring your budding astronauts to learn about space exploration in a hands-on environment at the Space Station, Novato's free, kid-friendly space museum. Located in a storefront in the newly renovated Pacheco Plaza shopping center, the Space Station is a small but rich little museum that offers families and school groups a chance to explore the history of spaceflight and exploration. The museum also organizes the annual Novato Space Festival, a free family event that offers hands-on activities, interactive displays, and the chance to meet legendary NASA astronauts.
At the Space Station Museum, kids can see, handle, and even try on actual space artifacts, many of which have actually flown in space. You can try on a pair of Russian cosmonaut's space suit gloves, don a prototype space helmet designed for the Apollo missions, and even sit in a seat from a Soyuz spacecraft.
Objects on view are part of the collection of the W Foundation, a non-profit founded by Ken Winans and his wife Debbie Wreyford-Winans, and include American, Russian, and Soviet-era space equipment, clothing, photographs, a meteorite, and more. The W Foundation, which possesses one of the largest private collections of space exploration artifacts in the world, also works with organizations and events like Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, and San Francisco Fleet Week to present educational exhibits on the history of space exploration.