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Top Bay Area Museums

Explore the cultural fabric of the Bay Area

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Arts abound in this culturally diverse region, with different experiences and styles all over the Bay Area. Start in Golden Gate Park, where manicured gardens cradle a cultural hub. At the copper-clad de Young Museum, see major touring collections and a massive permanent collection of classic paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. The museum’s dramatic 144-foot tower offers a stunning view of the city and bay—and tower entrance is free. Across the park’s concourse is the California Academy of Sciences, with a natural history museum, aquarium, and planetarium housed in the greenest museum building in the world. 

On a promontory overlooking the mouth of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge is another artsy stop, the Legion of Honor, with ancient and European works presented in a Beaux Arts building where Rodin’s iconic bronze sculpture, The Thinker sits in the museum’s Court of Honor. San Francisco is also home to The Walt Disney Family Museum, in the Presidio, focusing on the accomplishments and innovations of the man behind the mouse, and The Museum of Craft and Design, which showcases the work of designers, makers, and artists whose work often falls outside the conventional notion of art.

True to the Bay Area’s reputation as a leader in all things tech is Market Street’s Onedome, a community space dedicated to interactive and immersive art. Featuring playful works and installations from digital artists that hail from all over the world, the 20,000-square-foot high-tech wonderland is really a collaboration between venue and visitor; experiences involving projections, music, sound, and light come alive as you engage, with results that never repeat themselves. A must for curious kids and adults alike. 

Geared more exclusively to kids is the Children’s Creativity Museum, which exhibits multi-media art and technology experiences for children ages 2 to 12. Animation, robot coding, an “augmented-reality sandbox” with kinetic sand, and many other activities, along with a DIY Cloud Gallery, enable visitors to live out the museums mantra—to imagine, create, and share.

Other worthy museums around the bay include Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), where a mid-century modern building, wrapped by terraced gardens, houses California art, natural science, and history. Fridays at OMCA are spirited events with live music, food trucks, and local color. In the Silicon Valley, San Jose Museum of Art showcases West Coast modern art. Nearby is the Tech Museum of Innovation, a hands-on celebration of technology and science and a huge hit with kids.

 

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