Best Hidden Museums In North Bay

November 13, 2012 5:00 AM
The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most visited areas in the world and for good reason. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island, there is something to see for all ages. But what many visitors and even residents often miss are some hidden or lesser-known museums in the North Bay that are well worth visiting. Visitors to the following museums will discover their uniqueness, in addition to the absence of large crowds.

Bolinas Museum
48 Wharf Road
Bolinas, CA 94924
(415) 868-0330

Located along Highway 1, the Bolinas Museum offers a glimpse of the coastal town’s history. Just a drive along the sweeping views of the Pacific Coast Highway is worth the visit to the museum that is considered to be the finest art museum in Marin County. There are five separate galleries, including a central room with ongoing special exhibits and a superb photography gallery. The museum store sells books on local history, in addition to cards, posters and photography.

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Military Antiques & Museum
300 Petaluma Blvd. N.
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 763-2220

This interesting museum is located halfway between Santa Rosa and San Francisco. Its accompanying retail store is described as the country’s largest retail military shop. The museum specializes in all types of militaria, including artifacts from both World Wars, the Civil War and the Spanish American War. The official name of the museum was named in honor of Sgt. Richard A. Penry, the only Petaluma native awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. The medal is on display at the museum.

Napa Valley Museum
55 Presidents Circle
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-0500

Yountville is best known for its collection of Michelin-starred restaurants, most notably for one of the world’s finest, the French Laundry. But for visitors interested in knowing more about the history of Napa Valley, the Napa Valley Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon. Located on the property of the California Veterans Home, the museum features special exhibitions, a photo gallery, artifacts from Native Americans and a section devoted to children. Visitors may also view displays covering the development of the regional wine industry.

Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum
1490 Library Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-3757

This hidden gem of a museum in the California Wine Country is devoted to the famous 19th century Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. It is one of just a handful of museums that specialize on the creator of such literary classics as the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped.” The non-profit museum is a short distance from the town’s picturesque downtown area, which is a draw in itself. Visitors may view over 9,000 artifacts, including rare first editions of some Stevenson novels, written correspondence and original furniture owned by the novelist.

The Sharpsteen Museum
1311 Washington St.
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-5911

The Sharpsteen Museum is located in arguably the Bay Area’s most popular spot for visiting wineries and quality spa treatments. The non-profit museum was a donation to the town by Ben Sharpsteen and his wife. Ben Sharpsteen worked as an animator, producer and director during the early days of the Walt Disney Company and directed such Disney classics as “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio.” Along with memorabilia celebrating the career of Sharpsteen with Disney are exhibits covering the history of Calistoga, including its Native American settlers, the Wappo, through the days of the California Gold Rush and into the early 20th century.

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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. His work can be found on

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