California Academy of Sciences (credit: Randy Yagi)

One of San Francisco’s most popular and beloved museums is about a year away from a much anticipated reopening. While the 2.5-year expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will make it one of the largest museums in the country for modern art, the renovation process has been painfully slow for local art lovers and disappointed visitors. Fortunately in a culturally significant city like San Francisco, there are a number of world-class museums to enjoy. Here are five of the best must see museums in San Francisco.

California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr.
San Francisco, CA  94118
(415) 379-8000

Established during the California Gold Rush, the California Academy of Sciences is home to several attractions suitable for all ages. Visitors can visit one of the world’s largest natural history museums, the Steinhart Aquarium, a rainforest and a the Morrison Planetarium featuring largest all-digital dome in the world. More than 40,000 live animals are housed at the Academy of Sciences, including playful African penguins, turtles and Claude, the famous albino alligator. Other highlights include the Foucault Pendulum brought in from the original planetarium lobby, the rainforest tunnel with breathtaking views of marine life and the living roof, known as the heart of the Academy.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (credit: Randy Yagi)

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA  94102
(415) 581-3500

Located in the heart of Civic Center, the Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted to the Asian art and culture. The world-renowned permanent collection holds more than 18,000 works of art from more than 40 Asian countries and spanning a period of 6,000 years. Among the masterpieces and attractions to see are Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art, sculptures of Hindu deities and the Chinese jade gallery. The Asian Art Museum hosts a number of temporary exhibitions throughout the year and in years past have showcased the world famous Terracotta warriors, Japanese art from the Larry Ellison Collection and the world’s first major art exhibition about yoga.

de Young Museum (credit: Randy Yagi)

de Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.
San Francisco, CA  94118
(415) 750-3600

The de Young and the Legion of Honor comprise the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, the largest public arts institution in the city and one of the largest art museums in the country. Collectively, the two museums represent the fourth most visited museum in America, attracting more than two million visitors annually. The de Young Museum has a permanent collection of more than 27,000 works of art, including its renowned American art from 1670 to present day. Among the most treasured works of art at the de Young are George Caleb Bingham’s “Boatsmen on the Missouri,” Edmund C. Tabell’s “The Blue Veil” and a significant number of priceless etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Legion of Honor (credit: Randy Yagi)

Legion of Honor
100 34th Avenue
San Francisco, CA  94121
(415) 750-3600

The de Young might be more visited, but the Legion of Honor boasts a permanent collection featuring some of the world’s most important artists. A gift to the City of San Francisco from Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, the Legion of Honor is a three-quarter-scale replica of the historic Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris. As visitors approach the entrance to the museum, they’re greeted by one of the world’s most famous sculptures – Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker”. Also part of the permanent collection are masterworks from such illustrious artists as El Greco, Rembrandt, Renoir, Edgar Degas and Claude Monet, whose “The Grand Canal” and “Water Lilies” are among the museum’s most acclaimed holdings.

Walt Disney Family Museum (credit: Randy Yagi)

Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA  94129
(415) 345-6800

Located within the Presidio of San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum celebrates the life and achievements of Walt Disney. First opened inn 2009, the museum was co-founded by Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller and grandson Walter E.D. Miller and operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation. Not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company, many of the iconic businessman’s distinguished awards are on display in the lobby, including his Presidential Medal of Freedom, several Academy Awards, Emmy Awards and the Key to the City of San Francisco. The museum itself chronicles the life of Walt Disney through interactive galleries, including some of the cartoonist’s earliest drawings, the original Lily Belle train, rare Disneyana collectibles and a fascinating 14-foot model of Disneyland.

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on