upper waypoint

How to Find Free Museum Tickets in the Bay Area

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

The exterior of the main entrance of the Oakland Museum of California, on a sunny day.
There are many ways to get into museums in the Bay Area for free, including the Oakland Museum of California. Some have free days and others offer free entrance if you have a library card or EBT card. (Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California)

If you’re looking for free things to do around the Bay Area, especially during the rain — or need ideas for fun cheap things to do with kids — the region has dozens of museums — ranging from immersive experiences at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, to planetariums and giant telescopes at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, and extensive art collections at the San José Museum of Art.

Visiting a museum when you’re paying full price can be expensive, especially with a larger family. But there are several ways to find free or low-cost tickets for Bay Area museums, from regular free days to using your library card or your EBT card.

Keep reading for a list of free days at major local museums, as well as details of free museum entry for kids.  Alternatively, jump straight to more options for finding free museum tickets:

Go on a museum’s free day

Best if: You don’t mind being flexible about which museum you visit.

Many of the museums in the Bay Area have certain days on which it’s totally free to enter — usually in the first week of every month. Often, these free days will have no conditions attached. But sometimes, you’ll need to prove you’re a resident of that city or region, with photo ID. We’ve marked with an asterisk (*) the museums that only extend this promotion to residents.

Remember that special exhibits are rarely included in free general admission, and that some museums could have a crowd capacity limit on free days.

If you have a specific museum you want to visit for free, the most reliable way to find their free day(s) is to search for their website and find details of any free days they offer.

Otherwise, here’s just some of the major Bay Area museums with free days each month, plus the days they offer them and any residency requirements. Be sure to click through to see details of free entry, including whether online reservations are needed.

SFMOMA Free Days*

SFMOMA is free on the first Thursday of the month for Bay Area residents. The next Free Family Day is Sunday, June 9, 2024.

Asian Art Museum Free First Sundays

The Asian Art Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month.

de Young Museum and Legion of Honor*

Free Saturdays at the de Young Museum and Free Saturdays at the Legion of Honor offer free admission for Bay Area residents every Saturday. Both museums are free for all on the first Tuesday of every month.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages 17 and under.

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

MoAD offers free admission with its THRIVE @ MoAD Community Day every second Saturday of the month.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages 11 and under.

Oakland Museum of California

On the first Sunday of every month, general admission at the Oakland Museum of California is free.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages 12 and under.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

First Fridays at the Contemporary Jewish Museum offers free admission for all.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages 18 and under.

Chabot Space and Science Center

Chabot offers free telescope viewing (not museum entry) on Friday and Saturdays 7:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m., weather permitting.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages under 2.

BAMPFA, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

BAMPFA offers free entry to all galleries on the first Thursday of each month.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages 18 and under, and one adult accompanying a child age 13 and under also gets free admission.

San José Museum of Art

Free admission after 6 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.

  • Free museum entry for kids here? Free always for ages 17 and under.

Regularly scheduled free days aren’t the only way to visit a museum near you for free or a small cost. Keep reading for more ways to find free or low-cost tickets to museums in the Bay Area.

Sponsored

Get free entry with your library card thanks to a Discover and Go pass

Best if: You have a Bay Area library card, and don’t mind some forward planning.

If you have a library card in the Bay Area, you can use the local Discover and Go program, which offers free or low-cost passes to museums and other attractions. You’ll need to already have a library card to choose and secure a Discover and Go pass, and each pass is attached to a specific venue, for a specific date. (That is, you can’t get a blanket Discover and Go pass to use across several venues.)

Which museums can I get free or low-cost entry to?

The list of participating Discover and Go sites includes museums, zoos and other attractions around the Bay Area, including the California Academy of Sciences, the Chabot Space and Science Center and SFMOMASee a full list of Bay Area museums and attractions offering Discover and Go passes.

When can I go?

It depends. Different museums and attractions will make Discover and Go passes available for different days.

How do I get these free or low-cost museum tickets? How many tickets can I get?

Before you head out, secure your Discover and Go passes online and bring along either the printed pass or have it downloaded on your phone. You’ll also need to show valid photo ID at the venue.

Each venue has different rules on how many adults and kids can get free entry with a Discover and Go pass.

To secure a pass, visit discoverandgo.org, select your local library and log in with your library credentials (your library card number and your PIN). You’ll then select the date you’re looking for and see which venues have Discover and Go passes available to reserve. You can have two active reservations per library card.

If you need more help, the East Bay family blog 510families.com has a detailed guide to successfully finding Discover and Go passes at local museums.

Get free or low-cost museum tickets with your EBT card

Best if: You already have an EBT card, want flexibility with dates and have a larger group.

The Museums for All program offers free or low-cost entry to many museums nationwide for people receiving CalFresh food benefits (also known as SNAP, or food stamps). San Francisco has its own local version of the program, which also includes city residents who are on Medi-Cal.

Which museums can I get free or low-cost entry to?

The Museums for All program includes the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor, the Chabot Space and Science Center, the Oakland Museum of California and Filoli Historic House and Garden.

See a full list of all the Bay Area museums participating in the Museums for All program.

When can I go?

Anytime, usually, but be aware that some museums will ask you to also make a reservation online for entry.

How do I get these free or low-cost museum tickets? How many tickets can I get?

All you usually have to do to get free or reduced access is show your EBT card — the card you receive your benefits funds on — and a valid ID at the entrance, and ask for Museums for All tickets. For some museums, you may also have to make online reservations too.

Up to four individuals per EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card can get Museum for All tickets.

We recommend that you read our 2022 guide to how to redeem your free or low-cost ticket with your EBT card before you go, since some museums have different rules.

If you are a San Francisco resident and want to use the city’s local version of the program, which covers 22 museums and cultural institutions, you will have to bring an ID  that shows you are an SF resident, as well as your EBT or Medi-Cal card.

Read more about the discounts your EBT card can get you.

Visit on a Bank of America free museum day

Best if: You have an eligible credit or debit card, and don’t mind being tied to a specific weekend.

If you have a Bank of America credit or debit card, or a Merrill credit or debit card, you can get free entry to several Bay Area museums on the first weekend of every month.

Which museums can I get free or low-cost entry to?

Museums that offer this free entry as part of Bank of America’s Museums on Us program include the San José Museum of Art, the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor and the Oakland Museum of California.

How do I get these free or low-cost museum tickets? How many can I get?

Show your (active, not expired) Bank of America credit or debit card, or a Merrill credit or debit card and a photo ID when you enter.

Each credit or debit card will get you only one free general admission ticket.

When can I go?

The Bank of America Museums on Us program applies to the first full weekend every month. Mark your calendars for these first full weekends of every month in 2024 that you can get this free entry:

  • Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3
  • Saturday, April  6 and Sunday, April 7
  • Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5
  • Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2
  • Saturday, July 6 and Sunday, July 7
  • Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4
  • Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8
  • Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6
  • Saturday, November 2 and Sunday, November 3
  • Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8.

Tell us: What else do you need information about?

At KQED News, we know that it can sometimes be hard to track down the answers to navigate life in the Bay Area in 2024. We’ve published clear, helpful explainers and guides about issues like COVID, how to cope with intense winter weather and how to exercise your right to protest safely.

So tell us: What do you need to know more about? Tell us, and you could see your question answered online or on social media. What you submit will make our reporting stronger, and help us decide what to cover here on our site, and on KQED Public Radio, too.

A version of this story originally published on Aug. 9, 2023, and contains reporting by KQED’s Jasmine Garnett, Sarah Mohamad and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí.

 

Sponsored

lower waypoint
next waypoint
Confrontation at UC Berkeley Law School Dean's Home Highlights Campus TensionsOakland Officials to Proceed With Controversial Move to Rename AirportWho Is Responsible For One of the Largest Internet Hacks Ever?Eucalyptus: How California's Most Hated Tree Took RootDespite Warnings, People Are Still Dying While Being Held Face Down By PoliceMeet the Dance and Music Teachers Bringing Peruvian Culture to the BayCalifornia's Black Lawmakers are Advancing Different Sets of Reparations BillsSo You Want to Be a DJ?Public School Choice Is Possible by Law, but Not Many Districts Offer ItInside or Out of Government, Jessica Bartholow Is an Advocate for Economic Equity