Free Family Museums

Who doesn’t like getting a bargain? Here are some great places to take kids that don’t cost a cent. While many of the area’s museums offer free days, the facilities here are always free.


 Cable Car Museum  – Watch the massive cables pulling these historic cars and learn about this San Francisco treat. 1201 Mason St.

Randall Museum Includes a caboose, wild native California animals, a Healthy Oceans Exhibit and a Toddler Treehouse Exploration Zone. 99 Museum Way, San Francisco.

Musee Mecanique – Visit one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of antique arcade machines, including the famed Laffing Sal. Pier 45 Shed A at the end of Taylor Street.



de Saisset Museum – Located next to Mission Santa Clara, this museum has a collection of 10,000 objects, including Renaissance, Native American and Spanish Colonial art. Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara.

Edward Peterman Museum of Railroad History – Railroad museum with artifacts, displays and train layouts in an historic depot. 1005 Railroad Ave., Santa Clara.

Santa Clara Depot

Los Altos History Museum and History House – Learn about the history of the Los Altos area in docent-led and self-guided tours. 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos.

Museum of American Heritage – Visit a 1920s kitchen, an early 1900s store, 1940s radio repair shop and historic gardens. 351 Homer Ave., Palo Alto.


Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo. Has more than 50 species of animals in its outdoor zoo and 2,500 feet of hands-on exhibits indoors. 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.


San Lorenzo Valley Historical Museum – Features an early 1900s kitchen and parlor, as well as blacksmith and logging exhibits. 12547 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek.

Local Historic Images Photograph Strip

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum – Traces more than 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz through photos, surfboards and more. Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, Lighthouse Point, 701 W. Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz.

Bay Area Discovery Museum  Free first Wednesday of each month. East Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road,

California Academy of Sciences  Quarterly Free Sundays. Golden Gate Park, 55 Concourse Dr.

Exploratorium  Free five days a year. Check website. Pier 15.

Exploratorium: South Gallery

Asian Art Museum – Contains approximately 18,000 objects reflecting Asian culture and history, and covering a span of 6,000 years. Free First Sunday. 200 Larkin St.

Cartoon History Museum – Dedicated to the preservation, education and exhibition of cartoon art in all forms. Pay what you wish on the first Tuesday of each month. 655 Mission St.


Oakland Museum of California – Free first Sunday and discounted some Friday nights. 1000 Oak St.,

Bedford Gallery at Lesher Center for the Arts – Rotating exhibits featuring California art and photography and international movements. Free first Tuesday; children under 12 always free. 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek.


San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
  Pay what you want first Friday, always free 12 and under. 520 S. First St., San Jose. 408-971-0323.


Technology Museum of Innovation – Free first weekend of the month for Bank of America cardholders. 201 S. Market St., San Jose. 408-294-TECH (8324).

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