My kids do not get excited when I announce a museum outing. I wish they would.
Alas, any tips about when to visit museums with them, what to look for, and how to save money (in case our visit lasts only 30 minutes) is of value to me. I've rounded up some must-know info for parents who plan to work museums (and I don't mean the Exploratorium) into their summer outings.
5 Bay Area art museums to explore with kids
BAMPFA (Downtown Berkeley)
- Children are always free, and each child earns you one free adult admission. So one child + one adult = free admission. Extra adults are free too, on the first Thursday of every month.
- Second Saturdays bring the Family Fare art-making program where hands-on projects invite everyone to participate
- Drop-in hours in the Art Lab allow guests of all ages to do something hands-on. Thursdays and Fridays after 4 pm and all day Saturday and Sunday
- Time-sensitive tip: The above exhibition of 45 clowns, each representing an activity (dream and sing, for example) is on until August 27, 2017.
- More about BAMPFA with kids >
Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) with kids (Lake Merritt)
- Friday nights are a great time to go, with hands-on workshops, a toddler dance party (big kids welcome!), and storytime. Plus the food trucks park outside, so you can finish up with dinner.
- During the day, pack a picnic and enjoy the gardens (running is welcome), the koi pond, and the oversized chalboard and tic-tac-toe games
- Check out a Books & Blankets tote bag at the Level 2 ticketing desk and spread out on the grass
- Use these family guides to get the most out of the exhibitions (print before you go >)
SFMOMA with kids (South of Market, San Francisco)
- Kids under 18 are always free, but do need tickets. Buy tickets online in advance.
- A free mobile app delivers enhanced audio about the exhibits. You can decide whether or not you are on a device-free outing.
- Strollers and breastfeeding are a-ok anywhere in the museum. Metal-framed backpacks are not.
- Large scale, moving pieces of Alexander Calder may be a highlight (Floor 3)
Asian Art Museum
- Check in at the front desk and ask to borrow materials for self-guided kid tours
- Stroller tours are specifically available for folks with 0-2 year-olds who want to enjoy the Museum on an adult level — with baby in tow. Crying is expected, so new parents can relax.
- Kids under 12 are always free, but caregivers are $20 on weekdays, $25 on weekends, so consider joining the Rhino Club to get more value out of just two visits.
- First Sundays are free, as long as Target keeps sponsoring the program; more family events are listed here >
Contemporary Jewish Museum
- Ages 18 and under are free. First Tuesdays of the month are free for adults, too.
- Special programming on Sundays for families, from 11-3. If nothing related to the current exhibition is going on, there is a general Art Pushcart from which you can check out games and relevant materials to museum enjoyment.
- Don't miss the Zim Zoom family room, always set up to welcome children with hands-on activities
See also our Three-year olds' guides to Bay Area museums >