The Randall Museum in San Francisco is a hidden treasure for families and little kids. It’s a FREE wildlife museum (yes, you read that right, FREE) where you can see native Californian animals like raccoons, snakes, and crows, or interact with a railroad-themed exhibit with moving miniature trains. Add on to your visit with an art or science class, or a hike up to the hill next door for some epic views of the city. It’s a surprising find and one worth checking out if you haven’t been yet.
The Animals at the Randall Museum
Like the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, the Randall Museum’s animal exhibits reflect the native species you’d find in the different habitats in California. So you’ll find snakes and lizards in the Desert area, crows and raccoons in the Urban habitat, and even sea stars and urchins in the Ocean habitat downstairs. All the animals are rescues that would no longer be able to live in the wild. The animal keepers seem happy to answer questions from inquisitive toddlers and parents alike, and if you’re lucky, they’ll even let you pet and interact with some of the creatures (we got to pet a gopher snake while we were there!). Downstairs there are several aquariums where you can see fish, sea stars, and other native sea creatures, though truth be told that part of the museum is slightly underwhelming.
The Trains at the Randall Museum
If you have a train crazy toddler, you’ll want to head straight downstairs. They have moving trains and intricate models of Bay Area landmarks and neighborhoods that’ll entertain both kids and adults. There’s also a life-sized caboose to climb around in and several train tracks and trains to play with (though due to Covid-19 the train toys were put away for now).
Bonus: Art and Science Classes at the Randall Museum
There are drop-in art classes for kids ages 5 to 7 on Saturdays from 1 pm – 4 pm. They cost $10 per adult/child combo and $5 additional person. Just register at the desk when you arrive. Projects include works of art like a Pool Noodle Monster, Valentine’s Day Cards, Plantable Seed Paper, and Nature Suncatchers. Check their Instagram for more information on drop-in classes. They also have multi-week seasonal classes, such as Art and Animals, Woodworking, Ceramics, 3-D Printed Robots, Robotics, and more. You’ll need to pre-register for these classes through the San Francisco Rec and Parks, and they cost from $110-$355 for the series. More info here >
The Bottom Line on San Francisco’s Randall Museum
The Randall Museum is a great destination for families who like to see animals up close and enjoy a low-key museum experience, and you cannot beat the price. This is not the Cal Academy or the Discovery Museum, and it’s not trying to be. It’s a small museum where you can take your time and enjoy a leisurely morning or afternoon with little kids, take in the views at lunch, and then head home for nap time. What’s great about the Randal Museum is that there’s no pressure since it’s free, and the vibe is more relaxed. If you keep all that in mind, you and your kiddos will have a lovely, laid-back day.
The Randal Museum Details
Location: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, Open 10 am to 5 pm, Closed Sunday and Monday
Cost: FREE. Classes are extra $$
Parking: FREE. There’s a small parking lot in front of the museum
Covid-19:Masks for ages 2+ & Proof of Vaccine Required for ages 12+
Food: There’s a nice little cafe with outdoor seating, with coffee, pastries and sandwiches. You can also bring your own and enjoy lunch on a blanket on the grass outside.
Hike for a view > (Though it is a bit steep terrain with loose gravel at points)
Contact: (415) 554-9600 firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you been to the Randall Museum? Do you have any other tips?