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Legion of Honor.
Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Museums to visit during the Burning Man exodus

From a renowned collection of modern art to a showcase of every Pez dispenser ever sold

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Legion of Honor.
| Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

As Burning Man, the annual counterculture party in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, gets underway, scores of people will vacate the city to partake in dusty shenanigans under a blistering sun.

For those of you not attending the bacchanalia, this weekend until Monday, September 2 will prove an ideal time to check out some of your favorite attractions typically saturated with locals and tourists—like local museums.

From the Oakland Museum of California to the de Young in Golden Gate Park, the visual stimuli offerings run aplenty—these art-filled moments can be found in the cool and comfortable setting of an AC-blessed museum.

Hungry and want to nab a table at one of SF’s esteemed eateries? Eater SF has a list of the best restaurants to check out during Burning Man week.

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1. Legion of Honor

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For some choice art, check out the works of Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miró, and Louise Bourgeois at the museum’s Strange Days: Dada, Surrealism, and the Book exhibit.

You can also check out the Presidio-based museum’s permanent art collection, as well as the Salon Doré, an 18th-century French period room that’s a must-see.

2. De Young Museum

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50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 750-3600
Visit Website

Want to see some zany fashions? Head over to the Legion of Honor to pore over its Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin. To wit: “The first museum retrospective of renowned tattoo artist and California native Ed Hardy tracks his goal of elevating the tattoo from its subculture status to an important visual art form. The exhibition surveys Hardy’s life in art that has as its inspiration both traditional American tattooing and Japan’s ukiyo-e era culture.”

And don’t miss Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s 21-foot-tall safety pin sculpture on the exterior grounds.

3. California Academy of Sciences

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55 Music Concourse Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000
Visit Website

From over 400 dazzling specimens from the Academy’s geology collection to penguin feedings and an albino alligator (his name is Claude!), this Golden Gate Park museum of science, located directly across from the de Young, will satisfy science nerds who want to eschew Sunday’s big-game brainlessness. The living roof, a 2.5-acre undulating roof with an estimated 1.7 million plants, should be on your list.

4. Asian Art Museum

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200 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 581-3500
Visit Website

Japanese artist Tanabe Chikuunsai’s bamboo art is now on display at this Civic Center institution. According to the museum, “He dramatically breaks the scale that we expect of the medium with soaring, twisting forms that stretch from floor to ceiling. His dramatic, immersive environments evoke the bamboo forests where these works began their lives.”

Don’t forget: The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

5. Musée Mécanique

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Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 346-2000
Visit Website

Late founder Ed Zelinsky opened the original Musée Mécanique more than 40 years ago at the Cliff House. Ed’s contraptions—roughly 300 in all—almost ended up homeless after the Cliff House remodeled in 2002, but the city stepped in and helped Zelinksy secure a locale at Pier 45. The coin-operated dioramas are examples of carnival ingenuity and oodles of fun.

6. Tenderloin Museum

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398 Eddy St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 351-1912
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This small yet powerful corner museum in the heart of the TL features works that represent the Tenderloin’s cultural, architectural, political, and musical history. 

7. Cable Car Museum

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1201 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 474-1887
Visit Website

Cable car inventor Andrew Smith Hallidie, a mining engineer, got his inspiration for the iconic vehicles after seeing a team of horses meet a gruesome fate when they slipped on a wet street while dragging a load uphill in 1869. And the rest is history. Speaking of which, you can learn all about said history and more at the Cable Car Museum. Best of all, the museum deck overlooks the massive engines and winding wheels that pull the cables.

8. Contemporary Jewish Museum

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736 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 655-7800
Visit Website

Featuring one of city’s most stunning museum exteriors, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, located in the city’s Yerba Buena neighborhood, has several choice exhibits happening right now, including Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped, her first major museum exhibit chronicling over twenty years of her work in ceramics.

There’s also a Wise Sons deli here for when your stomach starts to growl.

9. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

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151 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 357-4000
Visit Website

While Richard Serra’s “Sequence” sculpture can no longer be seen here—you will be able to find some of the greatest works of contemporary art the world has to offer inside this stunning space, expanded in 2016 to great acclaim)—French artist JR, a TED Prize winner and Oscar nominee known for his black-and-white photography and trademark sunglasses, has created an animated mural called The Chronicles of San Francisco,

While you’re there, check out the museum’s Andy Warhol exhibit, which reaches across three floors at the museum, featuring a dozen well-known pieces as well as uncommon works from the noted pop artist.

10. Exploratorium

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Pier 15 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 528-4444
Visit Website

Bring the kids to this popular hands-on museums, which features such cool stuff as a tactile dome, a bicycle wheel gyro, a parabolic eye mirror, and a Slinky treadmill.

11. Museum of Craft and Design

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2569 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 773-0303
Visit Website

Here you will find ceramics and sculptures that go beyond the beauty of household vases and tiles. Check out the latest exhibit Dead Nuts: A Search for the Ultimate Machined Object, featuring objects created by makers.

12. Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia

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214 California Dr
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 347-2301
Visit Website

Modern art too highbrow for you? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered: Billed as the “world’s largest dispenser,” the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia features every Pez dispenser (the famous plastic doohickey that expels edible chalky tablets from what appears to be a severed neck) ever sold.

13. Oakland Museum of California

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1000 Oak St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 318-8400
Visit Website

And finally, we strongly suggest hitting up the Oakland Museum of California along Lake Merritt. In addition to an ongoing feature on food growth in Oakland, the museum’s current exhibit, Pushing West: The Photography of Andrew J. Russell, shouldn’t be missed.

“Travel back in time through Andrew J. Russell’s epic photography of the Transcontinental Railroad’s western expansion, completed 150 years ago in 1869. Though commissioned to document the railroad and its successful development, Russell’s photography reveals the tensions between the economic and technological advances and the Railroad’s significant impact on western lands and Native peoples. His powerful imagery highlights the majesty of the landscape with locomotive engines set amongst vast plains and colossal mountain ranges, captured through Russell’s remarkable technique using the collodion photographic process in remote locations.”

The retrospective runs until September 2.

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1. Legion of Honor

San Francisco, CA 94121

For some choice art, check out the works of Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miró, and Louise Bourgeois at the museum’s Strange Days: Dada, Surrealism, and the Book exhibit.

You can also check out the Presidio-based museum’s permanent art collection, as well as the Salon Doré, an 18th-century French period room that’s a must-see.

2. De Young Museum

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

Want to see some zany fashions? Head over to the Legion of Honor to pore over its Ed Hardy: Deeper than Skin. To wit: “The first museum retrospective of renowned tattoo artist and California native Ed Hardy tracks his goal of elevating the tattoo from its subculture status to an important visual art form. The exhibition surveys Hardy’s life in art that has as its inspiration both traditional American tattooing and Japan’s ukiyo-e era culture.”

And don’t miss Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s 21-foot-tall safety pin sculpture on the exterior grounds.

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118

3. California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

From over 400 dazzling specimens from the Academy’s geology collection to penguin feedings and an albino alligator (his name is Claude!), this Golden Gate Park museum of science, located directly across from the de Young, will satisfy science nerds who want to eschew Sunday’s big-game brainlessness. The living roof, a 2.5-acre undulating roof with an estimated 1.7 million plants, should be on your list.

55 Music Concourse Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118

4. Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Japanese artist Tanabe Chikuunsai’s bamboo art is now on display at this Civic Center institution. According to the museum, “He dramatically breaks the scale that we expect of the medium with soaring, twisting forms that stretch from floor to ceiling. His dramatic, immersive environments evoke the bamboo forests where these works began their lives.”

Don’t forget: The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

200 Larkin St
San Francisco, CA 94102

5. Musée Mécanique

Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133

Late founder Ed Zelinsky opened the original Musée Mécanique more than 40 years ago at the Cliff House. Ed’s contraptions—roughly 300 in all—almost ended up homeless after the Cliff House remodeled in 2002, but the city stepped in and helped Zelinksy secure a locale at Pier 45. The coin-operated dioramas are examples of carnival ingenuity and oodles of fun.

Pier 45, Fishermans Wharf
San Francisco, CA 94133

6. Tenderloin Museum

398 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA 94102

This small yet powerful corner museum in the heart of the TL features works that represent the Tenderloin’s cultural, architectural, political, and musical history. 

398 Eddy St
San Francisco, CA 94102

7. Cable Car Museum

1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Cable car inventor Andrew Smith Hallidie, a mining engineer, got his inspiration for the iconic vehicles after seeing a team of horses meet a gruesome fate when they slipped on a wet street while dragging a load uphill in 1869. And the rest is history. Speaking of which, you can learn all about said history and more at the Cable Car Museum. Best of all, the museum deck overlooks the massive engines and winding wheels that pull the cables.

1201 Mason St
San Francisco, CA 94108

8. Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Featuring one of city’s most stunning museum exteriors, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, located in the city’s Yerba Buena neighborhood, has several choice exhibits happening right now, including Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped, her first major museum exhibit chronicling over twenty years of her work in ceramics.

There’s also a Wise Sons deli here for when your stomach starts to growl.

736 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94103

9. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

While Richard Serra’s “Sequence” sculpture can no longer be seen here—you will be able to find some of the greatest works of contemporary art the world has to offer inside this stunning space, expanded in 2016 to great acclaim)—French artist JR, a TED Prize winner and Oscar nominee known for his black-and-white photography and trademark sunglasses, has created an animated mural called The Chronicles of San Francisco,

While you’re there, check out the museum’s Andy Warhol exhibit, which reaches across three floors at the museum, featuring a dozen well-known pieces as well as uncommon works from the noted pop artist.

151 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94103

10. Exploratorium

Pier 15 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

Bring the kids to this popular hands-on museums, which features such cool stuff as a tactile dome, a bicycle wheel gyro, a parabolic eye mirror, and a Slinky treadmill.

Pier 15 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111

11. Museum of Craft and Design

2569 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107

Here you will find ceramics and sculptures that go beyond the beauty of household vases and tiles. Check out the latest exhibit Dead Nuts: A Search for the Ultimate Machined Object, featuring objects created by makers.

2569 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94107

12. Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia

214 California Dr, Burlingame, CA 94010

Modern art too highbrow for you? Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered: Billed as the “world’s largest dispenser,” the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia features every Pez dispenser (the famous plastic doohickey that expels edible chalky tablets from what appears to be a severed neck) ever sold.

214 California Dr
Burlingame, CA 94010

13. Oakland Museum of California

1000 Oak St, Oakland, CA 94607

And finally, we strongly suggest hitting up the Oakland Museum of California along Lake Merritt. In addition to an ongoing feature on food growth in Oakland, the museum’s current exhibit, Pushing West: The Photography of Andrew J. Russell, shouldn’t be missed.

“Travel back in time through Andrew J. Russell’s epic photography of the Transcontinental Railroad’s western expansion, completed 150 years ago in 1869. Though commissioned to document the railroad and its successful development, Russell’s photography reveals the tensions between the economic and technological advances and the Railroad’s significant impact on western lands and Native peoples. His powerful imagery highlights the majesty of the landscape with locomotive engines set amongst vast plains and colossal mountain ranges, captured through Russell’s remarkable technique using the collodion photographic process in remote locations.”

The retrospective runs until September 2.

1000 Oak St
Oakland, CA 94607