Free Museums, Live Music and More

While it does cost a lot to live in the Bay Area, there are quite a few fun things to do for free. Check out these museums, live performances, crafts and more offered at no cost.
Bay Area-wide
Shakespeare in the Park – San Francisco Shakespeare Festival offers free outdoor performances of classic plays each summer in parks around the Bay Area.
Public Libraries – Libraries throughout the Bay Area regularly host arts and crafts events, storytimes, performances and more. Check your local library’s online calendar to see what’s being offered.
Discover and Go – Use your local library card to get free and discounted admission to tons of Bay Area museums and cultural institutions. 
East Bay
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive – Free first Thursday of each month and always free for ages 18 and under. 2155 Center St. 510-642-0808.
Oakland Museum of California – OMCA’s new free program “Lunchtime Sessions: Music, Dance and Storytelling in the Garden” is on select Thursdays and Saturdays. Bring a picnic and enjoy a performance in the museum’s newly renovated garden.
Richmond Art Center – Check the website for free family-friendly art activities. 2540 Barrett Ave. 510-620-6772.
Sundays at Hagemann Ranch – This is open the last Sunday of every month except July and December for kids’ crafts and games, a petting zoo and more. 1-4 p.m. 455 Olivina Ave., Livermore.
Marin
Bay Area Discovery Museum – Free first Wednesday of each month. Reservations required. East Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito. 415-339-3900.
Bay Model Visitors Center – This center, which features a huge 3-D, working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System, is always free. 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito. 415-332-3871.
Peninsula
Courthouse Square Events – Come summer, Redwood City’s Courthouse Square is the place to be for free live music, weekly movies and more. Check website for dates and times.
Free First Fridays, San Mateo County History Museum – The San Mateo County History Museum is free the first Friday of the month. The “Playing in the Past” preschool activity and tour are currently being offered online. 2200 Broadway, Redwood City. 650-299-0104. 
The Reading Bug – The children’s bookstore offers outdoor storytimes every Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m. 785 Laurel St., San Carlos. 650-591-0100.
San Francisco
Asian Art Museum – Admission is free the first Sunday of the month. Reservations required. 200 Larkin St. 415-581-3500.
Cable Car Museum – Watch the massive cables pulling historic cars and learn about their history for free. 1201 Mason St.415-474-1887. 
California Academy of Sciences – Occasional community free days are offered. See website for details. Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Drive. 415-379-8000.
Cartoon History Museum – Pay what you wish on the first Tuesday of each month. 415-227-8666. 781 Beach St. 
Charity & the JAMband – Charity & the JAMband performs free concerts on select dates. 
Conservatory of Flowers – First Tuesday of each month. 100 John F. Kennedy Drive. 415-831-2090.
Contemporary Jewish Museum – Admission is free the first Friday of the month. 736 Mission St. 415-655-7800.
de Young Museum – Admission is free every Saturday for Bay Area residents. Select Saturdays include family art activities. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive. 415-750-3600. 
Legion of Honor – Admission is free every Saturday for Bay Area residents. 100 34th Ave. 415-750-3600.
Randall Museum – This family-focused museum, which includes a caboose, wild native California animals and drop-in activities, is always free. 199 Museum Way, San Francisco. 415-554-9600.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Free first Thursdays of the month from 4-8 p.m. for Bay Area residents. 151 Third St. 415-357-4000.
Stern Grove Festival – The oldest free summer performing arts festival in the country, the festival includes live music and dance performances. A water main rupture damaged the festival’s location in 2021. Organizers are hoping repairs will be completed for the summer 2022 festival.
South Bay
de Saisset Museum – Located next to Mission Santa Clara, this free 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. 408-554-4000.
Los Altos History Museum and History House – Learn about the history of the Los Altos area for free. 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos. 650-948-9427.
The Museum of American Heritage – Visit a 1920s kitchen, an early 1900s store, 1940s radio repair shop and historic gardens. Museum is free with suggested donation of $5. 351 Homer Ave., Palo Alto. 650-321-1004. 
NUMU – New Museum Los Gatos – Free for essential workers, Los Gatos residents, youth under 18, families up to four with current Electronic Benefit Transfer card, and active-duty military personnel and their families. 106 E. Main St., Los Gatos. 408-354-2646.
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles – Through the Museums for All program, it offers free admission to Electronic Benefit Transfer cardholders and free passes for families and youth working with its partners. 520 S. First St., San Jose. 408-971-0323.
Santa Cruz Surfing Museum – Traces more than 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz through photos, surfboards and more. Always free. Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, Lighthouse Point, 701 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 831-420-6289.
Second Sunday Drop-in Studio, Stanford’s Cantor Art Center – This is a free family-focused day of art talks, hands-on art making, and gallery tours every second Sunday of the month. All ages and ability levels are invited. 11a.m.-4 p.m. 328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Palo Alto. 650-723-4177.

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