de Young Museum

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One of the oldest and most well-respected of all San Francisco’s cultural institutions, the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum is a rich wonderland of fine art dating from primitive eras through the 20th century. Located right in Golden Gate Park, its newly purpose-built facility is also a modern architectural wonder that serves as the perfect backdrop to its valuable collection.


During the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, a Fine Arts building was constructed to house and impressive array of fine, if eclectic, art pieces. The chair of the committee who sponsored this building was one Michael H. de Young, the co-founder of San Francisco’s famed Chronicle newspaper. As a true art lover and would-be philanthropist, de Young and others successfully lobbied for the museum in the Fine Arts building to remain open after the end of the exposition. At the time known simply as the Memorial Museum, the building featured a pseudo–Egyptian Revival style of architecture and charged no admission to the people of San Francisco who immediately came to love it.

However, like all exposition buildings, the Memorial Museum was intended only for temporary display and quickly fell into ruin. Then, the earthquake of 1906 nearly leveled it and caused the museum to close for nearly 18 months for repairs. It was then that Mr. de Young was able to put his hand into the museum once more, offering to plan and build a new facility for its growing collection which would be located in Golden Gate Park.

The new museum was designed by Louis Christian Mulgardt and featured a Spanish-Plateresque-style of architecture. It opened in 1919 and ownership was officially transferred from de Young to the city and its park’s commission in 1921, bringing about its new name as the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum or simple the de Young Museum.

As the 20th century progressed, the museum’s impressive collection of American art only grew. It also amassed an impressive canon of primitive artistic works including work by the pre-Hispanic Teotihuacan tribe of Mexico along with a collection of tribal art from indigenous sub-Saharan Africa.

Then, in 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake once again threatened the structure of the museum itself. Erecting temporary support structures in the interim, it became immediately obvious that the museum needed significant structural work in order to thrive in the future. It took more than 15 years to accomplish, but in 2000 the old museum officially closed its doors to the public for permanent renovation. The building was completely leveled and reopened on 15 October 2005. The new de Young is an architectural masterpiece designed by the renowned Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron. It is especially significant in its ability to weave the massive structure into the natural beauty of Golden Gate Park which surrounds it.

Today, the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum is the most visited fine arts institution in the western United States. It features a collection of over 27,000 pieces. Its most notable residents are Thomas Cole’s Prometheus Bound and Edmond C. Tarbell’s The Blue Veil, as well as works from prominent American artists such as John Singleton Copley, Thomas Hart Benton, and Wayne Thiebaud with works dating back to 1670. In addition, the museum is home to more than 12,000 textiles, 1,400 pieces from primitive South American, African, and Pacific peoples, and a fine collection of contemporary international art. The only genre of art not featured in the de Young Museum is European art as that collection was moved to the Legion of Honor in 1972.

Main Attraction

The museum is located in the heart of Golden Gate Park at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in the city of San Francisco. It is open year-round from Tuesday-Sunday with extended hours during the tourist seasons of May through November. Admissions prices are grouped into three categories: adults, seniors (65+), and Youth/Students. Children under the age of 12 are free as are all members of the general public on the first Tuesday of every month.

The museum offers free docent-led tours throughout the day as well as audio tours at an additional charge. There are always several rotating special exhibitions which may carry an additional entrance fee. The museum also frequently offers special events such as the weekly Friday Nights at the de Young, which may feature music, lectures, and/or hands-on art experiences and often coincide with the themes of their special exhibitions. There is also a café and museum store (souvenir shop) on site.

Why It’s a Must-See

As one of the most popular and venerated art museums in the western U.S., the de Young Museum is a great place to spend the day in San Francisco. Offering a rich collection of fine art along with a unique cultural atmosphere and convenient location, this is a true must-see.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from de Young Museum either online or in person.
Purchase a Tourist pass. The de Young Museum is available on the Go SF Card and SF CityPass