Beats & Off-Beat – 8 Quirky Museums in San Francisco

If you are familiar with the city, you already know about the major museums in San Francisco — The Museum of Modern Art, the de Young Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences. But, if you want to go deeper in the city, and feel more like an insider than a tourist, there are a handful of samller museums we think you're gong to like.

Some of these "small" museums in San Francisco aren't really that small, like the Chabot Space Center and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. But the others… well, they can be unexpected. Like a cartoon museum. Or a historical society's exhibits. Then there are the downright quirky and the off-beat. Let's start with the Beats…

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The Beat Museum

The Beat Museum

Take in the life and times of Jack Kerouac and his literary compadres at this groovy little museum of all things Beat.

The collection includes letters from Kerouac and a rare first edition of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Special events include thing like the photographs of Hunter S. Thompson, and an evening of poetry and music about love potions & illuminations.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Contemporary Jewish Museum

SF's Contemporary Jewish Museum was designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind, also known for the design of the Freedom Tower at the site of Ground Zero in New York. The design of the museum is in itself a reason to visit.

The museum's aim is to make "he diversity of the Jewish experience relevant for a twenty-first century audience". A recent exhibit was Amy Winehosue: A Family Portrait, looking at the life the the late, great singer.

California Historical Society

California Historical Society

Part museum, part state archive, the California Historical Society lays out the history of the state in its permanent collections and the many temporary exhibitions it stages each year. We love their collection of historic photos that let you get a real feel for the life in every decade of the state's history. (Every decade after photography was invented, that is!)

In our guide we walk you through the permanent collections, tell you what to expect, where to find the Society, and even where to park!

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Museum of Craft & Design

Museum of Craft & Design

For a unique view of contemporary arts, craftwork, and design, the place to head in San Francisco is to Third Street in the Dogpatch district where you'll find the Museum of Craft & Design (MCD). It's one of the few museums in the west to be dedicated to today's designers and artisans and to display their work in changing exhibits.

We'll tell you about the programs MCD offers for both kids and adults, and also about their fabulous gift store.

Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space and Science Center

Expand your universe with interactive, dynamic hands-on exhibits and demonstrations at the Science center in Oakland.

Kids & adults alike will love the digital full-dome planetarium, giant-screen theater shows, and the spectacular telescopes that look out to star-lined vistas.

San Francisco Maritime Museum

San Francisco Maritime Museum

The San Francisco Maritime Museum celebrates the city's waterfront history with a fascinating colelction of ships, interactive displays, and a restored Art Moderne bath-house.

But the Maritime Museum is a bit unusual in that it's not simply housed in one building. We like the displays in the museum's Visitor Center that show the waterfront at various stages in its history. We're also fascinated by Hyde Street Pier across the street where you can visit six historical sail and steam ships.

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Cable Car Museum

Cable Car Museum

what better place to learn all about cable cars than San Francisco? And the Cable Car Museum is the place to go

The museum id located right inside the historic Washington-Mason cable car barn, so it's a perfect setting. You even get to look over the engines and wheels that pull the cables. Of course, there's also all those mechanical devices needed to make the cable cars like brakes and grips and all that. along with detailed models and antique cable cars from the 1870s. You also get a chance to see three historic cars.

Cartoon Art Museum

Cartoon Art Museum

This is one of only three museums in the USA dedicated to the preservation, documentation and exhihibition of cartoons.

There's something for everyone — from Sunday funnies, comic books and editorial cartoons to anime and graphic novels.

655 Mission Street, Downtown

Madame Tussand's Wax Museum

Wax Museum

See one of the world's great collections of wax figures including the latest celebrities from Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie & George Clooney to Johnny Depp and Albert Einstein. (He's contemporary, right? It's all relative.)

There's also a lot of history to explore with the American Civil War, King Tut & World War II.

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