First-Timer's Guide

 

Visiting art museums can seem intimidating to some first-time visitors, but we want you to feel welcome. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about art, museums, and the de Young, intended to help make your first visit a pleasant and memorable experience.

 

1. How long does a visit take?

There is no standard length of time for a trip to the de Young. Visits can range from less than an hour to a full day. It depends on how much you want to see! You can view the objects in our permanent collection galleries on the main and upper levels, see our special exhibitions, stop in at the Museum Café for a bite to eat, and visit the Museum Stores for unique gifts. We invite you to partake in a range of lectures, tours, art-making activities, and other programs that we invite you to partake in, most of which are free (see our online calendar). For more information about planning your visit, check our Visitor’s Guide.

Don’t feel pressure to see everything during your first visit. Trying to view too much art in one day can overwhelm even the most seasoned museumgoers. You can come back for another visit, or take breaks outside in the Osher Sculpture Garden, in the Museum Café or Stores, or in the many resting spots throughout the building.

 

2. Can I leave and re-enter the museum on the same day?

Yes, all general admission or special exhibition tickets apply to the full day. As long as you have your ticket with you, you can come and go as you please on the day of your visit. Special exhibition tickets that are timed may not allow for re-entry. Check with a member services or visitor services staff person. 

 

3. What should I leave at home when I visit? Can I take photographs or sketch?

Since the institution has a priority to ensure the safety of irreplaceable works of art for the future, there are certain items you cannot bring into the museum. These include: oversized luggage (41 in. or larger), flammable liquids, scissors, and other items (view a full list here).

In the permanent collection galleries, individuals may sketch with pencil on a small (9 x 12 in. or smaller) handheld pad during public hours or take non-flash photographs or smartphone videos, without a tripod, for noncommercial use only.

In the special exhibition galleries, sketching is by permission only (submit the sketching permit form at least two weeks prior to your visit); photography is sometimes allowed (without flash or tripod)—check the signs when you visit.

Do not hesitate to call in advance of your visit or ask the museum staff and guards on site if you have any questions. We want to ensure that you have a comfortable and relaxed visit.

Learn more about the de Young’s policies.

 

4. How do I get there?

The de Young is easily reachable from all parts of the San Francisco Bay area, via public transportation, bicycle, or car.

Public Transportation: The de Young is accessible via Muni lines 5, 44, and the N-Judah. Museum visitors who take public transit will save $2 on admission with proof of purchase. Discount cannot be combined with other offers. To plan your trip using Muni, BART, and other public transportation options, visit 511.org. Learn more.

Directions: See our Visiting Page for a map and directions. More questions? Call (415) 750-3600.

 

5. Where can I park?

Car and bicycle parking is available in the Concourse Parking Garage, accessible from Fulton Street at 10th Avenue, or at Concourse Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive inside Golden Gate Park.  Please note the Music Concourse Parking Garage is operated by CityPark and is subject to standard rates per hour. For more details please visit their website. Limited street parking is also available on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and John F. Kennedy Drive.

 

6. Is the de Young kid-friendly?

Yes! Bring your kids to the museum. We suggest approaching your visit as an expedition and letting your child or children take the lead. Children often have the ability to see things in artworks that adults may miss. When your children express wonder about a particular object, ask them to take a moment and look carefully at the work. Ask what they think is happening in the work of art and have them identify details that support their ideas. Any answer they provide is correct, as long as they can provide visual evidence!

Note that certain special exhibitions do not allow strollers. Please check our current exhibitions pages for more information. The de Young does not allow baby backpacks, or any bags over 9 x 12 in. (more information here).

 

7. Do I need a ticket to enter the building?

You do not need to purchase a ticket to enter the building, to visit the Museum Store and Museum Café, or to see the breathtaking views from the Observation Level of the Hamon Tower. You will need to purchase tickets to view artwork in the de Young’s permanent collection and special exhibitions (see question 8). 

 

8. What is the difference between general admission and special exhibition tickets? Do I need both?

General admission provides access to the permanent collection galleries and some temporary exhibitions. Special exhibition tickets include admission to certain large-scale, limited-run exhibitions that are primarily located in the Herbst Exhibition Galleries on the lower level. Occasionally, special exhibitions requiring tickets are located in the Textile Arts galleries on the upper level. Due to the high cost of preparing and mounting these presentations, a surcharge typically applies. Tickets for special exhibitions include same-day general admission to both the de Young and the Legion of Honor. You do not need to purchase a general admission ticket if you have a special exhibition ticket.

 

9. Will my ticket also allow me admission to the Legion of Honor?

Yes! All de Young tickets include same-day general admission to the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park. If you want see any special exhibition on view at the Legion of Honor, a small surcharge may apply.

Comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) is the largest public arts institution in the City of San Francisco and one of the five largest art museums in the United States.

 

10. What will I see at the de Young?

Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the de Young regularly shows works of art from these areas of the permanent collection: American art from the 17th to the 21st centuries, modern and contemporary art, photography, global textiles and costumes, and art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. You will have the opportunity to view a wide variety of objects during your visit, including paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, furniture, and more. Some works represent figures or landscapes as they appear in nature while others depict abstract forms and colors. There is something for everyone at the de Young!

In addition to the range of artworks on view in the galleries, don’t miss the outdoor sculptures and site-specific works near the West Entrance in the Osher Sculpture Garden and the Marcus Garden of Enchantment, the 360-degree panoramic view of San Francisco from the ninth floor Observation Level of the Hamon Tower, and the architectural beauty of the building itself. While you’re in the Observation Level, take a picture at the photo kiosk to send an e-postcard to your friends, your family, or yourself. Click here to see a full map of the de Young.

Access to the permanent collection galleries is included in the price of general admission. Special exhibitions are also on view at the de Young throughout most of the year, and your tickets to these presentations include access to the permanent collection as well.

 

11. I’m not very familiar with art or art history. How can I talk with my friends or family about the artwork we see?

There is no need to know such details about a work of art as the artist's name, time period, or its historical context in order to have an engaging and intelligent discussion about it. Read the object label, which tells you the artist, date, and medium of the work, and often gives additional information about the circumstances of its creation.

You are entitled to any reaction to a work of art! Think about how the work makes you feel and why. No answer is wrong—art is subjective! Dig deeper by asking yourself such questions as these:

Is this work about a particular subject, the artist’s process or material, the space that it inhabits, or some other idea? What clues in artwork help me to answer this question? How was the work made? What steps did the artist take to produce the effect that you see?

Alternatively, don’t feel any pressure to discuss the work at all! You can have a very enjoyable experience by simply looking.

 

12. What is the difference between a museum’s permanent collection and an exhibition?

A museum’s permanent collection contains works of art that the institution owns. Some objects remain on public view for years and are considered part of a permanent installation, while others rotate in and out of storage. An exhibition is a temporary display of artwork. It may include works from the museum’s permanent collection, objects on loan from other institutions and private collections, or both.

Learn more about our permanent collection.

Learn more about current and upcoming exhibitions.

 

13. How often do works of art at the de Young rotate?

The length of time that a particular object is on view in the museum depends first on whether it is on view in the permanent collection galleries or in a temporary exhibition (see question 12). Objects in our permanent collection galleries are often on view for many years, though they may be lent to other institutions or rotated into storage as new objects are acquired and put on display. Some pieces, such as works on paper, are fragile or susceptible to light damage and cannot be exhibited for an extended period. Generally speaking, works of art in special exhibitions remain on view for roughly three to four months. As you plan your visit, check our current exhibitions to find out what will be on view.

 

14. How can I learn more about the de Young?

Interested in events and programs?

Check out our calendar to plan your next visit.

Interested in making the most of your visit?

Consider becoming a member to get unlimited free admission to special exhibitions and permanent collections at both the de Young and the Legion of Honor. Learn more.

Interested in the rich history of the de Young?

Learn more about the museum’s origins in the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and the 2005 building redesign by Herzog and de Meuron here.

 

Have a question for first time visitors that you think deserves an answer? E-mail us at contact@famsf.org