Niche Museums

Find tiny museums near you About  this site

Conservatory of Flowers

0.18 miles away

A building of unknown origins. The conservatory was bought as a kit by James Lick for his estate in San Jose, then purchased as a gift for the city of San Francisco after his death in 1876. it was assembled as the first formal structure in Golden Gate Park in 1879. The origin of the kit itself is unknown, though it is thought to have come from somewhere in Europe.

Today it hosts over 1,700 plant species, including some rare tropical plants that are over 100 years old and the world’s largest public collection of high-altitude orchids. Their Corpse Flowers attract a substantial crowd when they bloom for 2-3 days every 7-10 years.

Website | Wikipedia

5 photos and 1 link

100 John F Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118 - Map

25 November 2019

Monarch Bear Grove

0.36 miles away

This somewhat hidden circle of stones in Golden Gate Park has a history that incorporates druids, press barons, Spanish monasteries and the grizzly bear on the California state flag.

William Randolph Hearst spent several decades building the largest newspaper and magazine chain in the world, starting in the 1880s.

In 1889, Hearst sponsored an expedition to capture one of the last remaining grizzly bears in California. The mission was successful, and a bear was brought back alive and put on display in the city. A bear pit was designed by architect William Polk and the bear - named the Monarch Bear - lived in captivity for 22 years, during which time it was used as the model for the bear on the 1911 version the California state flag.

Following the First World War Hearst and other American industrialists competed to snap up as many of Europe's antiquities as they could get their hands on, taking advantage of that continent's urgent need for cash.

Hearst went as far as buying parts of two ruined Spanish monasteries, which he arranged to have disassembled and shipped over to the United States.

Then the Great Depression struck, and Hearst found himself unable to afford the reconstruction of his Spanish monasteries. One of them - Santa MarĂ­a de Ă“vila - was sold to the city of San Francisco on the condition that it be re-assembled into a museum in Golden Gate Park.

World War II intervened with those plans, and the monastery stones ended up scattered around the park for several decades.

At some point, somebody arranged some of the stones into circles, on the location of the old Monarch bear pit. The site is now known as Monarch Bear Grove and is cared for by members of OBOD - the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

Most of the monastery stones were moved up to northern California and used to construct a chapter house near Redding in 2005 - but the stone circles in Monarch Bear Grove remain.

Website | Wikipedia

3 links

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California - Map

15 December 2019

Neptune Society Columbarium

0.73 miles away

San Francisco has few cemeteries: most of them were relocated to the nearby city of Colma in the 1920s. This Columbarium (a repository for human ashes), built in 1898, is now the only non-denominational place in the city that still accepts new burials.

Interments include FORTRAN creator John Backus, politician Harvey Milk and Harry August Jansen, aka Dante the Magician - the last representative of the Golden Age of Magic.

Many of the urns are accompanied by small dioramas representing details from the life of the person interred there.

Website | Wikipedia

3 links

One Loraine Court, San Francisco, CA 94118 - Map

22 November 2019


1.14 miles away

Judy Kaminsky has been selling high-end vintage cookware (mostly French) to the residents and chefs of San Francisco since 1981. Go with intent to buy something - cake stands and antique cocktail glasses are a good target. Don't bring your coffee!


2 links

339 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117 - Map

16 November 2019

Museum of Russian Culture

1.41 miles away

The Museum of Russian Culture "was established by those who left Russia as a result of the Civil War of 1917–1922". It is located on the third floor of the Russian Center Building and is open 10:30am to 2:30pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays.


2450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 94115 - Map

23 October 2019

The Comic Rock Star’s Toilet Seat Museum

1.94 miles away

Voted "Best Comic Store" in Best of the Bay for 17 years running (2002 - 2018), Isotope Comic Book Lounge plays host to a unique museum of toilet seats. The collection was founded by accident in 2002 when Brian Wood (DMZ and X-Men) vandalized their bathroom and owner James Sime kept the toilet seat. Over 100 comic artists have now contributed illustrated seats, and a subset of the collection can be seen lining the walls of the lounge.


3 links

326 Fell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 - Map

26 November 2019

Permanently closed

Ray Bandar's Bone Palace

1.98 miles away

Ray Bandar collected his first skull in 1953, on Baker Beach in San Francisco. He would spend the next sixty years adding to his collection. When Ray died at the age of 90 in December 2017 he left a collection of over 7,000 animal skulls, most of which were on display on the four floors of his house in San Francisco.

In 1958 Ray was given the title of field associate by the California Academy of Sciences. They sponsored many of his bone collecting expeditions to countries that included Mexico and Australia. He grew his collection under a scientific collection permit issued by the state of California for his work with the academy.

Ray taught biology at Fremont High School in Oakland for 32 years, until he retired from teaching in 1990 to dedicate himself full time to bone collecting. He was the first person called by Bay Area zoos when an animal died, enabling him to add species that including hippopotamuses, tigers, and chimpanzees to his collection.

Ray's artist wife Alkmene was a vital part of the process. It was Alkmene who encouraged the couple to collect a horse skull from the side of the road during their cross country honeymoon driving trip in 1954. She worked with Ray on many of his collecting adventures, though she did credit the survival of their marriage to her weak sense of smell!

We visited Ray's Bone Palace (as he called it) in February of 2018, a few weeks before the collection was permanently relocated to the California Academy of Sciences. Ray's great nephew Jacob gave us the tour.

It was the most incredibly place I have ever experienced.

Ray treated skulls as art, and Ray and his wife Alkmene were both keen artists. The living room displayed art and a number of skulls, but these merely hinted at what was to come.

As we descended deeper into the house Jacob explained that Ray had won the "grossest dead thing" halloween contest so many times that they competition had to forbid him from entering to give other contestants a chance. "Puss in Boots", a mummified cat wearing boots, was one of the winning entrants.

The concentration of skulls on display continued to increase, but nothing could prepare us for Ray's basement.

Around 7,000 animal skulls greeted us, populating every inch of the two basement rooms. The skulls were accompanied by beautiful hand-written labels (which the California Academy of Sciences are determined to keep as part of the collection).

More than a thousand sea mammals, dozens of breeds of dog, bears, leopards, rhinos, hippopotamuses, giraffes and so many more.

My personal favourites were the walruses, the box full of beaver skulls and an amazing Narwhal tusk, which had been given to Ray by a friend who had asked him if there was anything he hadn't been able to collect himself.

Ray also kept snakes, and used to leave them free to roam the basement.

A sign in the middle of the basement read "There is always room for one more!! or two or three more." Words to live by. What an inspiring life.


54 photos and 6 links

Marietta Drive, San Francisco, CA 94127 - Map

17 January 2020


2.25 miles away

Describing itself as "Perhaps one of San Francisco's least known eclectic treasures", Audium is a unique sound art event presented weekly since 1967 in pitch darkness in a custom theater with 176 speakers. Founder and composer Stan Shaff still presents his compositions in person every week and will enthusiastically answer your questions after the show.

Website | Wikipedia

1616 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 - Map

19 November 2019

Palace of Fine Arts

2.33 miles away

The Panama–Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was a world's fair that celebrated the completion of the Panama canal - but also served to showcase San Francisco's recovery from the 1906 earthquake.

Eleven palaces were built for the exposition. All but one of them were torn down afterwards when the exposition site became San Francisco's residental Marina District.

The Palace of Fine Arts was the survivor, thanks to a campaign by the Palace Preservation League founded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst (mother of William Randolph Hearst).

The palace was designed by Bernard Ralph Maybeck, who created it as a fictional Roman and Ancient Greek ruin constructed around a small artificial lagoon.

The weeping women who top the colonnade were sculpted by Ulric Ellerhusen, modeled after Audrey Munson. Audrey served as the model for an enormous number of sculptures, initially in New York and then across the United States. She earned the nickname "Panama–Pacific Girl" after posing for three-fifths of the sculptures created for the 1915 Expo.

The palace was not built to last, and the wood and plaster structure seriously degraded over time. In 1964 it was entirely replaced by a direct copy, built using steel beams and light-weight concrete. This was further seismically retrofitted in 2010.

Website | Wikipedia

3 photos and 1 link

3601 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123 - Map

13 January 2020

The Gregangelo Museum

2.65 miles away

Incredibly varied installation art located in a 1920s Mediterranean-style house. Visits by appointment only.

Website | Wikipedia

225 San Leandro Way, San Francisco, CA 94127 - Map

25 October 2019

International Art Museum of America

2.7 miles away

Founded in 2011 by H. H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, who claims to be a reincarnation of Buddha and is responsible for most of the art in the museum. Each piece is accompanied by a plaque which explains its artistic merit in effervescent terms.

Website | Wikipedia

1023 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 - Map

28 October 2019

Fort Point

2.98 miles away

Constructed by the US Army Corp of Engineers between 1853 and 1861 at the height of the gold rush, Fort Point was designed to protect the San Francisco Bay from foreign attack.

Cannons were mounted close to the waterline so that cannonballs could ricochet off the water and hit enemy ships hear the waterline.

The fort has never seen battle, but is historically significant due to its military architecture. It is the only "Third System" fort to be constructed west of the Mississippi.

Following the civil war, the fort's cannons became obsolete. It was used intermittently by the army, mainly as barracks, and then served as defense against potential submarine attacks during the Second World War.

A campaign in the 1930s saved the fort from demolition during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was redesigned to arch over the fort instead. It became a National Historic Site in 1970.

Website | Wikipedia

1 link

Long Avenue & Marine Drive, San Francisco, CA 94129 - Map

10 January 2020

The Tonga Room

3.02 miles away

A 75-year-old San Francisco institution, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a legendary tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel.

It was designed in 1945 by Mel Melvin, a leading set designer for MGM on the site of the hotel's indoor swimming pool. The pool was converted into a "lagoon" in the center of the space, and most nights a band performs from a boat in the lagoon amidst periodic artificial rain and thunder. The dance floor and bar itself is constructed from wood salvaged from the S.S. Forester, a schooner that once sailed between San Francisco and the south Pacific.

The Fairmont appear to be deeply embarassed by the continued presence of the Tonga Room but the city of San Francisco have labelled it a "historic resource", frustrating plans to replace it with something better suited to the hotel's upscale aesthetic.

Website | Wikipedia

3 links

950 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 - Map

10 December 2019

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

3.05 miles away

Housed in a historic cable car barn and powerhouse, this free museum tells the story of San Francisco's unique under-road cable pulled street cars. In addition to vintage cars and other exhibits illustrating the history of the system visitors can descend below the street to see the cables running, or watch the engines that power the cars from a viewing platform.

Website | Wikipedia

1201 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 - Map

18 November 2019

The American Bookbinders Museum

3.1 miles away

Showcasing the artistry, history, and craft of bookbinding. The New York Times described it as "a small, obsessive collection of machinery and ephemera."

Website | Wikipedia

355 Clementina Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 - Map

23 October 2019

Browse all museums