Nightlife comes in many different forms in San Francisco: bars, concerts, clubs. But many of the city’s museums have joined the late-night scene with special adults-only after-hours programming that boasts the addition of live music, special movie screenings, and alcohol to their usual exhibits – for a reduced entry fee, to boot. Here we highlight the must-experience programs…before the secret gets out.
Thursday Nights at the Asian Art Museum
These weekly events actually went on hiatus in 2018 but are back by popular demand starting in February. Every Thursday, the entire museum – known for its diverse collection of innovative film, visual, and performance art from across the Asian continent – is open late for only $10. But the best part of the night is the feeling of the entire museum is a giant cocktail party complete with food and live entertainment as well as a chance to rub elbows with the featured artists and other luminaries.
Design Nights at Autodesk Gallery
Picture one part makerspace, one part TEDtalk, one part the kind of party you wish you could throw featuring the area’s best DJs and leaders in a diverse range of fields. Whether it’s a Silicon Valley upstart talking about virtual reality or robotics or a local designer showing off their fall fashion collection, everyone attending can then apply what they learn at various hands-on stations. There’s also plenty of wine and beer that you can sip while enjoying the kind of insightful conversations these events inspire.
Night at the Jewseum at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
These parties for the after-work crowd takes a simple theme and runs with it, creating an entire night around the concept which connects to one of their touring exhibits. Take, for example, their Amy Winehouse night, when the museum celebrated the Jewish soul powerhouse with live music, a makeup counter where you could try on the singer’s iconic look, a temporary tattoo area, and a pop-up shop of vintage vinyl. San Francisco incubator kitchen, La Cocina, even provided some of Winehouse’s favorite food. Other themes have included the history of American tattooing, chain reaction machines, and folkloric monsters.
NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences
It’s like if your favorite nightclub also had a life-size T-Rex skeleton, a full aquarium, and its own indoor rainforest. Every Thursday, the museum picks a new theme for their 21 and up event, like “Feel the Force” and “Silent Night Silent Disco” which featured an indoor snow flurry. Each theme gets its own special exhibits around the dancefloor and bar. Along with the dance party atmosphere, the entire museum is also open usually with special programming that you can’t find at any other time.
After Dark at Exploratorium
This adults-only monthly event covers topics as diverse as sugar, color theory, and poison. The museum’s more than 650 interactive exhibits become all the more fun with a cocktail or two and a group of friends. These programs feature guest speakers, hands-on activities, and great music to make the experience feel more like a party than a simple museum. Try your hand at their fog bridge, light displays, pitch-black domes and learn why their motto is “see for yourself.”