- De Young Museum (San Francisco): The city's oldest museum was rebuilt from the ground up, and in late 2005 debuted as one of San Francisco's top attractions. Anchored in beautiful Golden Gate Park, surrounded by stunning flora, and shimmering in its fabulous copper exterior, it has a fantastic collection of American paintings; decorative arts and crafts; and arts from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Topping it off is a tower with great city views and a surprisingly good cafe with outdoor tables overlooking the sculpture garden.
- California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco): With an aquarium, planetarium, and museum all rolled into one, the Academy stays packed with families perusing the Rainforests of the World annex (a four-level glass tower comprising four countries' native species) and taunting Claude, the resident albino alligator.
- Walt Disney Family Museum (San Francisco): A chronological history of the Disney family, this new Presidio collection chronicles the span of Walt's life and career. Surprisingly, the museum caters more to adults than children, since history is its focus.
- The Exploratorium (San Francisco): The hands-on, interactive Exploratorium boasts 650 exhibits that help show how things work.
- California State Railroad Museum (Sacramento): Old Sacramento's biggest attraction, the 100,000-square-foot museum was once the terminus of the transcontinental and Sacramento Valley railways. It displays dozens of locomotives and railroad cars, among other attractions.
- Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles): Designed by Richard Meier and completed in 1997 to the tune of $1 billion, the Getty Center is a striking, starkly futuristic architectural landmark, with panoramic views of the city and ocean. The building itself is enough reason to visit, but so is the permanent collection, the crown jewel of which is Van Gogh's "Irises," which the museum paid $54 million to acquire. The gardens and vistas are beautiful as well.
- Petersen Automotive Museum (Los Angeles): This museum is a natural for Los Angeles, a city whose personality and history are so entwined with the popularity of the automobile. Impeccably restored vintage autos are displayed in life-size dioramas accurate to the last period detail. Upstairs galleries house celebrity vehicles, car-related artwork, and exhibits.
- Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego: San Diego's internationally respected contemporary art museum operates three facilities, including the downtown Jacobs Building which transformed a portion of the historic train station into one of the city's cultural icons. Together with its other downtown annex and the flagship space that overlooks the ocean in La Jolla, MCASD stakes its claim as the boldest, most important museum in San Diego.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.