The Most Fun You’ll Have at the de Young in San Francisco with Museum Hack

Winter is my favorite time to visit museums. In honor of this, and the fact that NYC is currently being pummeled by a blizzard so I’m not leaving my apartment, let me share a museum visit from my holiday trip. Two days before Christmas, I visited the de Young Museum in San Francisco with my favorite tour company, Museum Hack.

A little California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day… This is the green, green, not snowy, court yard of the de Young Museum.

Remember Museum Hack? The renegade museum tour company whose motto is “MUSEUMS ARE F***ING AWESOME”? I’ve been on several of their New York museum tours and loved them so much I decided I had to check them out in another city!

I hadn’t been to the de Young since I was a kid and thought museums were b-o-r-i-n-g. So I was excited to visit with Museum Hack whose entire mission is to change people’s minds of exactly that notion. 


Through a combination of story telling, dishy gossip (still dishy even though centuries old), and even playing games, our Museum Hack guide Julian made this trip interesting, funny, and engaging from start to finish.


Exhibit plaques are relatively tiny, they can only tell so much. Plus, how often do you get tired of reading them and zone out? Or forget what they said as soon as you walk into the next room? Or have trouble reading them in the dim light?

Now, I’m one of those people who always reads museum plaques. I want the inside scoop! But getting a full, well researched, personable story from Julian beat any plaque the history of museums. 

Above is one of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. It looks cool on its own…but having Julian with his iPad to show exactly the kind of performance art Nick Cave is known for makes it infinitely better. I was especially intrigued because I saw a full Nick Cave performance in Grand Central years ago. Remember HEARD?

We also got the dirt on glass artist Chihuly who just closed CHIHULY at the New York Botanical Garden. He’s in the middle of a law suit brought by his art assistants – something you’d never think about just looking at his colorful sculptures.

This is rainbow painting is one of the most famous pieces in the de Young collection and it’s a lot more interesting than it looks. I’d never guess it has a huge tear repair until Julian pointed out just where and how to see it.

I won’t spoil the incredible story of this revenge painting “The Golden Scab” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler but OMG is it a good one.


Museum Hack embraces the strengths and passions of each of their guides – this makes every tour different. The guides focus on the things that particularly resonate with them. Julian’s love of Dungeons and Dragons and general geekery made the tour super personal. I’m not particularly fond of either of those things but-

I absolutely adore seeing someone’s passion shine through an entire experience. Museum Hack understands exactly this and it makes all their tours f***ing awesome.

Julian and I at the end of the de Young Fine Arts Museum Un-Highlights Tour! Even though it’s unquestionably one of the museums highlights, the tour ended in the de Young’s famous tower. No fine art up here, just f***ing awesome panoramic San Francisco views!

Spot the Golden Gate Bridge?

You can just make out its orange towers on the right!  

Museum Hack has several tours in New York as well as Chicago, LA, and Washington DC. If you’re looking for a fun, out-of-the-box museum experience in any of these museums, I can’t recommend them more! They also do a HARRY POTTER tour of the de Young which is wildly intriguing and I hope to experience next time I visit my home town!

Learn more about all their tours and book tickets: HERE.

Do you love museums? Or find them boring? Are you a plaque reader? I’d love to hear what your favorite museum is – in all the world and also NYC specifically. I’ve never been to the New York Tenement Museum but it’s top of my list for this winter!


About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

10 thoughts on “The Most Fun You’ll Have at the de Young in San Francisco with Museum Hack

    1. I’ve never been to the Museum of Arts and Design! I better make a priority to go this winter and blog about it in your honor!
      Yes…2 hours is often a limit, especially in museums with low lighting. It easy to spend a shorter time when I live in the city. But when I’m visiting a museum on vacation…I can be really bad about maxing my brain out trying to take it all in!

    1. That’s so awesome you studied art! What was your specialty? San Francisco museums are all nicely on the smaller side – possible to get the most out of them just on one visit. Especially when you’re used to crazy huge NYC museums!

  1. Hi, I love museums but hardly get the chance to visit. I’vevisited San Francisco a couple of times and only got to visit a few museums and we spent most of the day in each one, a fab day for all ages. Sadly i’vr Never had the time to squeeze any visits to the museums when I last visited NYC, hopefully next time.
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    1. SF is definitely not known for its museums. But it does have some great ones! What did you visit? If you like art, I’d hiiiighly recommend the Met for your next NYC visit 🙂

    1. I’m like that when traveling too! I also almost always go overboard and burn myself out trying to see EVERYTHING when I know I won’t be back to that museum maybe ever! Glad your with me on the plaque love 🙂 <3

    1. It was a lot of fun and a great excuse to go to a museum – not something I usually do when I’m home for the holidays!

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