California Historical Society Museum

Lonely Planet review

Get the lowdown on California at this exhibition space devoted entirely to the state's history. Galleries show themed highlights from the museum's vast collection of a million-plus photographs, paintings and ephemera. Recent exhibits have examined the Golden State's reputation for movies, fresh food and the good life via silent-movie posters, vintage fruit labels and tourism brochures – and how that mythology washes with reality.

History buffs: make time for the fascinating research library and gain access to rare books, photos and manuscripts. The library has the definitive collection on the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union and People's Temple, among other California-centric subjects. Call ahead if you want to research specific topics so staff can pull appropriate materials from vaults.