Museums in Novato

Novato is steeped in history and culture, and visitors to Novato have a number of options when it comes to enjoying our local Novato museums and cultural centers. Best of all, some of our museums are close together, or a great thematic match, so you can enjoy a mini-museum adventure, whether you’re celebrating flight at the Hamilton Field History Museum and the Space Station Museum, or catching both the Novato History Museum and Marin Museum of the Native American in a single afternoon.

The North Bay has a rich culture of artists and crafters, and the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art features both local artists (some of whom have studios on premises) and exhibitions that feature nationally recognized artists, juried exhibitions, an annual “book arts” exhibition, and more. Located in the Novato Arts Center on the former Hamilton Air Force Base in a distinctive “Spanish eclectic” style stucco building, the MOCA offers visitors a creative atmosphere where art can be enjoyed and appreciated.

The Museum is open Wednesday through Friday, 11am-4pm, and weekends, 11am-5pm. Admission is free.

Just a short drive away, the Hamilton Field History Museum, located in the historic airfield firehouse, tells the story of the airfield itself, reflecting both the military and civilian communities who have made use of the base, which was active in the 1930’s through the 1970’s.

The museum contains hundreds of artifacts from the base’s heyday, including photos, uniforms, pins, medals and a cockpit simulator. There’s also a library and research center full of books, videos and posters.

The Museum is open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 12pm-4pm, or by appointment, and is free.

Anyone who enjoys America’s history of flight may well also want to fit in a visit to the Space Station Museum, a well-reviewed treasure trove of space memorabilia, offering hands-on exhibits for kids, and plenty of authentic astronaut suits and other artifacts  that will thrill anyone who was ever inspired by the space program.

Despite it’s small size, the museum owns one of the largest private collections of US, Russian and Soviet space exploration artifacts, and is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who are happy to share their passion for spaceflight with visitors.

If you’re planning a space rendezvous, note that the museum operates limited hours (Fridays, 5-8pm and weekends, 12-4pm). However, other times are available by appointment.  Admission is free, though donations are welcome.

If you’re visiting Novato, and want to get a sense of the story behind this scenic town, a stop off at the Novato History Museum is a must, particularly if you’re exploring Novato’s downtown.

Housed in the historic 1850 Novato postmaster’s house, this museum contains both permanent and rotating exhibits covering everything from daily life in the mid-19th century, to the social history of the area.

The Museum is open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 12-4pm, or by appointment. Admission is free.

For the history buff, a great museum pairing would be a visit to the Novato History Museum, alongside a trip to the Marin Museum of the American Indian — the two are about a ten minute walk (or very short drive) from each other, and present complementary views of local history, though the American Indian museum covers a much larger geographic footprint, in its documentation and preservation of Native American culture in Marin.

The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12:30-4:30pm, and is free.

Visitors interested in the history of the Coast Miwok Indians, who occupied Marin for thousands of years will find more to learn at the Olompali State Historic Park, which features a recreated Coastal Miwok Village, complete with a native plant garden and traditional Miwok housing. The park is located just three miles north of Novato, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am-5pm. There is a day-fee for parking.

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