Ask anyone you know who grew up in the Bay Area about the Exploratorium, and they’ll likely be able to share stories of class trips and seeing their hair stand on end at an installation about electricity or fun-house mirrors that taught about optics and visual perception. This is not, however, a museum simply for kids—though curious kids will definitely be entertained while learning. Instead, its exhibits aim to raise the scientific literacy of visitors of all ages, by providing engaging, amusing, and hands-on experiences. Long housed at the Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium opened in its current, and much larger, space on Piers 15 and 17 in 2013. One advantage of the new waterfront location is the North Gallery and its outdoor spaces, focused on environmental phenomena like the wind, rain, and tides. The completely dark Tactile Dome and the disorienting Monochromatic Room may prove not just the highlights of your visit to the Exploratorium but the most memorable, or at least strangest, moments of your time in San Francisco.
The Exploratorium has long been a Bay Area family win (and not just for families; for nerds of all ages!). This interactive science museum moved locations and reopened this year in a beautiful location on the Embarcadero, on Pier 15. The space is huge, and packed with stations that explore copious tricks of science, art, and perception. The activities answer questions, but they also lead to more questions—feeding inquisitive minds. It could be a whole day’s activity, or you could duck in for just a segment of the museum.
The Exploratorium, in its swanky new (as of 2013) headquarters on the Embarcadero at Pier 15, has hundreds of educational and interactive exhibits devoted to science, art, and human perception. Encouraging a playful approach to learning, this is one of those magical places that can put adults back in touch with their inner child while harnessing kids’ curiosity to make them feel like grown-ups. The museum is divided into themed areas—Tinkering, Living Systems, Human Phenomena, Seeing and Listening, Landscape Observation, and an Outdoor Gallery—and visitors can do activities that run the gamut from constructing a marble maze, to exploring the world of plankton, to navigating the pitch-black Tactile Dome, to listening to a giant, wind-strummed harp. Families with inquisitive kids could easily spend the whole day here, but it’s also worthy of a flying visit for a quick and potent hit of wonderment. As well as the exhibits in the galleries, the Exploratorium has a packed calendar of special events that includes films, workshops, and excursions; there are even adults-only cocktails-and-creativity nights each Thursday. Check the (excellent) website for details. There’s a café and a restaurant, and a store. Tickets cost $19 for children (toddlers are free) and $25 for adults. Note that some activities require advance reservation. The museum is closed most Mondays.
Science museums have a reputation as being places to bring the kids. The Exploratorium, now located on the Embarcadero, defies this. It lures passersby, regardless of age, to its building with the bizarre contraptions and “let me get a closer look at that” devices outside its door - a bicycle dangling from a post that has been contorted into a horn, for example. Once inside, the place is interactive magic, exploring human behavior, the biological world, and your own senses. On Thursday evenings, the doors close to children and the bartenders pour drinks in the cafe for After Dark - a popular date-night choice.
Be a Kid Again at the Exploratorium: Science, Art, and Perception
In a new location, the joy is still the same, as the world’s premiere hands on science experience - but it’s so much more than that. A place to relive childhood and experience the best of what engages us with the world around us and our sense of wonder.
Are you a science nerd? The Exploratorium is the place for you. Part science museum, part mad scientist laboratory it is a great place for kids & adults. Thursday evenings are for adults only if you wanna skip competing with kids to try out the many experiments. Lots to see and do here so plan on spending a couple of hours learning and exploring the world of science. Check out the exhibits outside...I love the fog installation, SEA OF CLOUDS by Ned Kahn.