This remarkable “hands-on” Exploratorium, dedicated to the science of learning, fills a former waterfront pier with hundreds of innovative exhibits and demonstrations. The cavernous museum is ideal for the curious of any age but especially for kids with lots of energy, who love to dash from one clever exhibit to the next as they learn about sound waves, play with prisms, figure out magic tricks, or learn how fog is formed.
History of The Exploratorium
The Exploratorium was founded in 1969 by physicist and educator Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, brother of the renowned physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Originally housed at the Palace of Fine Arts, the institution stated its mission clearly from the outset: to nurture learning through active exploration. Dr. Oppenheimer’s vision was realized as he combined the worlds of science, art, and human perception to offer an engaging, interactive experience.
In 2013, to accommodate its growing number of exhibits and visitors, the Exploratorium relocated to Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, offering an expansive new space with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay.
Things to Do at the Exploratorium
Regardless of how young or old you are, or whether you are drawn to the sciences or not, there is something that will fascinate you here. Visitors to the Exploratorium are presented with more than 600 interactive displays, spanning a vast array of topics, from physics to biology, environmental science, and human senses and perception. The exhibits are designed for tactile engagement, allowing guests to touch, manipulate, and engage directly with scientific principles. Installations change regularly, so there is always something cool and new to discover. (Insider tip: Sign up in advance to crawl and bump your way through total darkness in the Tactile Dome.)
The fun continues outside, too, with assorted free exhibits, like stationary bikes that help teach about energy and unusual climbing structures in fantastical shapes. And don’t miss the all-glass observation cube at the very tip of the pier; climb the stairs for remarkable views of sailboats, freighters, and ferries, as well as the nearby Bay Bridge and Treasure and Yerba Buena islands.
For those seeking a deeper understanding or a unique perspective, the museum hosts the "After Dark" program. Tailored for adults, these Thursday evenings delve into specialized themes via talks with guest speakers and special installations, all against the backdrop of the shimmering San Francisco Bay.
Entrance Fees, Hours, and Parking at the Exploratorium
The general admission fee for adults is $39.95; for children ages 4 to 17 it’s $29.95. Discounts are available for seniors, teachers, and San Francisco residents. To avoid wait times, consider purchasing tickets in advance, especially during peak seasons. The museum is typically open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours for the "After Dark" program.
Parking and Public Transport to the Exploratorium
While the Exploratorium does not have its own dedicated parking, there are several public parking facilities nearby, including lots and garages. Given its central location, the museum is also easily accessible via public transportation, including Muni, BART, and the ferry.