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The Exploratorium

Piers 15/17, San Francisco, California 94111-1456 | (415) 528-4444
51 Reviews
Type: Museums & Monuments
Ages: Ages 5 — 18
Cost: $$$
Hours of operation: Tu-Su 10am-5pm

The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception located in San Francisco, California. We believe that following your curiosity and asking questions can lead to amazing moments of discovery, learning, and awareness and can increase your confidence in your ability to understand how the world works. We also believe that being playful and having fun is an important part of the process for people of all ages.  

CityPass saves you 50% on admission to five famous SF attractions PLUS a 7-day Muni pass.  


51 Reviews for The Exploratorium

December 23 2010
4 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"I could spend hours and hours..."

I personally could spend hours and hours here.  In fact, so could my kids!  I've spent many an afternoon exploring the various exhibits here as a child and also as a parent with children.

MSM2858
MSM2858
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April 03 2014
1 family found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Can get very busy - Good for about an hour of preschool-fun"

My preschoolers and I have visited the Exploratorium three times in the past year using the discounted individual membership that I bought. (They have recently changed the admission prices for the younger ones; four and up must pay to visit the museum - it used to be five and up.)

My kids love to move quickly around the museum, try out things for about an hour, and then they tend to get overwhelmed. The exhibits are most accessible to kids who can read. My kids at ages 4 and 5 can enjoy about 1/3 of the exhibits that the museum has to offer - the rest require too much patience or concepts that are well beyond them.

It took us three visits to be able to enjoy everything that the Exploratorium has to offer for preschoolers. We would not have gotten our money's worth from a one-time visit. It's a fun place, the kids really enjoy it, but it is best for older kids.

August 06 2013
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Playing with Science"

Upon walking into the Exploratorium at Pier 15 in San Francisco, I felt overwhelmed. The sites and sounds and crowds and exhibits inundated me and I didn’t know where to begin. But, what I’ve learned to do in these types of situations is to just jump in. The Exploratorium is a magical fun house, a social learning tool, and a science discovery museum. The exhibits are both interactive and educational; a sort of learning tool without knowing it and a discovering of one’s self through the process of trying things out. For those easily over stimulated like myself, know that the building is split into different galleries—thinking with your hands and exploring your creativity, social behaviors, things big and small, wind, water, and tides, experimenting with vision and sound, and a Bay Observatory—pick one and dive in.

My children (ages 8 and 5), their grandma, and myself, started with behavioral science. Throughout this gallery, we were posed with questions such as “How can we communicate without facial expressions?” “What does freedom mean to a man of color?” “What social circles do we fit in?” These may seem like big questions to a five year old, but here they are broken down and easily approachable. The questions became good dialogue starters for me and my kids to talk about some hard things such as why some people are treated differently, why they don’t always feel like they “fit in,” and how we can be more sensitive to people who are different than us.

Switching gears, we moved on to exploring our creative side. This is where I overheard one dad say to his kids, “Move over, and let your mom and I try.” One can’t help but want to attempt each hands-on experience. My own mother and I raced against each other’s reaction times and the kids played with sand art. But, then I saw what I had been searching for. Twenty years ago I remembered my own childhood visit to the old Exploratorium when my mom could not get me out of the Shadow Box. And there it was as alluring as ever. Standing against the white walls, my kids and I counted down until the light went off and we took a step forward to look back at our shadows we created. Over and over again, we stayed in the shadow box, it never got old.

Knowing we had only managed to make it through half the building, we pulled ourselves out and began to experiment with sound and vision. We tried to figure out which speaker projected sound in one test and then entered a Willie Wonka-like room to challenge our depth perception in another. In a further gallery, we looked through microscopes and watched the progression of mold. The outdoor gallery had us listening to boats communicate without each other as they pass one another in the bay. In each gallery, there was a section for a speaker or instructor who brought things to life with information and demonstrations. Science danced around the room alive and was there for everyone’s taking. It was a theater of learning and we were all characters in its play.

We capped the day with some food at the sit down restaurant Seaglass, adjoining the Exploratorium. Another dining option is the Seismic Joint café for more of a grab and go experience. The food was tasty and there was a wide variety of items to choose from such as sushi or Mexican pork tacos.

One thing to know about the Exploratorium before you go is to buy your tickets online. When we arrived, there was a line out the door, and although it moved quickly, the online ticket queue had no one waiting. Also, parking is a little walk—about 10 to 15 minutes away at the Embarcadero Center—be sure to check the website to see which parking garages validate. The Exploratorium is closed on Mondays and children 5 and under are free. My son (the five-year-old) didn’t always understand everything, but the hands-on exhibits were right up his alley and kept his attention. My 8-year-old really got the most out of our visit. And lastly, this can be an all-day adventure. We could have even used two days. There is a lot to see and experience and if you rush through and don’t enjoy the process, you may miss out on what it’s really about.

Disclosure: I was an invited guest of the Exploratorium. All opinions are my own.

March 25 2014
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"WOW! Amazing Explorations and Discoveries Abound "

Those visiting the Exploratorium in its new location are in for an amazing, innovative and even deeper dive into science, ecology, and biology.  Now located at Pier 15, not only are the classic beloved exhibits from the old location, they are accompanied by 150 new ones including outdoor exhibits exploring the weather and environment, a Bay Observatory and a bigger bent toward DIY with the Tinkering Studio.    

DIY TINKERING
My kids, who are big fans of the local annual ultimate DIY festival called the Maker Faire, loved, loved, loved the TInkering Studio!  My oldest jumped right into working with circuits while my youngest experimented with gravity by floating small cups cut as flowers over air blown through a collection of straws.

They also enjoyed experimenting with sound and light---particularly loving the popular Shadowbox.  For those unfamiliar, this is a large room where visitors line up against a white wall and await a countdown culminating in a photograph of their shadows on that wall. It was fun to watch groups spell out, "YEAH!" or simply jump up in the air as the flash went off.  The Monochromatic Room is another trippy lighting experiment.  Imagine stepping from a world of color into a room of cooper brown hues. The transformation of the colorful shirt I had on  was ... Woah!

EXPLORING THE BAY
One of the main motives for the museum's location change was to take advantage of San Francisco's geographic location on the Bay and boy, do they ever!! The Bay Observatory and Outdoor Galleries are incredible places chalk full of hands on activities for exploring how wind, water, and tides affect San Francisco.  My daughter told me that some of the exhibits in this area even helped her make sense of waterway studies her class is conducting in school and that she left the Exploratorium with new found knowledge she planned to share in her classroom.

Other amazing sights and experiences to behold included:
- Walking through a  tree sectioned, divided, and laid out in the East Gallery. I'm pretty sure --- actually I know, that I have never seen the inner guts of a tree that way.  I can tell you with complete certainty that it is as beautiful as the outside!  
- A large 3D lens that makes viewers appear to be dangling upside like bats viewing themselves.  You will swear that you are looking at a touchable version of your twin, it is startling!

AMENITIES
- The new location is three times larger than the old Exploratorium.  
- Two restaurants --- the Seismic Joint Cafe and the Sea Glass.  
- Parking - there are two lots across the street as well as a garage just a couple blocks from the museum.
- Easy accessibility via public transit as well as bicycling and on foot.

FUTURE VISIT
Despite spending hours at the museum, we didn't get to see everything.  One gallery I look forward checking out further is the Human Phenomenon.  One exhibit in there examines mental health.  The mind is endlessly fascinating and I'm sure this is going to be intriguing look.

RECOMMENDATION
This venue is large and will take a while to explore. One thing my family is has found success with in visiting such places is to secure a membership then spend the extend of that membership exploring different portions of the museum on various visits.  I am aware that this is an idea that will best work for locals or frequent visitors to San Francisco.  I just don't think that you should expect to see the entire museum in one visit.  There's just so much to experience in the galleries here.

Disclosure:  Thank you to Family Fun Magazine for inviting my children and me along to the museum's friends and family event.  My reviews are always my own opinions and are not influenced by staff or its affiliates.

December 01 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Better for older kids (7+)"

This museum has a lot of interesting exhibits and I recommend it for kids who are into science. It is  great for a rainy day as everything is indoors and contained. It's not so good for young kids and in some ways there is too much there so it's hard to focus. Also you need to get there early otherwise parking is a nightmare!

January 20 2011
4 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Great Hands-On Fun for the Entire Family!"

This was my kind of place!  My kids LOVED touching everything!  They enjoyed making their own hurricanes and stepping on the rocks to see how loud they were.  They went in the sound room and made lots and lots of noise.  They took pictures of their shadows and ran around in the pitch black tactile dome (for an extra fee of about $20).  They LOVED making huge spirographs, which took a long time to wait in line for (again for a small fee of about $.25-$.75 depending on how many colors you wanted to use.)  The food in the cafeteria was expensive.  I didn't plan to spend $15 on lunch for myself, but on the plus side, it was all organic.  The kids loved the superstition exhibit and got to break glass and drink water from a toilet drinking fountain - I wouldn't touch that one!  It was very hands on and very hard to get them out at the end of the day.  Worth every penny!

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jesshorner
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January 17 2011
1 family found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Hands On Science Fun!!"

The Exploratorium can be very overwhelming and very crowded.  I recommend giving yourself a minimum of 4 hours to play around in this place, although it can also be an all day thing.  Tons of interavtive fun hands on activities for kids of all ages.  There are really great things for toddlers, but I think it is almost too much for them, especially when you are trying to get your money's worth.  I would say it is best for ages 5+.  I remember enjoying it myself for the first time as a teenager on an honor society fieldtrip.

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limebug22
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January 14 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Whoo! Go science!"

This is an amazing place to visit! It was a tad busy when my family and I visited, but there was always something to learn and something to do. It was a very fun experience and will definitely go back. We were there for about 4 hours, but didn't have enough time to see everything. HIGHLY recommended for toddlers through teens!

ashlic
ashlic
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January 13 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Teaching Kids to Love Science!"

If your kids already love science, The Exploratorium is a must, but even if they don't, they might after an afternoon in this museum!  The Exploratorium is almost entirely composed of hands-on/interactive exhibits.  The exhibits are located by category and include Astronomy, Culture, Earth, Everyday Science, Human Body, Listening, Living Things, Material World, Mind, and Seeing.  With all of that variety, there is something to interest everyone in your family.  This museum is even fun for the parents as they get to play and explore with their children.  My husband had at least as much fun as the kids.  :)  Our favorite exhibits were Mind and Human Body.  I would plan to spend about 4 hours at the museum.  Try not to get too absorbed with one exhibit or you might miss out on all of the others!

January 12 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"great place for your kids to learn sciences."

It's a great hands-on museum for kids to learn sciences. It's suitable for kids of all ages. You just need to take your kids there and let they play and learn. If you are nerdy, it's also good for you too. A lot of experiments to do and you will never be bored. But sometimes, the museum get over-crowded, so plan ahead to make it better.

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kayla
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January 11 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Very fun"

when i went here with my two kids and my sister and her two kids and some other of my family, we all enjoyed it. it was even fun for all for of the kids that came along because we wanted them to. younger kids might not enjoy it as much as older kids.

January 11 2011
1 family found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Amazing for older kids"

I've been to this museum both as a kid and now with my children.  
The exhibits are definitely older-kid friendly.  Follow the recommend age of 5+ or your little ones might be bored.  There are a few things toddlers/preschoolers can get involved in such as the massive bubbles and making their shadow stick to the wall, but overall, the majority of the hands on exhibits are made with reading children in mind, who are aware of science and it's general laws.  If you have a mix of ages, don't skip this to appease the younger ones if you can afford it.  This museum is part of the San Francisco City Pass (http://www.citypass.com/san-francisco) and this makes it a much more affordable option.

January 10 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Pretty cool museum"

Science. Is. Awesome.

I've been to a few science museums in my life, but this was the first time I'd been to the Exploratorium (after living here for six years, blasphemous, I know).   The Exploratorium was a bit different from what I was used to, with its open warehouse setup and smaller size.

Many of the exhibits seem on the older side, but still educational and serviceable.  They do have a notable piece of new technology, though - a high-speed camera.  You can set the delay speed after a drip of water and take a super high-res picture of the splash!  

January 10 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Crowded yet educational"

The exploritorium is one of the most broad hands on museums in the bay.  The Exploritorium offers deminstrations by staff everday, including a cows eye disection (eweew).  The green shadow box is a must for everyone.  Take a lunch too and enjoy it at the palace of fine arts.   It's often crowded so try and go early on weekdays.  

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Patlakpok
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January 10 2011
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Great fun for all ages"

My husband, 2.5 year-old and I made a trip to the Exploratorium a few months ago and were pleasantly surprised! We thought there wouldn't be much for our toddler to do, but she absolutely loved it! We had to pull her out kicking and screaming when it was time to go. The museum had a great variety of hands-on exhibits, and from what I understand, they are always changing them. Make sure to bring a picnic and enjoy lunch on the grass outside the Palace of Fine Arts too. This was well worth the price of admission!

December 23 2010
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Lots to do"

This place has so much to do you will be overwhelmed trying to take it all in.  It is more geared for older kids.  My 1.5 year old had fun but didnt really get what was going on with all the science set ups.  It is very educational and fun.  It is also near a beautiful beach and pond for people when they get claustrophobic:)

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LilyBella
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December 23 2010
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"My husband and I loved it"

As many of you understand, it does not make any sense to take a kid who is younger than 4-5 years old to this museum. Our daughter is only 2.5 years old and she may have found something she would like in the museum, but would not get even 10% of the benefits the museum has to offer.
On the other hand, my husband and I really enjoyed the museum with all of its cool things to explore.

December 23 2010
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"The Best with the kids"

Fun for everyone, and the kids will have such a blast, they won't even realize it is educational! This is a hands-on science adventure. Discover the workings of the human body, space, time, the earth, communication, the arts and much more. My family loves to come here whenever possible. They are always adding new exhibits, so it never gets boring.

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Myeerah
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December 23 2010
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"Kids Love it"

This place is huge, but there's not really a lot to see, though you could easily spend an afternoon playing with all the fun stuff they do have. There's lots of hands-on experiments and fun things to touch so kids really enjoy it. Certain times can be really busy though, either with tourists or school trips, so be patient.

December 23 2010
0 families found this helpful
Violetwhite_word
"The Exploratorium RULES!"

I can guarantee that your kids will LOVE this place.  My husband and I had a great time fiddling with the different exhibits also.  The only bad part is the food they offer.  The food is really not good at all and the bad part is that there isn't really anything nearby either.  So you are kind of stuck with their poor selection of choices for lunch.  My advice is to pack a lunch if you can.  

 
 

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