Adventure Into The World Of Science At The Exploratorium
Imagine a place where art and science collide; where understanding the world around you doesn’t require a degree in physics, but rather just a keen sense of curiosity for tackling the unknown. Welcome to the Exploratorium in San Francisco: a museum that continually pushes the limits of real life and cyberspace, and balances the fine line between esoteric and educational.
The brainchild of Frank Oppenheimer, a sometime cattle rancher, experimental physicist, university professor and high school teacher, the Exploratorium broke the traditional science museum mold by making science visible, touchable, and, most importantly, accessible to everyone. He believed that every person had the capacity to gain an understanding of the world around them—as long as they were able to learn about it in their own way.
Exhibits at the San Francisco Exploratorium
Oppenheimer’s vision of combining art and science manifests in interactive exhibits found both indoors and out—culminating in over 650 in total—all spanning a vast variety of topics. Not all exhibits are on display at one time; check the official website to find out what’s available when you’re looking to visit.
What strikes your fancy? With 13 subjects ranging from perception to chemistry, the Exploratorium is sure to keep you fascinated for hours. Engineering comes alive with real-world problems and solutions; optical illusion and neuroscience exhibits make you question your own perception of the world; the ecology exhibits “pull back the curtain” to reveal tiny, omnipresent ecosystems that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
The Exploratorium is divided into several galleries and spaces, both indoors and out. Here are a few of the must-see exhibits:
- Osher Gallery 1: Human Phenomenon is where the visitors become the exhibits as they interact with others and explore the hands-on activities. Try the popular "Survival Game," which is based on the real lives of Maasai cow herders in Africa and puts you and other players at the mercy of each other’s generosity.
- The Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery 6: Observing Landscapes delivers diverse perspectives of the Bay Area, combining its history, ecology, and geography for an immersive and educational experience.
- Gallery 2: Tinkering encourages you to think with your hands and feet as you harness the laws of physics to produce meaningful outputs.
- Gallery 4: Living Systems is a delight if you’re a fan of learning about life in all shapes and sizes. No life form is too small to be observed in this fascinating compilation of the Earth’s biology.
- Crossroads: Getting Started plays with your sense of perception in a series of easy-to-engage exhibits including "All Eyes on Me," which uses a parabolic mirror to display dozens of reflections of one of your eyes when you sit in just the right place. In "Mood Lighting," you can see if your emotions shift along with the different colors you’re exposed to.
- Bechtel Gallery 3: Seeing and Listening explores the methods our body uses to interpret sound and light waves. Don’t miss "Listening Vessels," a giant parabolic "ear" that gives you superhuman hearing!
- The Embarcadero and the Koret Foundation Bay Walk are the free outdoor spaces at the Exploratorium open to the public. The Koret Foundation Bay Walk offers intriguing exhibits that showcase natural Bay elements; among other sensations, the Embarcadero has the ever-popular Fog Bridge #72494, which envelopes visitors in a gauzy mist that emulates San Francisco’s famous weather patterns.
How to Visit the Exploratorium Like a Pro
Check the official website for hours and also to check for events that may impact hours of operation.
Exploratorium in San Francisco Tickets
You can buy tickets for Exploratorium via the official website, or in person at the Exploratorium itself. Note that tickets have a defined date, so make sure you plan ahead or you may find yourself facing a sold-out day.
For Exploratorium discounts, you can either wait until one of the community days (during which visitors can pay what they wish), or you can pick up a San Francisco CityPASS, which will save you on top Bay Area tourist attractions. Along with the Exploratorium, you’ll get discounted admission to other top spots like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Aquarium of the Bay, and more. A CityPASS is perfect for San Fran residents or those who want to explore all that this historic and cultural city has to offer.
Exploratorium parking can be dicey on weekends and popular days, but there are plenty of options for those who choose to drive, including Pier 15 and 19 1/2 parking lots. Metered parking is available on Embarcadero as well. Bikers are welcome; the Exploratorium has plenty of bike rack space for visitors.
How Long Does it Take to Go Through the Exploratorium
The exact time it takes to see the Exploratorium depends on how many exhibits you want to see. You should definitely plan for more than two hours to get the most out of your visit, and if you have the time, hang out at the museum for a half day to experience all that it has to offer.
The Exploratorium was built to help people acquire an understanding of the world around them without becoming intimidated. Today, Frank Oppenheimer’s museum has expanded far beyond what he had ever dreamed. Join the thousands of others who have experienced the marvel of the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a place where science is immersive and fun.
To get the most out of your stay in San Francisco, we recommend finding lodging near San Francisco's top attractions like the Exploratorium. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:
Visit the Exploratorium San Francisco for Less With CityPASS
You don’t have to pay full price to visit the Exploratorium. With San Francisco CityPASS, you can save on must-visit Bay Area attractions including the California Academy of Sciences, the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, the Aquarium of the Bay, and more. With deep discounts on the most popular San Francisco attractions, you can enjoy an activity-filled trip for less!