Exploratorium

Pier 15
San Francisco, CA 94111- Map It
Phone: (415) 528-4444
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AAA Editor Notes

Exploratorium is at Pier 15, at the foot of Green St. and The Embarcadero. The building has a contemporary industrial look, with six galleries displaying some 600 exhibits, most of them interactive. The Microscope Imaging Station in the East Gallery produces high-resolution images of minuscule organisms like plankton and blood cells. In the South Gallery visitors can design their own Marble Machine, a contraption created from materials available at any local hardware store that sends a marble rolling along a circuitous path. Visitors also can observe while museum staff create exhibits in the Exhibit Development Workshop. Check out a world without color in the Bechtel Central Gallery's Monochromatic Room. A sure-fire crowd pleaser is “Rolling Through the Bay,” a collection of city landmarks made entirely of toothpicks that took creator Scott Weaver nearly 40 years to complete. The Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery gives visitors a look at San Francisco Bay's geography and ecology. The Outdoor Gallery features a 27-foot-tall Aeolian harp “played” by the wind. Experience upside-down views of The Embarcadero courtesy of the Rickshaw Obscura, a variation of the classic Camera Obscura; this one is mounted on a three-wheeled bike that is mobile. Bring a jacket to enjoy the view of the Bay Bridge from the observatory's terrace or to stroll around the walkway outside the museum. The Tactile Dome (ages 7+) offers an interactive experience in total darkness; you feel your way through its chambers and mazes by crawling and sliding, relying only on your sense of touch and most likely gaining a renewed appreciation of your sense of sight when it's over. Guests who are afraid of the dark, claustrophobic or who have back, neck or knee injuries should not participate in a Tactile Dome session, and those wearing casts are prohibited. Comfortable clothes are recommended. Food is available.
$29.95; $24.95 (ages 13-17, ages 65+, college students with ID, teachers and persons with disabilities); $19.95 (ages 4-12). Free to all several days a year; check the website for specific dates. Admission Thurs. 6-10 p.m. (ages 18+ only) $15; $10 (Exploratorium members); free (Lab members). Separate Tactile Dome admission $15; $12 (Exploratorium members); advance reservations are strongly recommended. Thurs. night Tactile Dome drop-in session $10 (reservations not accepted). Phone ahead to confirm all prices.
Station: Embarcadero
Hours: Tues.-Sun. and some Mon. holidays 10-5 (also Thurs. 6-10 p.m. for ages 18+). Hours are extended on Mon. and Fri. evenings in summer; check the website for details. Tactile Dome sessions are at 10:15, 11:30, 12:45, 2:15, 3:30 and 4:45 on days the museum is open; each session lasts about an hour. The Tactile Dome also is available on a drop-in basis Thurs. 6-10 p.m. (ages 18+). Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Allow 2 hours minimum.