Exploratorium

Pier 15
San Francisco, CA 94111- Map It
(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 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 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 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. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.
$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. Phone ahead to confirm all prices.
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.