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San Francisco’s Exploratorium is more than a museum—it’s one giant laboratory. Perched on the downtown waterfront at Pier 15, the Exploratorium brings together science, art, and human perception through interactive, science-based experiences. The Exploratorium is wholly hands-on, with nearly every surface designed to be touched, played on, and engaged with.
The Exploratorium, comprising six main galleries on a single floor facing the San Francisco Bay, houses a series of interactive exhibits and touch-me activities that invite—as the name suggests—exploration. From the Tactile Dome to the Tinkering Studio, the Exploratorium invites visitors of all ages to engage with the exhibits to explore the natural world and every individual’s perception of it. Featured themes include the living world, human emotions, and the senses of sight and hearing.
You can buy tickets at the Exploratorium or save time with advance-purchase skip-the-line tickets for the specific date of your visit. The museum is a stop on the hop-on hop-off bus, and entry is included with the San Francisco Go Card, Explorer Pass, and CityPass.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Exploratorium is a must for families with children. Young kids and adults who are young at heart will delight in the freedom to play.
- Some exhibits, including the popular San Francisco fog and wind and tide exhibits, are outside. Wear layered clothing and shoes that can get wet.
- While the Exploratorium is oriented toward science and exploration for children, the Thursday evening events such as the Tactile Dome and After Dark attract an adult crowd.
- First-time visitors are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do. Plan an early arrival to experience as much as possible.
- The on-site restaurant, Seaglass, is very popular. Dine after 1pm to avoid the longest lines.
- The Exploratorium is fully accessible to wheelchairs and strollers; loaner wheelchairs are available for free at the information desk.
How to Get There
The Exploratorium is served by MUNI’s E and F streetcars. Bus lines 10 and 12 stop a few blocks over, and the Embarcadero BART station is about a 15-minute walk away. If you must drive, there is a paid parking lot at Embarcadero and Green Street, and limited street parking along the Embarcadero before 3pm.
When to Get There
The Exploratorium is open daily from 10am to 5pm; in summer (generally July through August) it’s open 6pm to 10pm Thursday for those 18 and older, and 5pm to 9pm Friday for all ages. It’s an incredibly popular place, and on weekdays it’s often bustling with school and camp groups; late afternoons tend to be quieter.
From the Palace of Fine Arts to Pier 15
The brain child of Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium originally opened in 1969 at the Palace of Fine Arts, the former site of California’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. Oppenheimer’s passion for teaching with hands-on activities and experiences helped transform science education. Working closely with artists, educators, and developers, this first-of-its-kind science museum invited visitors to use more than their eyes to learn. The Exploratorium moved to its new location on the Embarcadero’s Pier 15 in 2013.
Address: Pier 15, San Francisco, California 94111, USA
5 Tours and Activities to Experience Exploratorium
Save time and money with the San Francisco CityPASS, which gives you admission to top area attractions, a cruise on San Francisco Bay, and discounts for shopping and activities. You can choose to visit science and art museums like the Exploratorium or the Walt Disney Family Museum. You’ll have important details like hours of operation right in your pocket with the provided mobile ticket.
With the San Francisco Explorer Pass you’ll save money on four San Francisco attractions within a 60-day period. Select four activities among a list of 20 sightseeing cruises, tours, museum admissions, and transportation in and around the city. Take advantage of discount offers at retailers and restaurants, and use your complimentary guidebook to help you independently explore the Bay Area at your own pace. No voucher redemption is required; simply save on your mobile phone and enjoy direct entry to attractions. Please note: Enjoy the extra flexibility in case your travel plans need to change: All passes are valid for two year from purchase date and only become activated with your first attraction visit. After activation your pass will be valid for 60 days and/or the remaining number of attraction choices purchased.
Tour San Francisco with the Go San Francisco Pass on your mobile device. See all the sites or just a few; it's your choice using this customizable touring option. Enjoy free admission at more than 30 popular San Francisco attractions as well as discounts on dining and shopping. Choose from 1-,2-, 3- or 5-day options to help you save as much money as possible on your vacation. Please note: Enjoy the extra flexibility in case your travel plans need to change: All passes are valid for two year from purchase date and only become activated with your first attraction visit. After activation your pass will be valid for 30 days and/or the remaining number of attraction choices purchased.
Explore the streets of San Francisco on two wheels. This easy guided bike tour takes you to many of the city’s most notable neighborhoods and attractions. Pedal past the Transamerica Pyramid and through bustling North Beach; peruse the Mission and Castro districts and the Haight-Asbury, home of 1960s hippie counterculture; and visit popular sites such as Fisherman’s Wharf and AT&T Park. Your guide will provide information and history on local landmarks en route, and there’s also a stop for lunch (added cost). At the end of the tour there’s even time to do your own exploring.
Taking safety measures
Hand sanitizer available to travelers and staff
Social distancing enforced throughout experience
Regularly sanitized high-traffic areas
CURRENTLY NOT OFFERED UNTIL MARCH 2021!!! Choose 3, 4 or 5 tours, attractions or museums from the list provided of the most popular things to do in San Francisco Up to 50% savings compared to separate purchases See San Francisco at your own leisure
Taking safety measures
Face masks required for travelers in public areas
Face masks required for guides in public areas
Social distancing enforced throughout experience
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience Exploratorium?
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