Come and visit the Exploratorium! This popular San Francisco attraction has a new home at Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, walking distance from Fisherman's Wharf.
It's much larger and grander than the old Exploratorium, and the equipment is more professional-looking, but it's still a fun place to play while learning.
There are hundred of displays and gadgets to investigate, each one illustrating a different scientific principle.
This is truly a hands-on experience; visitors are encouraged to dive in, and pull, push, twirl and move stuff around to see what happens, and then to figure out why it happened. Adults seem to enjoy the museum as much as children!
The Distorted Room (strange and shifting perspectives, a bit like the Mystery Spot illusions).
Infrared Imaging: wonderfully weird images of hot and cold areas.
The Mosquito Magnet. Are you the one the mosquitoes go after? You know who you are! Stick your hand in and find out.
Games of cooperation vs. competition. Will you get a drink of water or a squirt in the face? Play variations of the Prisoner's Dilemma with your friends and family.
I haven't made it inside this yet. When it's busy, which it usually is, reservations are required, and it's an extra $15 fee, for the privilege of crawling and sliding through a series of rooms and mazes in the complete absence of light.
The dome was designed and built by August Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola's brother.
The Exploratorium was created by Frank Oppenheimer, brother of Robert Oppenheimer, both of whom were physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project in the 1940's.
The Exploratorium opened in 1969, providing a hands-on science experience designed to encourage curiosity about the physical world. It had a home in the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District for many years, and moved to its present location at Pier 15 in 2014.
Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Thursday evenings, 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. Ages 18 and over only.Closed Mondays
Seniors and 13-17 year olds: $24.95
Kids (4-12): $19.95
After Dark Thursdays (18+): $15
Tactile Dome: $15
Discount for locals. (Bay Area counties) Adults $24.95, seniors and teens $19.95, kids $17.95. At the door only.
Tip: If you buy tickets online from the Exploratorium, you can go right in without standing in the ticket-purchase line (either print them out, or use the PDF on your mobile phone). Plus, you're guaranteed admission that day if they fill up. To get tickets on their website, go here.
The new location for the Exploratorium is Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, along the SF waterfront.
Public Transportation: the F-Line street car runs along the Embarcadero, Green Street stop.
If you are coming in on BART, get off at Embarcadero Station and come up to Market Street to catch the F-line streetcar.
There is a parking lot directly across the street from the Exploratorium. Pricey, but convenient. They charged me $10 for the Thursday Night Exploratorium visit, but it's not on the sign.
Parking discounts: The Exploratorium also validates parking at two nearby garages (10 to 15 minute walk): Levi's Plaza Garage, 101 Lombard St., $10 for four hours, and the garages under all four Embarcadero Centers (1-4), $10 flat fee.
If you're driving to the Exploratorium with kids in the car and looking for convenience, you may want to give Parking Panda a shot. This app lets you check for parking spaces near the museum and reserve guaranteed parking ahead of time.
Exploratorium at Pier 15, plus various parking options marked.
It's back, but only through June 30, 2017.
(But it might become permanent.)