The Exploratorium
in San Francisco

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.

The Exploratorium At Night

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.

The New Exploratorium

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!

Some of My Favorites...

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.

The Tactile Dome

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 Tactile Dome

The dome was designed and built by August Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola's brother.

Insider Tips:

  • Avoid weekends and school holidays, if possible. This is very popular and can get crowded and hectic.
  • If there are no kids in your group, go on adults only night (18+), every Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. You get to play, instead of watching others! A lot quieter, too.
  • Save money with discount cards like the San Francisco City Pass, or the Go San Francisco Card, if you'll be seeing other attractions as well.

History of the Exploratorium

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.

sf piers 11 to 19, 1934
SF Pier 15 (3rd from left) in 1934 (image courtesy of the San Francisco History Center,
San Francisco Public Library)


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


Adults: $29.95
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.

Getting to the Exploratorium

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.

Parking Suggestions

There is a parking lot directly across the street from the Exploratorium. Pricy, but convenient. They charged me $10 for the Thursday Night Exploratorium visit, but it's not on the sign.

exploratoium paking lot

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.

Map of the Area

Exploratorium at Pier 15, plus various parking options marked.

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