search Buscar

    Exploratorium: the science museum where it is forbidden not to touch

    Who I am
    Martí Micolau

    Item Feedback:

    content warning

    Science is literally at your fingertips at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco. Opened in 1969, it is one of the main and most visited museums in the city and thanks to its interactive , the main feature of the museum, you can carry out experiments and tests yourself in the many workstations designed precisely to "understand the world through science, art and human perception".


    • Oppenheimer and the history of the museum
    • Where is it and how to get there
    • Useful information: timetables, prices, discounts
    • What can be seen and done in the museum
    • Tips for visiting with children and teenagers
    • Accomodation

    Oppenheimer and the history of the museum

    The museum was born from an idea of ​​Frank Oppenheimer, an experimental physicist and university professor who worked on Manhattan project with his older brother Julius Robert Oppenheimer. In 1949 he was forced to leave his professorship at the University of Minnesota due to problems with the Committee on Un-American Activities. He began teaching at a high school in Colorado and from that moment, thanks also to significant funding, he began to devise practical models to increase the curiosity of his students during the experiments.

    This 'library of experiments' will be the centerpiece of the Exploratorium collection that he himself conceived and opened in 1969 after visiting some of the main European museums with a Guggenheim scholarship. Oppenheimer wanted a museum that was not static and simply visual, but a place where science was within the reach of anyone who wanted to experiment. The motto in front of the main entrance of the museum reads: “Here the Exploratorium is created, a museum for the community dedicated to awareness”.

    The Exploratorium was housed at the Palace of Fine Arts from 1969 to 2013, when it was moved to the Piers 15/17 at the San Francisco Embarcadero where it is located today.

    Where is it and how to get there

    To reach the Exploratorium al Pier 15 you will have a few options. The most convenient, given the proximity of the stop to the attraction, is to use the light rail service streetcar area of MUNI, in this case the lines F ed E getting off at stop The Embarcadero & Green St.

    As for the subway service of the BART (very convenient if you come from outlying areas of San Francisco) the closest stop is the one called Pier (served by all lines) which, however, is about 15 minutes on foot.

    If, for some particular reason, you have decided to use your car to visit the Exploratorium, the two closest (obviously paid) car parks are:

    • Pier 19 ½ Parking Lot
    • Exploratorium Pier 15 Parking Lot

    In particular, if you decide to use these two to visit the museum, you can use a special discount code. For details, I refer you to the dedicated page of the official website.

    Useful information: timetables, prices, discounts

    The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 17:00. On Thursday evenings for adults there is an evening opening from 18:00 to 22:00, while the Sunday it is open from noon to 17pm.

    The closing days are Mondays and Tuesdays.

    Il Admission it costs $ 29.95 for adults, $ 24.95 for children between 13 and 17, university students, teachers, people with disabilities and the over 65s, $ 19.95 for children between 4 and 12. Children under 3 do not pay. On Thursday evenings from 18:00 to 22:00 admission is reduced: the ticket costs 19.95 dollars.

    Info on tickets

    To enter inside the Tactile Dome you will have to pay an additional cost of $ 15 on the entrance ticket. Admission is only allowed from 7 years of age and reservations are required.

    The Exploratorium is one of the attractions included in the San Francisco CityPASS and the All Inclusive and Explorer versions of the Go San Francisco Card. Community Days where the entrance to the museum is pay-as-you-wish, i.e. you can make a free donation at the entrance. You can see this year's Community Days calendar on this page.

    What can be seen and done in the museum

    In the Exploratorium museum there are more than 650 experimental exhibits: you can enter a tornado, find yourself upside down in a curved mirror, dance on a bridge shrouded in fog, build a solar system, visit the Tactile Dome in total darkness where the the only sense you can use is touch… these are just some of the many activities offered by the museum.

    Inside the Exploratorium there are 6 main areas:

    • la before gallery, Osher Gallery, is dedicated to phenomena related to the human body, social behavior and emotions. Here is the Tactile Dome
    • la second gallery, Tinkering, is reserved for experimenting with their own hands and using creativity
    • la third gallery, Bechtel Gallery Seeing & Listening, is for experiments with light, sight, sound and hearing
    • la fourth gallery, Living Systems, explores the DNA and cells of living organisms and ecosystems
    • la farm gallery, Outdoor Exhibits, is located outside to learn more about winds, tides and natural phenomena
    • la sixth gallery, Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery and Terrace - Observing Landscapes, is located upstairs and reveals to the visitor the historical, geographical and ecological aspects of the San Francisco Bay as well as offering him an excellent view of the surrounding landscapes.

    Also in the museum there is a restaurant, the Seaglass Restaurant, and a bar, the Seismic Joint Café, accessible even if you don't have an entrance ticket.

    Tips for visiting with children and teenagers

    This museum is truly kids-friendly: there are no 'Do Not Touch' signs and the staff will never ask you and your child to shut up or lower their voices. Also, if you need a quiet moment you can go to theObservatory Gallery, where you can enjoy a splendid view, sit on the rocking chairs in Gallery 4 or go out for a walk and admire the bay and then come back later.

    For younger children, here are some activities I recommend:

    • playing with the shadows and discovering that the shadow is not always black, rather it can be colored and in the Shadow Box you can immortalize your shadow in that moment forever;
    • enter a childproof tornado;
    • make giant bubbles and play with their colors in Soap Film Panting;
    • move the magnetic sand and create extraordinary shapes thanks to two magnetic poles;
    • levitating a balloon by defeating the force of gravity.

    Even teenagers will be intrigued by the many scientific phenomena present in the museum. Among the most popular activities for children are:

    • the ability to measure how hot your body is with an infrared camera;
    • create optical illusions thanks to a special mirror whereby your friends will see you flying, swimming in the air, climbing the wall like a gecko;
    • listen with your bones to the sound your body makes as it bites into a straw;
    • take a journey in absolute darkness by letting yourself be guided only by your body and your hands inside the Tactile Dome;
    • have the courage to drink from a tap placed on a toilet: the toilet is obviously clean, but not everyone has the courage to do so. Among the most popular photos taken by teenagers in the museum is this attraction!


    The closest sleeping areas to the Exploratorium are Fisherman's Wharf and Ferry Building. If you still want to have an overview of the best neighborhoods to stay in the city, you can read our dedicated in-depth analysis by clicking on the link below.

    Where to sleep in San Francisco

    add a comment from Exploratorium: the science museum where it is forbidden not to touch
    Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.