“If you’re going to San Francisco” … as the old song goes – you must visit the Exploratorium! I know it’s not in the song, but it should be 🙂 The Exploratorium is a fest of science and technology fun for children and adults alike. In February this year we visited San Francisco for the second time, and we loved it. One of the highlights of the trip was the Exploratorium. So, I hear you say, what is it and why should we go? Well, it’s a museum – the best darned science museum in the whole wide world! If you like the Science Museum in London, well think of that times five and you have some idea about the Exploratorium.
The Exploratorium is located on Piers 15 and 17 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero.
The Exploratorium is not just a museum in San Francisco, but is a living learning experience that allows visitors to explore their surroundings through science, art, and human insight. The museum is a very open entity that is tasked to create inquiry-based experiences to transform learning by taking you there. Some of the experiments and the displays you will see nowhere else on the planet and these are the kind of things that can bring science alive for children.
On our mid-week visit, there were a lot of very enthusiastic high-school children on school trips; their enthusiasm was a joy to see and Millie and Toby joined in with lots of them.
So, What is There?
The museum was founded in 1969 by renown physicist Frank Oppenheimer (younger brother of Robert Oppenheimer of atomic bomb fame). The museum is divided into galleries. These include:
- The physics of seeing and listening (Light and Sound)
- Human Behaviour
- Living Systems
- Tinkering (including electricity and magnetism)
- the Outdoor Gallery, and
- the Bay Observatory Gallery, which focuses on local environment, weather, and landscape.
There are over 600 interactive exhibits on display at any one time, and these are changed often for special events and for changing seasons. The exhibit-building workshop space is contained in the centre of the museum and is open to view (the museum is very open plan). In addition to public exhibition space, the Exploratorium is also engaged in the development of science education, webcasts, websites and special science events.
For the Kids
The Exploratorium offers visitors a variety of ways to interact with it. There is a shop – but keep them away from that till the end. They can explore and discover the area via a huge tidal clock. Children can perform psych experiments on each other or on mum and dad. They can make art and do crafts, set up magnetism and electrical experiments, build bridges, see the world in many strange ways – even under a microscope.
There is a whole load to do. My advice is to try to spend a whole day there; at least a good half-day anyway. We filled up at Boudin Bakery in Fisherman’s Wharf, before walking to the Embarkadero. Be prepared for a science overload though!
There is a huge amount to see. Maybe (probably) too much to see and do in one day. But that is the whole point, to get you to go back 🙂 Work your way around the museum methodically as you don’t want to miss anything.
There are some good cafés, so you can have a break/leg rest and then start again. If the weather is nice, I thoroughly recommend sitting outside at the end of the pier and watching all the boats go by.
The Exploratorium is a popular attraction; it will be crowded. Just go with this and flow around. It’s a very worthwhile, educational day out. For more information, view their website here.