The San Francisco Exploratorium | San Francisco Travel
Buckyball shines outside the Exploratorium, with Coit Tower in the background

Everything You Need to Know About San Francisco's Exploratorium

Located at Pier 15, The Exploratorium is a must-see participatory science museum for all ages.

About the Exploratorium

Since its opening in 1969, the Exploratorium has become a beloved San Francisco institution, combining the studies of science, art and human perception into an educational space. The Exploratorium is not just a museum; it's a public learning laboratory, where adults and children alike can play and interact with the exhibits. Once described as "a mad scientist's penny arcade, a scientific funhouse, and an experimental laboratory all rolled into one," this learning playground is considered the model for participatory museums around the world.

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Exploratorium Exhibits

Since the Exploratorium's founding, there have been more than 1,000 different exhibits built within its walls, 600 of which are on display at any given time. In fact, 25% of these were specifically created for the Pier 15 location. These exhibits cover a large range of topics, including human perception and life sciences, physics, the local environment and human behavior. Visitors are encouraged to touch, interact, and play with the exhibits. 

  • Explore the Tactile Dome, a pitch black environment in which visitors find their way through touch.
  • Play with the creatures in the bay at the Glass Settling Plate, or see a live chicken embryo (one of their oldest exhibits).
  • Experiment with color at Mood Lighting, in which you sit under a glowing, rainbow dome. 
Woman interacting with exhibit at Exploratorium

Other Things to Do at the Exploratorium

Dine at the Seaglass Restaurant. This waterside eatery with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay has family-friendly menus that source from local, smaller producers in the bay.

Explore the outdoor spaces. The Exploratorium's campus includes 1.5 acres of publicly accessible space, including the plaza in front of the Embarcadero, the connector bridge between Piers 15 and 17, as well as aprons from both piers. This spaces merges with a public outdoor gallery that includes pieces like The Aeolian Harp and Bay Windows. There is also Fog Bridge #72494 which connects Piers 15 and 17, releasing a fog-like cloud for six minutes every half-hour. 




Exploratorium History

The Exploratorium was created by Frank Oppenheimer, brother of famed theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Frank transitioned into an academic career in the late 1940s. The field trips and various experiments that he did with his students became the prototypes for the exhibits at the Exploratorium. After touring Europe on a Guggenheim fellowship, and a considerable amount of research, Frank Oppenheimer opened the Exploratorium's doors at the Palace of Fine Arts in 1969. It later moved to its current location in 2013.

After Dark Thursdays

Visit the Exploratorium after hours, with no kids allowed. On Thursdays from 6 to 10 p.m., enjoy a full bar, live music, and special programming from creators and thinkers in the Bay Area community. 

Explore After Dark

Exploratorium lit up at night

Location & Hours

Pier 15
(Embarcadero at Green Street)
(415) 528- 4444
Mon. - Sun., 11 - 3 p.m; Thurs., 6 - 9:30 p.m

There are numerous parking garages and lots near Pier 15. The museum partners with SP+ to offer a discount using the code 4302100 at these lots: Exploratorium Pier 15 Parking Lot and Pier 19½ Parking Lot.

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Child sitting on Exploratorium sign
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