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April 19, 2018
The Exploratorium on Pier 15

Innovative and Interactive Exhibits at The Exploratorium

In 2013, the Exploratorium opened its doors on Pier 15 after receiving a $300 million makeover. Originally located in the Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium is now at the heart of the revitalized San Francisco waterfront and fits nicely as part of The Embarcadero’s transformation, seated between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf. With three times more space than its previous home, the Exploratorium engages the curiosity and creativity of visitors of any age as they explore more than 650 hands-on exhibits on view. Now firmly an iconic attraction in San Francisco, the Exploratorium expands into the bay, city, and outdoor landscape.

Warning: If you visit, you will want to spend countless hours playing with everything. Be prepared to be sucked in. Check out their calendar of events to help plan your next trip.

Here are some quick facts:

At a Glance

  • A 330,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor space at Pier 15 on the San Francisco waterfront, providing 3 times more overall space than the original Palace of Fine Arts location.
  • More than 650 indoor and outdoor exhibits created by staff scientists and artists.
  • 1.5 acres of free, outdoor space feature a public plaza, promenade, striking views, outdoor exhibits, a bayside restaurant, a plaza-side café, food carts and the Exploratorium Store with interactive exhibits.
  • Pier 17, part of the Pier 15/17 campus, provides back-of-house space with room for future expansion.

Opening Galleries

Bernard and Barbro Osher West Gallery – Human Phenomena

  • This gallery focuses on the art and science of human behavior.
  • This provocative space encourages people to play with perception; investigate memory, emotion, and judgment; and experiment with how we cooperate, compete, and share, as in the following exhibits:
  • Team Pac-Man: an exhibit that allows people to play the classic video game from the eighties with a twist—to work in a team to keep the Man alive.
  • Tactile Dome: an updated version of the classic exhibit where visitors spelunk through abundantly textured passages in total darkness using only their sense of touch.
  • Tornado: lets visitors dance and spin with a vibrant and ever-changing column of fog, promoting experimentation with air currents and social interaction and observation.

Bechtel Central Gallery – Seeing & Listening

  • A familiar part of the original Exploratorium, now expanded with many new exhibits, serves as a public laboratory for investigation into physics and human perception, including light and sound with exhibits such as:
  • Sound Bite: Discover how you don‘t need your ears to listen—use your jawbone instead when you listen like a snake.
  • right Black: Find out why we can‘t always believe what we see through an exhibit that will convince you that an object is white before you discover that it is almost black.

East Gallery – Living Systems

  • It‘s a working laboratory where visitors can experience the beauty and complexity of life through interactive investigations of living organisms, from an examination of life indigenous to the bay water, to mouse stem cell research, to movement of the tides. In this gallery visitors:
  • Get a close-up view of the living critters that live in the waters underneath the museum.
  • Control research grade scientific microscopes that have been hacked to give visitors control.
  • Understand the power of microscopic plankton, which produce almost half the oxygen we breathe, why their numbers rise and fall with the seasons, and why they dance their ballet towards blue light.

South Gallery – Tinkering

  • South Gallery is the public workshop area where visitors can engage in learning by making directly adjacent to where Exploratorium exhibits are built.
  • Founded by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich, The Tinkering Studio™ is where museum visitors can build, make, hack, create, invent and experiment.
  • Past activities have included: sewing electrical circuits, mechanical teddy bear toy dissection and turning 100 square feet of pegboard into the world's largest marble machine.

Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery – Observing Landscapes

  • An all-glass gallery (and terrace) that becomes a transparent lens to both the waterfront and the cityscape, providing visitors an opportunity to observe the science of the bay, the landscape and the human impact that has shaped the Bay Area.
  • Exhibits, instruments and artworks for observing give visitors a 360-degree view of the natural and built worlds.
  • Multi-layered exhibits focus on what visitors can see through the windows in real time –the movement of the sun, tides and currents, cargo ships, people and historical perspectives on the landscape. Exhibits include:
  • Oculus: a circular opening in the ceiling that turns the entire gallery into a timepiece. Markings show seasons and solstices, and track the sun's position across the sky.
  • Visualizing the Bay: a 3D topographic map of the Bay Area with a wide-range of data sets projected on its surface show the forces that shape our landscape—from earthquakes to fog banks, from income distribution to life expectancy.
  • Map Table: Historic and contemporary maps may be browsed and compared, including a unique series of atlases combining aspects of the physical, engineered, and imagined landscape.

North Gallery - Outdoor Exhibits

  • The Outdoor Gallery which includes ticketed space and 1.5 acres of free space beckons visitors to investigate exhibits about water, fog, wind, rain, daily cycles of the sun and more.
  • The Bay View Walk invites the public to stroll around the entire site. It includes two connecting bridges, the Outdoor Gallery, food carts, and a civic plaza, which will be the site of future outdoor events and cultural programming.


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