Photo by: Amy Snyder, CC

Human perception, science, and art all come together via displays at The Exploratorium, one of the most popular of all the museums in San Francisco. The goal of the museum is to change the way the world learns. In many ways, the museum may have achieved that goal. It continues to successfully promote this goal with each and every new exhibit it presents.


The Exploratorium is considered one of the most important science museums in the world. The legendary physicist Frank Oppenheimer founded the museum in 1969. The original location of the museum was at the Palace of Fine Arts and it remained there until early January, 2013. In April, 2013, the museum moved to a new location in the Embarcadero on Piers 15 and 17.

What Sets the Museum Apart

The appealing nature of this museum would be its focus on self-teaching and exploration. There are quite a number of interactive exhibits and they all contribute in some way to enhancing the ability to learn about the sciences. The museum offers a major departure from the more commonly stoic nature most museums present. The number of participatory exhibits at the museum is in the range of 1,000 so visitors certainly will not become bored on their treks.

The origins of this novel approach to running a museum date back to when Oppenheimer was a high school teacher in Colorado. Oppenheimer had previously worked on the Manhattan Project, but was blacklisted from his profession due to testimony before Congress at the HUAC hearings. Through working with young adults, he gained insights into how to offer a hands-on approach to learning.

In 1959, he received a grant from the National Science Foundation and this allowed him to invest his time exploring more inquisitive science endeavors. The seed for the museum seems to have been planted at this time. In 1967, he moved to San Francisco to work on establishing a new science exhibit at the Palace of Fine Arts. The San Francisco Foundation offered him $50,000 to cover the costs of the project. This new project would evolve into the Exploratorium museum and it opened its doors two years later.

Organization of the Museum

For those visiting the museum, the ability to navigate its various exhibits has been made easy thanks to the simple way they are organized. Light and sound, living systems, electrical tinkering, and human behavior are among the ways the numerous galleries have been categorized. One of the most interesting exhibits in the new location is the Bay Observatory Gallery, as it centers on the uniqueness of the local weather and environment.

What Visitors Can Expect to See

There are scores of unique and original exhibits anyone traveling to the museum can enjoy. Skateboard science, a biological examination of how a cow’s eye works, the early history of Polynesian navigation, and a look at the Mars rover are just a few of the brilliant exhibits that can be seen by visitors.

Various different events are held at the museum all throughout the year. One event looks at the origins of San Francisco fog. There are even events that are based on cinematic endeavors and these events also include screenings.

Checking the calendar regularly reveals all the various events as they are updated. A trip to see a specific event can be planned after reviewing the calendar.

Visiting the Museum

There are many different ways to visit the museum. The most basic way would be to purchase a ticket for general admission. School trips are also possible and so are group tours.

The basic ticket prices are as follows: adults 18 to 64 are charged a $25 admission. Youth, seniors, teachers, students, and those with disabilities are charged $19. Members and California public school teachers can be admitted for free.

Location and Hours of Operation

Those wishing to visit The Exploratorium will find it at Pier 15 in San Francisco, CA. The phone number to the front service desk is (415) 528-4360. The venue is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. On Thursday, the museum is also open from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. for patrons over the age of 18. The museum is closed on Mondays with the exception of certain holidays.

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