I received comped tickets to the Exploratorium for my honest review. Read full disclosure here.
Exploratorium in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco is touted as 'the museum of science, art and human perception.' Exploratorium was everything it claimed to be and more. It was my husband and my favorite museum we visited and one of our favorite things we did on our trip.
While the Exploratorium is engaging and educational for kids, it is not specifically a children's museum like some of the other museums we visited on our trip. We loved the Exploratorium just as much (if not more) than Teddy. To be completely honest there were sometimes when we got caught up in doing something or looking at something so cool we lost track of Teddy for a second. Luckily everything was kid-friendly so there wasn't too much trouble he could get into in that short amount of time.
Toddlers will appreciate this museum for the bright lights, mirrors, colors, sound/musical instruments, hands-on activities, buttons to press and levers to pull. Older children will appreciate the 'wow, that's so cool factor' of the exhibits and might begin to understand the science behind what they are experiencing. As adults, we loved all of those things too. Read about the science behind the exhibits helped us understand and appreciate the exhibits on a deeper level.
The Exploratorium is the ultimate STEAM museum. Science blends seamlessly with technology, engineering, art and math in approachable and engaging way. Many exhibits are even created by Artists-in-Residence and not scientists.
Teddy loved the chaotic pendulum and the whirlygigs in the Dolman Atrium near the entrance. When we noticed everyone still huddled in the atrium we made the decision to skip ahead to beat the crowds.
SEEING + LISTENING GALLERY
The Seeing and Listening Gallery was our favorite part of the Exploratorium. Skipping ahead to this area was a great decision, because we were the only ones in that exhibit so we had full reign of the exhibits without having to wait in any lines. There were so many little exhibits in this area so I am sure we missed a lot. We could have spent the entire day in just this gallery. The exhibits here let you experiment with light, vision, sound, and hearing.
There were lots of cool optical illusions that you have to see to appreciate, because photos don't do them justice. It was crazy to see how and why our eyes and ears can play tricks on us. Our favorites were the Giant Mirror, the mirror that made it look like you were flying, and the Colored Shadows.
HUMAN PHENOMENA GALLERY
There was more cool stuff in the Human Phenomena Gallery. We didn't get the chance to try to much of it but we liked the Water Droplet Photography, Motion Photography and the Shadow Box Exhibit. In the Shadow Box Exhibit you could jump up in the air and your image was captured on the photo sensitive wall behind you. You call also write on the wall using the flashlight on your phone.
In the Tinkering Studio, there was a giant tinkering clock, an area where kids could build collaborative creations with tubes and a peg board, a slinky on a treadmill, and other things to tinker with. Teddy liked the vibrating table where you could build a structure with wood blocks and see how it holds up when the table shakes.
You can get a little taste of Exploratorium before you even buy a ticket with a few small exhibits out front and along side of the museum. Once you have a ticket there are even more outdoor exhibits to enjoy. Outside you can experiment with bridge building, ride chain bikes, walk into a distorted room, and sit on a bench that plays music when you hold hands with the person sitting next to you. It's also a great place for a stroller nap...
WILD CARD SPECIAL EXHIBIT
Wild Card: Where Cardboard + Imagination Collide (June 17 - Sept 4) was a really cool special exhibit. It is an art installation created entirely out of cardboard. It was really impressive the amount of detail these artists were able to create with cardboard. There was a little cardboard cafe modeled after a 1950's diner. If your kids are like every kid I've ever met and love making houses out of cardboard boxes, this is some serious inspiration!
We only spent a little bit of time here since we were pushing nap time. This area had some great views of the bay from the windows.
There was a terrarium filled with mosquitos that you could put your hand in through a screened-in hole to see if the mosquitos liked your scent. I always knew I was a mosquito magnet and that proved it! My favorite part was the invisible stained glass window in the picture below.
COST OF VISITING EXPLORATORIUM
- $29.95 Adults
- $24.95 Seniors, People with Disabilities, Teens, Teachers + Students
- Children (4-12) $19.95
- FREE for Children under 4
TIPS FOR VISITING EXPLORATORIUM
- Walkable from many hotels, near a street car stop, discounted parking in nearby garages
- Check out some of the outside exhibits before you even buy your tickets
- Get there just before it opens and then skip ahead to the Seeing and Listening Gallery so you don't have to wait your turn!
The Exploratorium's website is filled with awesome STEAM activities for parents to try at home and resources and lessons for teachers. It's totally worth checking out!
SHOULD YOU VISIT EXPLORATORIUM WITH YOUR TODDLER?
Yes, definitely! Visit with or without kids, but you do NOT want to miss the Exploratorium. Not blowing smoke up your butt, it is the coolest science museum I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot!
Read more about VISITING SAN FRANCISCO WITH A TODDLER and check out some other attractions that are great for kids.