Daycation to the Exploratorium

Expand your mind at this public learning laboratory on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Photo via

SAN FRANCISCO – Have you ever wanted to freeze time, drink from a toilet, count the rings on a 300-year-old tree or touch a giant pinscreen? You can do all of these at the Exploratorium, an interactive museum for all ages in San Francisco.

The Exploratorium is located on the Embarcadero at Pier 15. It calls itself a “public learning laboratory” and it is just that. You will use all five senses as you explore the world of science, art and human perception.

The fun starts almost as soon as you enter. Brave visitors can drink from the toilet water fountain. If you do, be sure to take a picture! The front exhibits are especially popular and, therefore, often crowded. A little insider’s tip, go to the back of the museum first and work your way forward.

When you go, give yourself plenty of time to explore and play. Almost all of the exhibits are hands-on and you’ll want to give everything a try. The museum has two levels and six different galleries: Human Phenomena, Tinkering, Seeing and Listening, Living Systems, Observing Landscapes and Outdoor Exhibits. All of the galleries offer different experiences and are worth a visit. A personal favorite is the soap film exhibit where you can create giant bubbles the size of a wall. For amazing views of the Bay, head to the Observing Landscapes gallery.

Even if you’ve been to the Exploratorium before, the exhibits change regularly so there is always something new to look at, touch or smell! The cow eyeball dissection is particularly memorable (for children and adults alike).

Jessica Graham/Your Town Monthly

Don’t skip the outdoor exhibits just because they’re outside. These are some of the most overlooked activities – and the most fun. Plan your outdoor time to coincide with the misting of the fog bridge. It goes off daily at 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm and Thursday evenings at 7pm.

Because you’ll want to spend the whole day exploring, you need to know about the food. The Exploratorium has a sit-down restaurant, Sea Glass, as well as a take-out café, The Seismic Joint Café. Tables are also located in the outdoor gallery.

If you plan on coming by car, know that metered street parking is limited. Check out the museum’s website for additional parking tips and discounts. Public transit information is also available on the website.

The Exploratorium offers five free days a year. These days often draw large crowds and very long lines, so plan accordingly. To learn more about free or discounted tickets (such as the Discover & Go Library Program), visit the website.

If you go: The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm, Thursday evening (18+): 6pm–10pm. It’s only open on select Monday holidays. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum. Admission is: $29.95 for adults; $24.95 for seniors and ages 13-17; $19.95 for ages 4-12. Children 3 and under are free. Tickets to the Tactile Dome are sold separately. For more information, and to purchase tickets visit

Your Town Daycations is a series featured in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the March 2017 issues.