The Exploratorium, California's Science City

The Exploratorium is to San Francisco what the Cité des Sciences is to Paris: a place where learning is fun. Created by Frank Oppenheimer with the aim of making science accessible to all and integrating technology with human values, it is now one of the city's most visited museums.

Exterior view of the Exploratorium, San Francisco, California

- © Worayoot Pechsuwanrungsee / Shutterstock
San Francisco

✈️ Flights to San Francisco

San Francisco is easy to reach from the UK. 11h30 flight on average from London.

Its history

Frank Oppenheimer is a physicist and founder of the Exploratorium. He is the brother of the famous Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, in which Frank participated. After the McCarthy era, Frank gave up secret scientific projects to become a university professor. The Exploratorium is his legacy and his aim is to make science accessible. For him, science is a game and the Exploratorium was built on this idea, with fun experiments.

German stamp featuring Frank Oppenheimer

- © Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock

The Exploratorium was located in the Palace of Fine Arts complex in Presidio Park before being moved to Piers 15 and 17, and in 2013 it moved to a space designed specifically to run on solar energy. In fact, thanks to the photovoltaic panels and the architecture of the space, the museum is able to produce more energy than it consumes.

Palace of Fine Arts, parc du Presidio, San Francisco

- © Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

What to do at the Exploratorium?

The Exploratorium has almost 600 attractions and experiences to offer, divided into several sections. Once you've started your visit, time flies and it's easy to spend a whole day there, although a morning is usually enough. You can find out how a car works, learn about insect life, how sound travels and get explanations of certain weather phenomena. All the experiments are engaging and include buttons, cranks, dials and puzzles, all designed to make learning fun.

One of the Exploratorium's rooms with various experiments, San Francisco

- © Iv-olga / Shutterstock

Several galleries and exhibitions

The museum is divided into 6 galleries, each focusing on a scientific theme. The Tinkering Gallery is a paradise for inventors and those who like to build. You can admire a model of San Francisco made from 100,000 toothpicks and build your own mobile constructions. The Bechtel Gallery offers experiments in light and reflections in the form of workshops for all ages.

The Living Systems Gallery takes you back to the school curriculum with exhibitions on the human body, cells, tides and botany. The outdoor exhibition gallery focuses on the city itself. For example, studying earthquakes or the winds that are so common in the bay. The Fisher Bay Observatory gallery is a new addition, focusing on urban and rural landscapes, with experiments on geology, space and the solar system.

“Buckyball”, Exploratorium, San Francisco

- © Mathieu LE MAUFF / Shutterstock

Practical info

📍 Location: Pier 15 Embarcadero at, Green St, San Francisco, CA 94111

⏰ O pening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm and Thursday afternoons from 6pm to 10pm (over 18s).

👛 Price:

  • full: 29.95
  • reduced (over 65s, students and children aged 13 to 17): $24. 95 and $19.95 for children aged 4 to 12
  • free: City Pass, Go San Francisco Card or San Francisco Explorer Pass

♿ The museum is accessible to PRMs. The museum has several wheelchairs, tactile maps for blind and visually impaired visitors and ASL interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing.

🔬 Exploratorium / San Francisco San Francisco

🔬 Exploratorium / San Francisco

Come and learn science the easy way with over 600 attractions and experiments for young and old alike.
£37 / person
by Faustine PEREZ
Need a hand? take a look at our guide
San Francisco
San Francisco
Latest news
Delving into Montpellier's cultural life
Montpellier: top accommodation options for families
Our 5 favourite spots on the Côte Bleue: paradise between Marseille and Martigues
The 10 most legendary hotels in Marseille
Visit the Ecusson: Montpellier's historic centre
Read more articles
Best cities