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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  Lose Yourself in Science at San Francisco's Exploratorium

City Traveler Blog

Lose Yourself in Science at San Francisco's Exploratorium

Part museum, part education, part art, part science, part R&D – and 100 percent fun. That's the Exploratorium, one of San Francisco's top museums for science, art and human perception. With 600 explore-for-yourself exhibits, the Exploratorium gives children and adults alike countless opportunities to learn through active exploration, play and fun.

The Exploratorium recently moved from its original location at the Palace of Fine Arts to a fabulous new home at Pier 15 with 330,000 square feet – over 3 times the amount of space as the old location. This attraction's new location includes the Bay Observatory, where you can explore the local environment, as well as an outdoor gallery, in addition to the 4 galleries within the museum. Explore the exhibits: tinker and think with your hands, investigate the living world, experiment with social behavior, explore light, vision, sound and hearing, and more. You'll leave with some curiosities indulged and others awakened.


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The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception located in San Francisco, California.


  • New location at Pier 15 opened April 17, 2013
  • 330,000 square feet (inside and out), 3x the space!
  • Outdoor Exhibits for the first time


Get Psychedelic
Exhibit: Recollections by artist Ed Tannenbaum

This work addresses the poetics of motion, time and color. A video camera picks up head-to-toe movements of a viewer/participant. A sequence of these images is stored in solid-state memory and displayed on color monitors or projected in controlled "modes" that are based on time and space. Through this work, the participant is able to explore animated effects like how sequences of images create movement. By displaying sequences simultaneously, movement forms are created. The history of the movement is expressed through rainbow-colored multi-images that evoke memories of legendary photographer Harold Edgerton's work.

Take Time to Tinker
Gallery: Tinkering StudioTM

The Tinkering Studio is a place to hack, build, and invent using real tools and materials in a gently guided, but open-ended way. In the Tinkering Studio, visitors are invited to explore a curiosity-driven exhibit, chat with a featured artist, or investigate a range of phenomena with staff artists, scientists, educators, and others by participating in a collaborative activity. A large, eclectic assortment of materials, tools, and technologies are provided for people to use as they explore and create.

Stand on Your Head
Exhibit: Giant Mirror

At about twelve feet across and eight feet high, the highly curved Giant Mirror in our Central Gallery reveals and upside-down world. If you stand at a certain distance, light bounces off of you and the mirror's curved surface and focuses at a point between the two - making your reflected image appear three-dimensional (and depending on how far you are from the mirror, upside-down). You can also play with sound - whisper a few words to the reflection of someone you can see in the mirror and they'll hear you as clearly as if you were standing right next to them.

Embrace the Fog
Exhibit: Fog Bridge by artist Fujiko Nakaya

Japanese interdisciplinary artist Fujiko Nakaya's ephemeral and other-worldly Fog Bridge magically envelops a 150-foot-long pedestrian bridge between Piers 15 and 17 in an ever-changing blanket of fog. One thousand high-pressure nozzles lining the bridge create an immersive environment that enshrouds participants in mist. The work will be lit at night, to stunning effect. Although Nakaya's fog environments have been presented around the world, this is her first project in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region famous for its dramatic fog.

Shake Things Up
Exhibit: Suspension Bridge Resonant model

In the late 1960s or early '70s, Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart was inspired to play the Golden Gate Bridge using a rubber hammer. His first late night bridge performance was interrupted by the police.

Forty years later, with assistance from the National Science Foundation, Hart commissions a 23-foot, stainless steel replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, now permanently on display at Pier 15. After digitizing the bid bridge's vibrations - gathered via touch sensors and accelerometers - Hart converted the to sound, and used those sounds in a composition he played on the model (which he calls Bridget) at the celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary.


  • 80% of science centers internationally use Exploratorium exhibits, programs, or ideas
  • Reaches 180 million people annually around the globe
  • Hosted more than 250 artists-in-residence
  • Since 1995, 6,400 educators from 48 states and 11 countries have finished Exploratorium workshops


  • Opened in 1969 at the Palace of Fine Arts
  • More than 1,000 exhibits have been designed on site, 600 on display at Pier 15
  • Community Educational Engagement offers 3,500 underserved children & families free science workshops

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