Home family travel Exploring San Francisco’s Exploratorium with Kids

Exploring San Francisco’s Exploratorium with Kids

by Shelly Rivoli
Published: Last Updated on

UPDATE: The San Francisco Exploratorium has moved–and grown! Click here to read my full review of the new and improved Exploratorium.

It can be tricky finding fun, safe places where children can play when traveling, and even trickier finding fun, safe places where children can play with high voltage electricity. Fortunately San Francisco’s got you covered on both counts.

Founded in 1969 by famed physicist Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium is a truly unique hands-on science museum which aims to educate kids of all ages, including those in retirement. Science hounds and families visiting San Francisco in foul weather—along with anyone with a natural curiosity about the world around them, should consider a stop at the Exploratorium during their stays.

The museum is housed in the back of the spectacular Palace of Fine Arts, which was built for the 1915 International Exposition and remains one of San Francisco’s most romantic sites. However, the Exploratorium itself is more like a large warehouse. Be sure to bring a sweater if you’ll be visiting in cool weather. Here are some general quick tips to help you plan your family’s visit.

Visiting with toddlers and preschoolers
Given how much there is to explore here, those visiting with preschoolers and toddlers will most likely prefer to save the upstairs exhibits for later and proceed directly to those on the lower level (toward your left) where the spinning sand tables, bubble exhibits, “steam tornado,” and other exhibits with greater tot appeal can be found. There is also a fenced off baby / toddler play area if you need to set your little crawler free from the stroller or carrier to get some exercise during your visit. After your young child is saturated by dancing in the tri-color lights, helping beach balls float suspended on air, making walls of bubbles and the like, you can explore more big kid exhibits with the time remaining.

Visiting with older children

The other upstairs exhibits can be a lot of fun with big kids (and big people) as you pedal-power a light bulb and test out various experiments with high-powered magnets, electricity and more. If your child is interested in joining a flower or cow’s eye dissection, check the schedule on arrival. Don’t miss the microscopes and sound booths—and more musical experiments on the lower level as well.Eating at the Exploratorium

There is a café counter and dining area on the downstairs level with mostly organic and some vegetarian offerings. Popcorn and ice cream bars are also available as snacks. For those visiting on a budget, I recommend packing your own lunch along and enjoying it on the scenic grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts just outside—you have in and out privileges with your Exploratorium admission.
Getting there by car, bus, BART…
Given its somewhat tricky location and the free parking in its own lot, the Exploratorium is often best visited by car (like oh-so-many San Francisco sites).
However, you can take public transportation using SF Muni buses #28, #30, and #43. From Montgomery BART downtown (at 3rd St. / Stockton) or Fisherman’s Wharf, you can take the #30 Stockton bus to the Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium. You can plan your trip online at the Transit 511 site.
Arrive early (doors open at 10 a.m.) and you will beat the crowds—for a while anyway. Click here to see the area map with detailed directions.

Tips for after your visit

Hop onto the highway (101 N) and cross the Golden Gate Bridge (don’t forget your toll for crossing) for lovely views of the Bay and great pictures from the scenic turnout at the north end. If you still have time, drop down into Sausalito just beyond and stroll along the waterfront with an ice cream cone. Click here for directions to Sausalito

Or alternatively, when there isn’t much wind, head to Baker Beach for a sandy stroll with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Click here for directions to Baker Beach.

Exploratorium hours:
Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Holidays may differ, so check the events calendar http://calendar.exploratorium.edu/index.html

Children 3 years and younger, FREE
Kids 4 to 12 years, $10
Youth 13 to 17 years, disabled, students with ID, and seniors 65+, $12
Adults, $15

Tip: The San Francisco CityPass will get you into the Exploratorium plus several other popular attractions, and includes a 7-day Muni / Cable Car Passport—which allows you to skip the line to purchase tickets for the cable car (but not to board). More info here.

Giveaway reminder:
If you could fly any airline in the world with your baby—riding in his own comfy FlyeBaby travel hammock, which airline would you choose? Share your answer and enter to win my FlyeBaby air travel hammock giveaway. Ends 3/16/10. Click here for details.

Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby

The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
https://travelswithbaby.com/   twitter   facebook


You may also like...