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
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
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.
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
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.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children
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