Located in San Francisco, the Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory that explores the world through the perception of art and science. The mission of the Exploratorium is to create and present experiences that encourage visitors to question, explore, and discover the world around them through science and art. By placing a high value on lifelong learning, curiosity, inquiry and exploration, the Exploratorium hopes to contribute to a world where people think for themselves and have a greater understanding of the importance of continued learning.

Founded by renowned university professor and physicist Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium opened to the public in 1969 at the Palace of Fine Arts which it called home until 2013 when it reopened at Piers 15 and 17 on San Francisco's Embarcadero. The newly renovated building featured several galleries separated by content, including Human Behavior, Light and Sound, Living Systems, Tinkering, the Outdoor Gallery, and the Bay Observatory Gallery. The Exploratorium also features an open-to-view workshop near the galleries, and have presented more than 1,000 exhibitions since inception. In addition to award-winning exhibitions held throughout the year, the Exploratorium also offers a variety of educational programs aimed at the professional development of teachers, the reformation of science education, and the promotion of museums as informal education centers.

Galleries and Exhibits

The Exploratorium features a mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces that are divided into six galleries, each of which highlights a particular topic, including Human Behavior, Light and Sound, Living Systems, Tinkering, the Outdoor Gallery, and the Bay Observatory Gallery. There are more than 600 exhibits on display, most of which were made on site and many of which are mobile and can be moved around between galleries.

Exhibits include topics such as physical phenomena of light, electricity, resonance, motion, magnetism, and waves; and human perceptions of cognition, learning, hearing and vision. Other topics include local environmental elements like sun, rain, fog, water and wine, landscapes, fauna and flora, as well as human-made environments such as cityscapes; and human behaviors such as sharing, competition, and cooperation.

Osher West Gallery: Human Behavior

The Osher West Gallery focuses on human behavior with exhibits that focus on emotion, perception, investigative memory, and judgment, as well as how people compete, co-operate and share. Displays include ‘Poker Face,' ‘Trust Fountain,' and the ‘Tactile Dome.’ The West Gallery also houses a cabaret-style theater called the Kanbar Forum that hosts lectures, music events, and other programs.

South Gallery: Tinkering

The South Gallery offers visitors the opportunity to engage in science learning through interactive workshops. DIY-focused exhibits in the South Gallery include Animation Stations where visitors can create their stop-motion films, and artworks on display include the Tinkerer’s Clock constructed by artist Tim Hunkin and sculpture by artist Scott Weaver called ‘Rolling Through The Bay,’ which depicts many of the Bay Area’s iconic landmarks.

Bechtel Central Gallery: Seeing and Listening

The Bechtel Central Gallery house some of the oldest exhibits in the museum, including a mix of new and old presentations that investigate physics and the perception of light, color, and sound. Exhibits include ‘Bright Black’ and ‘Sound Bite.’

Vacations: Ventura, Corpus Christi, PA, VT, AR, RI, WV, MS, IA, Hot Springs, Carlsbad, Chadds Ford, day trips from Phoenix, SC, Charlottesville

East Gallery: Living Systems

The East Gallery houses a selection of life sciences exhibits that relate to the local environment, such as the ‘Algae Chandelier,' and the ‘Glass Settling Plate.’ Various biological systems and processes are displayed in other exhibits such as live cow’s eye dissections, and a live chicken embryo presentation.

Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery

The Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery is surrounded by glass walls to facilitate observation and features exhibits of scientific aspects that visitors can see in real time, such as the movement of clouds and the ebb and flow of tides, the coming and going of ships, and the ever-changing waterfront. Exhibits include ‘Visualizing the Bay,' ‘Oculus,' and the ‘Map Table,' as well as the Wired Pier project, which streams real-time data about the surrounding environment. The Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery also houses the Seaglass Restaurant on the lower level and boasts beautiful views.

Outdoor Gallery

The Outdoor Gallery is made up of the north, south, and east aprons of Pier 15 and features exhibits that focus on the surrounding environment such as the Bay environment, local rainfalls, and color swatches of the water in the bay. The Outdoor Gallery also features artworks and large-scale temporary installations by artist Fujiko Nakaya.


The Exploratorium also offers a variety of educational programs aimed at the reformation of science education through the professional development of teachers, as well as the promotion of museums as informal education centers. Adults can enjoy a range of programs and initiatives such as evening art and science events, film screenings, self-exploratory exhibits, and a comprehensive website.

Visitor Information

The Exploratorium is located on Pier 15 in San Francisco Bay and is open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Thursdays (adults only). The Exploratorium campus features over an acre of open space for the public to enjoy, including a plaza overlooking the Embarcadero and several artworks by artist Fujiko Nakaya. The Seaglass Restaurant is located on the lower level of the Bay Observatory Building, as well as the Seismic Joint Café, which is both open to both visitors and the public.

Pier 15, (Embarcadero @ Green Street), San Francisco, CA 94111, website, Phone: 415-528-4444

Back to: San Francisco

Fun Romantic Weekend Getaways, Beach Resorts, Wedding Venues: IN, Atlanta, NM, ME, Miami, Birthday, Chicago, VA, OR, Couples, NM, LA, Montauk, UT, AR, ID, OK, KS, East Coast, CA, IN, OR, WY, MD, GA water parks, From Dallas, Hilton Head, Boston, day trips from D.C., from Seattle, KS, OR, Missouri, TN, beaches in San Diego, Portland, Charlotte