|UPDATE: Moved! See updated review here (coming).|
3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco, CA 94123 (at the Palace of Fine Arts)
Good for: Families, children 7+
Price: $10/child, $15/adult (First Wednesdays free)
Features: Hands-on exhibits, free parking
When locals think of something fun and educational to do with the family, the first thing that likely comes to mind is the Exploratorium. Don’t be deceived by the plain and somewhat empty-looking impression you may get upon entering the science museum. The Exploratorium has hundreds of hands-on exhibits that you could easily spend a whole day ‘experimenting’ with. When I say ‘you’ I mean you, the parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/etc. Many times the adults and parents are just as interested, if not more, than the younger ones in their party.
I visited the Exploratorium for the first time about four years ago. I was with my daughter and sister and was not impressed. As it was one of the monthly ‘free admission’ days it was terribly busy. It seemed like there were more people than there were exhibits – that’s a huge ratio to topple. My daughter was about six years old at that time. Though she was able to play with items and look at things, she didn’t really grasp the science behind the exhibit and quickly got bored. My sister and I thought the exhibits were interesting but it was just too crowded to really enjoy anything.
Well, our last visit was a completely different experience. We still went on a day when it was free but this time the Exploratorium was practically empty. There was no wait at the entrance and there were tons of exhibits that no one else was exploring. That meant we were able to take our time and go at our own pace. My daughter had SUCH a great time! She enjoyed so many exhibits and had a blast trying out everything. What a contrast to her reaction a few years before! Now she was old enough to be intrigued by the science used and how things worked. It was so cute how she kept tugging on my arm and asking me, “Can we look at that now?” with gleaming eyes, barely able to contain her excitement.
Since we got there late in the day (and we wasted an hour since I got lost), we only had about 1-1/2 hours before we had to leave. In that time, we did not even get to 1/4 of the exhibits. That was okay since my daughter loved every minute of it. Her favorite exhibit was the one featuring black sand. With two strong magnets, she enjoyed pouring the ore sand on and shaping it over and over again. She would have spent hours at this one exhibit but I made her move on as others were waiting to try it. I have to admit, it was pretty cool.
The best part about the Exploratorium is that it is ever changing. New exhibits are constantly being displayed while older ones are improved upon. This is a place you can go to over and over again, never getting bored. There are also homeschool-specific classes being held here but are only open to members. I am definitely considering a membership here since it also includes a 50% discount at many other local facilities.
To fully enjoy the Exploratorium you may want to keep these three points in mind:
- Go when it is not busy – this has a huge impact on your experience here.
- Relax – it is so much better to take your time with the exhibits you enjoy than rushing through to see everything.
- Timing – It may be a good idea to wait until your child is at least seven years old, at which point they will love it and want to go back all the time.
When you are all done ‘learning’ you can walk down the path and admire the ever-so-famous Palace of Fine Arts. This is truly an activity no family should miss.