You walk up to this grandiose palace-like structure that is reminiscent of Roman architecture. You follow the signs for the Exploratorium, and you enter through the bank of doors. The slightly sulfurous smell of a leaky toilet greets you on the left, and little children on a field-trip pester you from the right. None of that matters. You see in front of you a huge hall, almost like an aircraft hangar. It has stuff in it. Lots of stuff. You see so many things its almost overwhelming, except to your right, where a dirty white mysterious wall blocks your view. You look around some more. You know this place is cool, they don't bother with carpet, painted walls, or "comfort lighting". Its just cool science experiments, lots of them. You begin to think: what an acid-inspired place this is...
The Exploratorium is an amazing science and industry museum. Currently, the museum hosts over 650 exhibits. One of their most popular is a tactile dome. It is a pitch black maze with many random objects and textures. It is a lot of fun, and worth a visit. Also, they do numerous hands on projects with groups of school children, and even physics teachers. These involve subjects ranging from astronomy to electricity. The museum is geared to the entire family, even that agnst filled teenager can find something amusing. In addition, they have a plethora of traveling exhibits and demonstrations.
The Exploratorium is hosted in the Palace of Fine Arts near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The palace was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. During the depression, it became another WPA project and the restoration of the building employed many artists. During WWII it again fell into disrepair, but at the behest of Caspar Weinberger, it was restored. It was torn down to the steel beams and rebuilt, much like the white house was. Frank Oppenheimer moved to California, and he spearheaded efforts to make part of the resurrected palace into a museum. It opened with a theater and some basic exhibits in 1969. The website offers a much more thorough history.
The phone number for the museum is (415) 561-0362. Here are the admissions prices and hours:
Student (over 18 with ID) / Seniors (65+)-$7.50
People with Disabilities-$6.00
Youth (ages 5-17)-$6.00
Children (4 and under)-FREE
the Tactile Dome (all ages)-$14.00
Open Tuesday through Sunday-10 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Wednesdays to 9:00 P.M.
Closed Monday (Except Holidays).
Closed Christmas Day.
Free admission on the first Wednesday of the month.
Sources: a family trip and http://exploratorium.edu see also OMSI for a similar experience