This post provides details about visiting the Exploratorium in San Francisco, including ticket information, potential discounts, and some of the best exhibits at this attraction.
WHAT IS THE EXPLORATORIUM?
Whether you’re a budding scientist or you want to experience some wonderful art, the Exploratorium is an excellent opportunity to learn about several interesting topics and subjects.
With many different hands-on exhibits, visitors will have the chance to discover a lot of interesting scientific concepts such as how water freezes, the way a cell moves, how we perceive colors and much more.
The Exploratorium is located at Pier 15 and they are open every day except Monday. Here are the hours you can expect throughout the year:
- Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am - 5 pm
- Thursday Nights (18+): 6 pm - 10 pm
Informal photography is permitted inside the Exploratorium as long as it is only for personal use. The only real rule is that you can’t disrupt the experience of other visitors and photography cannot be sold.
While small bags and certain items are allowed inside, they recommend using storage lockers to store your belongings.
One nice thing is that guests are allowed to bring food into the building with them. There are also two dining areas in the museum where you can grab a bite to eat.
Although the Exploratorium offers skip-the-line tickets, some visitors report that they aren’t always necessary. That said, if you want to save as much time as possible, purchasing tickets ahead of time is a great option.
There are three different ways to get tickets to the Exploratorium: at the ticket booth, on their website or with a tourist pass.
Tickets purchased online or with a discount pass are technically considered to be skip-the-line, because they allow you to avoid the ticket line entirely and head right into the museum.
Here are the prices you can expect to pay:
- $29.95/Adults | $19.95/Children
- $24.95/Seniors, Teachers, Students, Youth, Disabled
- Admission is always free for the following visitors:
- Kids under 3
- Daytime members
- EBT cardholders
- California Public School Teachers
In addition to these ticket options, there are separate tickets necessary for their after-dark activities every Thursday night from 6 pm - 10 pm.
- $19.95/Adults | $14.95/Daytime Members
- After Dark members get in for free.
If you want to get even more out of your trip to the Exploratorium, you can also purchase add-on tickets for the Tactile Dome, an interactive excursion through total darkness. We’ll cover more about this attraction in our exhibits section.
- $15/General Admission | $12/Daytime Members
Make sure to check our discounts section for details about the best ways to save money on tickets to the Exploratorium.
The following section provides details about the best ways to save money on Exploratorium tickets, including information about tourist passes, free days, discount sites and more.
If you’re planning to enjoy more than one attractions while visiting San Francisco, you may want to think about using a tourist pass to save money on admission.
There are currently 5 different discount passes which include tickets to the Exploratorium:
- San Francisco CityPASS
- Go San Francisco Card
- San Francisco Explorer Pass
- Build Your Own Pass
- San Francisco Mega Pass
Of course, these passes aren’t all the same; depending on which service you choose, it’ll be important to consider how you use it.
The build your own pass option is arguably the easiest, as all you have to do is choose two attractions in order to save 20% off each ticket. This is an especially good option for activities that are already somewhat affordable.
Alternatively, you can also choose an all-inclusive pass which includes admission to dozens of popular attractions for a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3, or 5 days).
While you can save up to 60% with this option, it will be necessary to use the pass for as many different activities as possible in order to get the biggest possible savings out of the service.
At least one of these options is a prepackaged pass which includes a specific set of activities for one flat price, saving you approximately 45% off everything.
The only disadvantage with this pass is that most of the attractions are chosen for you, so it’ll only be of use if you are actually interested in each of the activities included.
Finally, there is also a flex pass, but this is probably the worst option for the Exploratorium. This option allows you to pay one flat price for a set number of activities (3, 4, or 5).
Due to the way this pass works, you’ll be paying at least $26 per attraction no matter what you do, which severely limits how much you can save on tickets to this museum.
Here are a few of the additional attractions included with these passes:
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour |
- California Academy of Sciences |
- Aquarium of the Bay |
- Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise |
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art |
- Alcatraz Admission + City Tour |
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom |
- California’s Great America |
- Walt Disney Family Museum |
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not! |
- Madame Tussauds |
- And more!
Depending on which pass you choose and how you use it, you should be able to save anywhere from 20% - 60% off general admission prices.
For additional details, please read our full post covering San Francisco tourist passes.
Depending on when you visit the Exploratorium, you might be able to get in without paying much of anything for admission.
This museum takes part in a program called community days where they allow all guests to pay whatever they wish for entry, but admission is only granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
The following dates are Community Days:
- Groundhog Day | February 2nd
- Pi Day | March 14th
- Mother’s Day | Second Sunday of May
- International Peace Day | September 21st
- Founder’s Day | October 20th
Free for EBT Cardholders
This museum does its best to ensure that they are accessible to as many people as possible. If you have an EBT card, you may be eligible for free admission to the Exploratorium.
EBT Cardholders and up to three additional family members will be granted entry to the museum under the Museums for All program.
Free for California Teachers
If you are a public school teacher in California (K-12), you can get free admission to the Exploratorium. All you need to do is present your teacher ID at the ticket counter to receive your ticket.
Discover & Go Program
Locals hoping to get free admission may want to check their library, as Bay Area libraries take part is a program known as Discover & Go.
Through this program, library cardholders can receive free admission to over 35 popular attractions in San Francisco – including the Exploratorium!
The only issue with this option is that you have to live in the Bay Area to get a library card at local libraries. That said, this is a relatively easy way for local visitors to enjoy a free trip to the museum.
If you’re a California AAA member, you are eligible for 20% off Exploratorium tickets when purchased in advance online.
This discount is not available at the ticket counter, and must be used via their website before heading out to the museum.
In addition to any deals provided initially, these sites typically also provide extra coupon codes for anywhere from 20% - 50% off local activities and attractions such as the Exploratorium.
Before you make any purchase, check both the top and bottom of the page for any banner that might include a coupon.
EXHIBITS AND EVENTS
This section covers some of the best things to see and do at the Exploratorium, including exclusive attractions and special events.
After Dark at the Exploratorium
Every Thursday night, the Exploratorium hosts an after-dark event which allows visitors to enjoy a night at the museum between 6 pm - 10 pm.
In addition to enjoying free reign of the building, there are also usually programs aimed at adults including guest speakers, live music, movie screenings and more.
After Dark at the Exploratorium is only for adults (18+) and there are no ticket options for youth or children. Check our tickets section for more details.
This attraction is designed to give you the experience of relying on only one of your senses – your sense of touch. The tactile dome puts you in complete darkness, requiring you feel your way through the structure.
Additional tickets are required to enter the dome, and you can find more details about admission prices under our tickets section.
This hands-on exhibit allows you to hear with your teeth, as it sends vibrations through your mouth until they reach the bones of your inner ear, allowing you to actually hear music!
If you’re looking for an interesting experience, head out onto the fog bridge to experience what it’s like to walk through clouds.
This outdoors attraction is even more impressive after dark, as it makes you feel like you’re in a noir film!
After sitting in a padded leather chair and placing an acrylic dome over your head, you’ll have the opportunity to use controls on the armrest to cycle through a world of different colors.
Glass Settling Plate
Take a look at some of the smallest animals in San Francisco, as the Exploratorium pulls new plates of glass out of the water every week to reveal the types of worms, shrimp, and barnacles that live in the Bay Area.
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