San Francisco's Waterfront Gets Another Shining Star

Back in December I profiled San Francisco as one of the top Destinations to Watch in 2013. Next week, one of the reasons the city made the list will open its doors to the public.

If you've visited San Francisco in the last 40 years with a kid (or as a kid), you likely know about the Exploratorium. Until this year, home for the very-hands-on science museum was the dark and cavernous Palace of Fine Arts, near the Golden Gate Bridge. But on April 17, the museum will open in its new location, Piers 15 and 17, right along the bustling Embarcadero, conveniently close to public transportation and popular attractions including the Ferry Building Marketplace and Pier 39.

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I got a sneak peek at the museum and can attest it hasn't lost any of its quirkiness, but it has gained quite a lot, including 150 new exhibits and inspiring Bay views. The new museum also includes acres of un-ticketed outdoor space for public learning, so even visitors who don't want to pay to go inside can get a taste of the Exploratorium.

The new nine-acre campus includes a tinkering studio open to visitors who want to try their hands at sewing electrical circuits, dissecting mechanical teddy bear toys, and other mad scientist activities. There's also an all-glass gallery looking out on the Bay featuring an exhibit that transforms tidal patterns into sculpture and another that let you find out which cargo ships, tankers, and pilot boats are motoring past. Outside, a site-specific art installation from Japanese artists Fujiko Nakaya turns a wooden bridge into a fog bank. And in the Central Gallery, don't miss the exhibit simply called Giant Mirror. It's got to be one of the coolest things in San Francisco.

General admission is $25 for adults, $19 for youth, and free for kids five and under. Bay Area residents pay reduced rates of $20 (adults) and $15 (kids 6-17). The museum is open late on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Thursday evenings from 6 to 10 are reserved for adults only, and feature bars and special programming.

Image by Gayle Laird © Exploratorium, All rights reserved

The East Gallery from above with Tidal Memory exhibit in the foreground, Algae Chandelier to the left and The Tree Experience at center.

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