Ready to tinker?
Step right into the
Don't know how to start? Buy a toothpick sculpture starter kit for
Maybe you'd prefer to build your own marble run, construct and test flying objects at the Wind Table or upload your animated creation directly to YouTube. "It's really interesting to make something myself rather than see something someone else has made," said
"I'm blown away," said
That's the idea, of course, with 650 hands-on exhibits in six main galleries that encourage kids -- and the adults with them -- to jump with avatars, twirl in front of the Giant Mirror that reflects an upside-down you, push buttons, turn cranks, even sit down inside the trunk of a fallen 330-year-old Douglas fir. There are exhibits outdoors as well (check out the Aeolian Harp, the wave-activated sound sculpture, or the popular pedestrian
The Exploratorium, which tripled in size to 330,000 square feet (huge) when it moved to
"You won't get bored," promises
"We run out of time before the kids get bored," adds his mother, Jayne. "That doesn't happen at other places." The best part: "There is something for all ages here."
That includes young adults who flock to the Exploratorium Thursday nights when you must be 18 to enter -- 5,000 every month. Did I mention that 200 teens are part of the paid staff here, working as "explainers" throughout the galleries?
Even the museum's SEAGLASS restaurant is designed to encourage families to experiment. There's no traditional kids' menu but plenty of healthy eats that are kid-friendly from clam chowder to sushi rolls and organic roast chicken. (Read what I wrote about our visit here. "The Exploratorium is all about experimenting," said
It all began more than 45 years ago when a physicist and science teacher named
Ever since, Exploratorium scientists, builders and teachers have pioneered ways to make science more fun with exhibits that explore biology, physics, how we see and listen, how we behave and how art intersects science (there are artists in residence) -- all hands-on, of course.
I loved "Team Pac-Man," which demonstrates how people interact by working together -- or not -- and the Wisdom Arc Time Machine where you can give advice to your younger self on a computer and read others' entries. Megan, 19, told her 14-year-old self, "Grades are not nearly as important as you think!"
Over the years, more than 1,000 interactive exhibits have been built on site (you can watch museum staffers working on new ones); 80 percent of science centers around the world use Exploratorium exhibits, programs or ideas.
Now there is an even greater emphasis on the environment from the environmentally-friendly design, complete with rainwater collection. Pump air into the algae chandelier or check out the plankton populations via a table-sized interactive display. Explore how the microscopic life in
Real-time data from the "Wired Pier" sensors and other scientific instruments around Piers 15 and 17, are presented on a high-definition video wall inside the
Exploratorium aficionados will be glad to know that the Tactile Dome (one of my kids' all-time favorite museum exhibits) is back and larger. (Make a reservation in advance!) Can you make it through a pitch-black environment just by touch?
"This is a great place for kids!" declared Katie Irvin, visiting with her family from Seattle.
For grown-ups too, Katie.
Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new Kids Guide to LA is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando and coming in December, Chicago.