The San Francisco Exploratorium is a world-renown educational extravaganza. As we continued our San Francisco vacation, we knew the Exploratorium was a must-visit location. We thought we'd only be there for an hour. It took us almost three hours to experience more than half of what the Exploratorium had to offer. The Exploratorium is a PERFECT pit stop for your brainiac, tween-aged kids. They're still at the learning phase and understand enough of the basic science world that the Exploratorium can throw them for a serious loop. Everything is completely tangible and addicting. My son absolutely loved the sand play areas where a spinning surface and numerous tools kept him occupied and enthralled for 20 minutes. One big hit was the steam and fog section (as seen in the video), where you could make smoke rings with a giant pressing machine. There was also a standing fog vent that looked much like a Star Trek transporter.
I particularly enjoyed the audio area, where you could manipulate sound in numerous ways. They had a Theremin player- an eerie sounding machine that manipulates your hand's heat into various audio pitches as you move it. The optical illusions were also entertaining, especially the picture of Einstein and Marilyn Monroe that transformed as you got closer. We must have tried 50 different displays and still didn't touch every one of them. If we had more time, we would have also explored the Tactile Dome- a large, crawl-through display that takes 30 minutes to finish.
Admission price isn't cheap. You can expect to pay $60 for two adults and two kids without coupons. As with most souvenir shops, many items were priced out of range. But the multi-level display and sheer amount of tactile items makes the Exploratorium a certified deal in my book. I've spent the same amount sitting at a movie theater; the Exploratorium is much more fun and the knowledge gained is priceless.