This weekend, in honor of ‘Ta’s birthday, we visited the SF Exploratorium in its new home at Piers 15 & 17. This location is within walking distance of the Ferry building and Fisherman’s Wharf and offers scenic bay views of Treasure Island and Alcatraz. But enough about the vistas; was the relocation worth all the hoopla.
As a fan of the Palace of the Fine Arts, the former site of the SF World’s Fair and long time home to the Exploratorium, I wasn’t happy to hear they were moving, but I entered with open eyes and ready to explore. Accompanying me were pint-sized critics Micah and Ilias.
To compare, the original site of the Exploratorium was inherited space; presumably it was a former old vehicle building or sea craft hangar. There were no angles and the walls were illusory. As a parent of boys who think walk means run slightly slower, I appreciated the layout. This accident of design meant that wandering children were still in sight of parental supervision.
I was glad to see many of the exhibits survived transport and were prominently displayed. The new site makes great use of indoor and outdoor space. The galleries are laid out well, however it is easier to lose a child within them as they can appear dimly lit.
Outdoors, in addition to a great view of the bay (best viewed from the upstairs terrace), there are two delights for the kids: A Honeycomb climbing structure, and a Fog Generator.
For the parents, there are a few dining options: a restaurant, cafe and bar. I can’t vouch for the cuisine (we left before dining) but It looked yummy and appeared an improvement over the fare offered at the former fairgrounds.
Despite all the new touches and 20th century improvements the family review is mixed:
- I liked it, as I think the newer space promotes a more fitting space for a kidseum intended to promote science and exploration.
- Ta found it too ‘cold’ and too large
- Both boys preferred the old space, citing (ask Micah put it) it seemed to have more
On our inaugural weekend visit, some of the new exhibits had not yet opened. We will no doubt return and I am curious to see how our opinions hold after a repeat visitation.