Earlier this year the Exploratorium closed its doors at the Palace of Fine Arts and in the spring it reopened in the much larger Pier 15, just a little north I the Ferry Building.
Over the last couple of years I would take the kids to the old location once a month, we would find some free street parking, have a little picnic overlooking the Palace of Fine Arts, do a little drawing in our sketchbooks, and spend the afternoon in the Exploratorium. We had a really nice routine, and as there are so many things to do at the Exploratorium the kids wouldn't tire of this trip.
However since its moved we just haven't gone as much, for a couple of reasons. For one we just haven't found a good routine yet, and for another because of the newness factor the museum is exceptionally busy. Even with its much larger venue, it's been really crowded.
This isn't to say I won't visit here, it's more about making a better plan. Even with the crowds it's an amazing visit, and the Exploratorium has done a great job creating the new space. Here are a few of my tips...
http://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/location-directions I try and take the kids on public transit when I can (and there are lots of options to get to the centrally located Pier 15), but when your day gets a late start sometimes driving and parking is the best option. If you park at the Embarcadero center take your parking ticket to get validated at the customer service desk once you enter the museum (and gain entry) and they can validate it for a $10 flat rate for the day. Its a short 10 minute walk from there.
Get there early
Your best chance to see the most comes when you get there at opening, the museum really fills up after lunch. Also pack a few sandwiches and eat lunch on the pier, or better yet there are 2 new restaurants with an impressive menu with food options for all (http://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/restaurant-cafe).
Central and West Galleries
Get these out of the way early, the Central gallery usually fills up first as this is the first thing people walk into as they enter the museum, the West gallery also has a lot of favorite hands on exhibits and tends to get a lot of the initial spillover. Save the outside and East side galleries for after lunch.
I still feel like the Exploratorium has to settle into it's new space. Having spent a good piece of my childhood visiting the old location I might be a bit jaded. To me it feels like the various activities haven't found their organic spots yet, but this will come with time. I do really like the new space, and there are a lot of really fun new exhibits...
Don't forget to pop into the shadow box!