Thursday Nights at the Exploratorium Review - The Real Fun is After Dark

With faint memories of visits to the old Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts, I now get slightly jealous of the swarms of children piling out of buses at Pier 15.  I can almost recall the exhibits of old and could only imagine what the kids of today were enjoying.  It’s almost like passing a playground dreaming of the day you can get on that swing without kids present or the judgments of others looming over you.  Thankfully that day is Thursday at the Exploratorium, and that day is actually a night.

As the sun starts to set and the sugar rush from the Capri Suns wear off, the once elated kids go home and the doors reopen to host an adult only night.  The juice boxes are switched out for glasses of wine and the fun and exploration of all things science commences.  With drinks in hand it was endearing to see folks engulfed in an experiment with the excitement of a child.  Moments of extreme concentration were followed by fits of laughter and the bewilderment of what the experiment revealed.

From front to back the pier is thoughtfully laid out with exhibits wherever you turn.  Galleries are organized by general concepts and broken down to better explain the whole.  Most were drawn to the seeing and listening gallery where the light buzz fed into the optical illusions.  The Giant Mirror held the crowd in disbelief as you appeared upside down and eerily close enough to touch your own reflection from 10 feet back from the mirror.  The enjoyment was infectious as strangers couldn’t help but share in the curiosity and amazement of what was happening before their eyes.  The whole experience lends to everyone interacting and enjoying the exhibits together.

A personal favorite for the night was a simple exhibit that allowed me to see the pulsating of my heart.  Sounds confusing? I didn’t quite know what I was seeing at first either.  When looking into a microscope with a backdrop of blue, hundreds of squiggly short strings were faintly visible.  Turns out they’re the blood vessels in my eye and are moving to the beat of my heart.  That was just one of the many enlightened moments of the night.


Apart from the main galleries every week showcases a different special event.  My night landed on Pairings: Cultivating a Taste for Science Through Food.  Herring was featured in an informative presentation and tasting, spotlighting the connection this fish has with bay area.  Future special events includes documentary screenings, art installations and live music.

With the hours of stimulation to the senses you can allow your brain ease with the stunning view this new location offers. The Bay Observatory Gallery at the end of the pier caters to conversation recapping the night as you to sip on your drink.  The beautifully lit up Bay Bridge topped off the night perfectly.  I was able to walk out feeling like the drained kids that left earlier in the day.

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