The Exploratorium, San Francisco’s beloved interactive science museum, is going wild this summer with 16 themed lounges that bring science to life in playful, hands-on ways. From getting creative with art and illusions to exploring the science behind sports and outdoor adventures, there is something to pique the curiosity of visitors of all ages. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these amazing lounges has to offer.
The Art of Illusion Lounge
The human brain loves to be tricked! At the Art of Illusion lounge, guests can explore the fascinating world of optical illusions and mind-bending visual perception. Some of the exhibits allow you to manipulate 2D images to create wild 3D effects, while others feature amazing trompe l’oeil wall murals. There are opportunities to build impossible geometric shapes, as well as displays that let you stare into another dimension. If you think your eyes can’t be deceieved, this lounge will prove you wrong again and again!
- The Ames Room – This distorted room makes people appear to grow and shrink as they walk across it.
- Impossible Triangle – Try building a triangle using pieces that seem like they could never fit together. It’s harder than it looks!
- Inside/Outside Maze – An infinite loop that looks like you could walk through it, but there’s no way out. Frustrating and fascinating!
- Is That Spinning Mask Moving? – Stare at this spinning mask and see if you can tell which way it’s really turning. Our brains can’t always process motion accurately.
- Concave/Convex Gallery – Wall murals and sculptures that trick you into thinking they are either concave or convex.
The Art of Illusion lounge really emphasizes that we can’t always trust our eyes and perception. If you think you know what’s real, this lounge will make you think again! Expect lots of laughs, “Aha!” moments, and jumping out of your comfort zone.
The Outdoor Adventure Lounge
For science lovers who always want to get outside and play, the Outdoor Adventure Lounge brings the joy of nature inside. From simulated rock climbing walls to experiments with wind, water, and erosion, this lounge makes science an active experience. Learn about physics, geology, and biology while testing your athletic skills!
Don’t Miss These Exhibits:
- The Cliff – Scale this towering indoor rock wall studded with hand and foot holds. See if you can make it to the top!
- Build a Stream Table – Use sand, dirt, and water to build your own watershed environment and learn how moving water shapes the land.
- The Wind Table – Control fans and see how wind speed affects the movement of objects in this hands-on airflow experiment.
- Erosion Maker – Use this station to see how forces like wind, rain, and waves wear away different materials over time. Can you resist erosion?
- The Web Wall – An enormous three-dimensional web perfect for climbing and photo ops. What an amazing structure engineered just with woven rope!
Get your heart pumping and your mind racing in the Outdoor Adventure Lounge. If you love recreating and exploring in nature, you’ll have a blast with these exhibits that make science active and physical.
The Light and Color Lounge
Explore the science of light and color through interactive exhibits that play with prisms, lenses, paints, and more. See rainbows split into spectra, catch shadows on the wall, and discover how light enables us to see color at all. This lounge offers hands-on fun for aspiring artists, photographers, physicists, or anyone who’s curious about the foundations of sight and visual arts.
- Giant Kaleidoscope – Climb inside this incredible triangle of mirrors and see yourself multiplied into beautiful, shifting color patterns.
- Prism Tunnel – Walk through a hallway lined with prisms that split light into rainbows dancing across the walls.
- Colored Shadow Lab – Make rainbow shadows using red, blue, and green light sources to learn how colored lighting affects shadows.
- Optical Harp – Strum this unique harp and watch light bend and scatter to produce wild sounds and visual harmonies.
- Additive Color Mixer – See how mixing different colored paints makes new hues, and discover why computer screens use RBG color.
From photons to paint pigments, the Light and Color Lounge covers optics from every angle. Go home with a new appreciation for all the science behind the beauty of art, vision, and light itself!
The Circuits Lounge
If you’ve ever wondered how electronics actually work, the Circuits Lounge lets you tinker with electricity hands-on. Learn how switches control current flow, build basic circuits that power lights and motors, and see electricity in action. You’ll gain a better understanding of how the wired world around us functions, from appliances to computers. Don’t be intimidated by electronics – this lounge makes learning circuits fun!
High Voltage Exhibits:
- Giant Wall of Dials – See electricity flow through this massive interactive board as you flip switches and turn dials.
- Circuit Maze – Wind wires and connect batteries to light up all the bulb endpoints in this complex path.
- Conduct It! – Explore materials that conduct electricity well and poorly to power light bulbs.
- Solar Circuits – Build workings circuits using wind, solar, and kinetic energy instead of batteries.
- Magnetic Matrix – Use magnets to move a metal ball through this magnetic maze circuit board.
With great power comes great understanding! Leave the Circuits Lounge with a spark of knowledge about how currents, switches, and components come together to let electronics do their jobs.
The Kitchen Chemistry Lounge
Food is full of science! The Kitchen Chemistry lounge lets you experiment with cooking, concocting, and of course, eating. Learn about molecular gastronomy, play with states of matter, and explore chemical reactions that happen as you prepare food and drink. This lounge will give you an appreciation for all the physics and chemistry that goes on in everyday cooking. And yes, you get to eat your experiments!
- Cryo Ice Cream Lab – Use liquid nitrogen to freeze fresh ice cream mixtures in seconds! Make exotic flavors and learn about states of matter.
- Molecular Mixology – Play bartender and make crazy concoctions that use gastronomy to morph flavors, textures, and even the form of cocktails.
- The Melting Point – See how temperature affects chocolate, from shaping it in a melted state to snapping it when frozen.
- Whipped Cream Lab – Try pumping gas into cream to turn liquid into solid whipped topping. Science is delicious!
- Red Cabbage pH Tester – Use red cabbage juice as an acid/base indicator and test how everyday foods change colors.
Fuel your curiosity (and hunger!) in the Kitchen Chemistry lounge. You’ll gain skills and knowledge that make you a better chef and impress your friends at dinner parties.
The Veterinary Science Lounge
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a veterinary clinic? The Veterinary Science lounge lets kids and adults alike experience what vets do by treating (robot) animal patients. Learn to take vital signs, examine eyes and ears, wrap bandages, and even perform mock surgeries. You’ll gain empathy for vets and the animals they care for. Go ahead, be a vet for the day!
Practice Makes Perfect Exhibits:
- The Blood Pressure Machine – Learn to wrap a cuff and use a stethoscope to take blood pressure on furry patients.
- The Microscope Station – Examine robotic animal skin, blood, and hair samples close up. Can you spot anomalies?
- The Bandage Builder – Practice wrapping everything from tennis balls to teddy bear legs in realistic bandage wraps.
- The Ultrasound – Use this professional ultrasound machine on patients to see inside without surgery!
- The Anaesthesia Simulator – Learn how anaesthesia puts patients to sleep before operations so vets can work safely.
Step into the wild, challenging, and always adorable world of veterinary medicine. The Veterinary Science lounge will build your skills and help you gain true appreciation for vets.
The Outer Space Lounge
Blast off into a lounge that’s out of this world! The Outer Space lounge brings the science of space exploration down to Earth with real NASA artifacts and activities related to astronomy and rocketry. Climb into a space capsule simulator, build your own Mars rover from scratch, and even pilot drones to pick up rock samples. You’ll feel like you’re lightyears away without ever leaving the museum. The sky is NOT the limit here!
Houston, We Have Exciting Exhibits:
- Mars Rover Garage – Use real rover parts to build and program your own functioning robot explorer!
- Orbital Obstacle Course – Pilot drones through an intergalactic obstacle course and pick up “space treasure.”
- Astronaut Simulator – Climb into this realistic mock cockpit and pretend to blast off into space!
- Hug an Asteroid – What are asteroids made of? Hold a real-life asteroid sample and find out!
- Throughout the lounge, see actual artifacts used in space missions over the decades!
Experience out-of-this-world science up close and personal in the Outer Space lounge. Future astrophysicists and rocket scientists are made here!
The Sports Science Lounge
Science and sports go hand-in-hand when it comes to things like momentum, friction, biomechanics, and more. The Sports Science lounge gives you interactive ways to see science in action in football, tennis, golf, track and field, and more. Test your pitching speed, see the physics of a perfect putt, and learn about energy transfer in powerful kicks. You’ll gain new insights into your favorite sports. Who knows – maybe you’ll discover the next technical trick to shave seconds off your time or get an edge over your competitors!
- High-Speed Pitching Cage – Throw a baseball as fast as you can at a digital speed tracker!
- Long Jump Sandpit – Get a running start to practice projecting yourself as far as possible into the sand.
- Golf Putting Green – Putt like a pro and see how angles, force, and frictional resistance affect your putts.
- Tennis Ball Cannons – How fast can you react and swivel to return balls blasted at you? Test your reflexes!
- Vertical Jump Analyzer – Leap as high as you can and find out how your jump height and lower body power compare to pro athletes.
Bring your A-game to the Sports Science lounge! You’ll walk away with a better grasp of how laws of science play out across different athletic activities.
The Maker Space Lounge
Calling all creative science fans! The Maker Space lounge is the place to design, build, tinker, and experiment using tools, materials, and inspiration. Use real metals, woods, and plastics to construct projects. Make spinning tops, build structures, create art sculptures, extract plant pigments – the options are endless. For curious minds who learn best by doing, the hands-on Maker Space encourages you to build stuff and see how it works!
Make Your Genius Exhibits:
- The Tinkering Station – Grab materials from the recycling bin to invent your own machines that move with pulleys, weights, wheels, and gears.
- 3D Printing Sandbox – Learn 3D modeling on a computer, then watch as your designs are printed into life right before your eyes!
- Squishy Circuitry – Use conductive and insulating playdoughs to build working circuits that light up and buzz.
- Nature Pigments – Grind and extract vibrant plant-based pigments, then use them to make botanical art.
- Shop Class – Wood and metals to build whatever you can engineer using real tools under supervision.
The only limit in the Maker Space is your own imagination. Come create projects that will blow your own mind!
The Animal Science Lounge
What’s the coolest creature at the zoo? You’ll find out in the Animal Science lounge! Get up close with live animals and animal artifacts to learn about classification, adaptations, ecosystems, and more. Examine specimens under a microscope, assemble animal skeletons, and even watch live animal feedings. Or just hang out and bond with our reptile and bug ambassadors! This lounge will give you a whole new appreciation for the awesomeness of the animal kingdom.
- Meet the Creatures – Hang out with snakes, spiders, lizards, rabbits, turtles, and more in this live animal area!
- Dig up a Discovery – Sort through sand and find buried seashells, teeth, or dinosaur bones! What will you unearth?
- Reassemble the Skeletons – See if you can properly assemble the bones of animals like sharks, bats, and dinosaurs.
- Microscope Island – Examine insects, hair, feathers, and cells from animals big and small.
- Dung Detective – Figure out which animal left behind those scat samples and what they’ve been eating. Gross and fascinating!
The Animal Science lounge proves science is amazing and animals rule! You’ll walk away inspired by the biodiversity of life and more curious than ever about the natural world.
The Physics Phun Lounge
Velocity, mass, force, friction, energy…physics comes to life in the Physics Phun lounge! Explore cool concepts like inertia, centripetal force, leverage, and energey transfer through hands-on exhibits. Compete in contests like air cannon battles, magnetic race tracks, and giant hamster wheel races. Learn principles that power moving objects around us, from skateboards to rollercoasters. You’ll gain deeper insight into how things move through fun activities and challenges.
- The Catapult Contest – Use levers and torsion springs to build the superior medieval catapult.
- Race Ramps – See how physics affects the speed of balls rolling down ramps you can adjust.
- Human Hamster Habitat – Climb inside a giant hamster wheel and get it spinning fast!
- Magnetic Speed Track – Give your magnetic racer a push down the zig-zag track and clock its time.
- Air Cannon Combat – Use angle and force to bombard your opponent’s fortress with puffs of air!
Feel the momentum carry you through this high-action, low-friction lounge all about physics in motion. You’ll be having too much fun to feel like you’re actually learning!
The Marine Science Lounge
Dive into the amazing world of marine biology and oceanography at the Marine Science lounge! Exhibits let you explore the properties of water, study real aquatic plants and animals, shape submarine vessels, and more. Learn about chemical and physical ocean processes, coastal ecology, and the amazing diversity of life from the intertidal zone to the deep sea. Get your feet wet or just swim by for a quick dip into the field of aquatic science!
Immerse Yourself in These Exhibits:
- Submarine Design Lab – Use principles of physics to craft a submarine hull that can withstand ocean pressures. Test it out!
- Current Creator – Use models to see how winds shape currents, shores, and subsurface flows.
- View Actual Sea Life Specimens – From microplankton to whale bones, see what inhabits Pacific and Arctic waters.
- Under the Microscope – Examine the incredible details of algae, seaweed, and other tiny marine organisms.
- Wave Energy Tank – Learn how wave height, frequency, and direction affect the energy hidden within ocean waves.
Leave the Marine Science lounge with deeper appreciation for the physical forces and lifeforms that call Earth’s waters home. The ocean has so many fascinating phenomena left to discover!
The Mathematics Lounge
Numbers can be fun and fascinating! In the Mathematics lounge, you’ll learn math concepts through puzzles and interactive stations that reveal patterns, logic, and the underlying order in numbers themselves. Explore geometry, probability, spatial reasoning, fractals, and other mind-bending mathematical ideas. See how math powers everyday life, nature, technology, and even beauty itself!
Count on Having Fun With:
- Fractal Exploratorium – Zoom into these infinitely repeating fractal puzzles – they just keep getting more complex!
- The Probability Playground – Roll dice, pick cards, and spin wheels to gain intuition about statistics and chance.
- The Shape Builder – Assemble polygonal pieces into 3D creations and explore how shapes fit together.
- The Multiplication Dance Floor – Jump around this interactive floor to embody multiplication visually through your steps.
- The Artsy Abacus – An giant abacus you can climb on and move around to better understand place value and arithmetic.
Numbers aren’t just for math class! The Mathematics lounge shows how numerical thinking relates to patterns almost everywhere in life.
The Environment Lounge
How do humans influence the natural world? Find out in the Environment lounge! Investigate climate science, sustainable practices, and your own environmental impact through interactive stations. Simulate rising sea levels to see how flooding endangers communities. Calculate your carbon footprint based on daily habits. Experience how resource use adds up at the population scale. Plant an urban garden plot! This lounge promotes stewardship through hands-on modeling of manmade and natural systems.
Exhibits To Cultivate Awareness:
- The Trash Sorter – Just how much garbage do we generate? Sort through a giant pile and see firsthand.
- The Melting Glaciers – Melt replica glaciers and measure how much it causes sea levels to rise.
- The Electrical Grid – Work with a model smart grid to balance energy supply and demand.
- The Backyard Greenhouse – Learn to compost and grow veggies in this mini greenhouse.
- Carbon Quandries – Weigh your actions over a day to analyze your carbon footprint. What changes can you make?
Gain new environmental insights by getting your hands dirty in the Environment lounge! Little changes can add up to real, significant impact.
The Sound Science Lounge
Music is just waves traveling through air! The Sound Science lounge lets you dive into the science of sound through unique instruments, cool acoustics, and interactive stations. Strum laser harp