Palace of Fine Arts Exploratorium, San Francisco

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 72 Reviews

3601 Lyon Street (415) 561-0360

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    Birds of the Palace of Fine Arts
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    Palace of Fine Arts
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  • iandsmith's Profile Photo

    A palace indeed

    by iandsmith Updated Aug 1, 2011

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    Detail of the palace
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    When you're in this area of San Francisco it's hard not to notice this standout piece of architecture. However, the most extraordinary thing about it is that, like the Eiffel Tower, it wasn't meant to last.
    No indeed, it was merely a temporary building constructed as part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. Architect Bernard Maybeck chose a Roman ruin as his theme, crumbling before the elements as in a Pirenese engraving. The Commissioners were bedazzled; the hall covered some three acres of ground.
    The essentially Corinthian colonnade was framed in wood and then covered with staff (a mixture of plaster and burlap-type fibre). So too was the Romanesque rotunda. Staff was the ideal material for a building of this kind; it was completely pliable and various finishes could make it appear like stone or marble. Although constructed to achieve mood, the Palace was rescued from any danger of superficiality by a firm underlying geometric pattern.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Dabs Updated Oct 16, 2009

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    The Palace of Fine Arts was built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco just 9 years after the devastating 1906 earthquake. The structures here, as they were at many of the expositions and world's fairs, were not made to be permanent structures, only built to last until the end of the expo, so the original structure was made of "staff", a mixture of plaster and burlap fiber.

    The movement to preserve this one building started in October 1915 and it was the only building left after the rest of the expo was dismantled. Over the years though weather and neglect made the building unusable but the preservation effort was taken back up in the 1950s and by the mid 70s it had been restored. Today it houses the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and the Exploratorium.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Exploratorium

    by Dabs Updated Sep 28, 2009

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    Just like being in an A ha video
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    Weather.com let me down once again, the beautiful sunny prediction for our stay in San Francisco was true for Thursday and Friday but early Saturday morning there was a huge thunderstorm and it continued to rain that morning so we scanned our guidebook for crappy weather activities and decided on the Exploratorium, a museum of science, art and human perception. While you might be inclined to think this place is just for kids, we ended up staying for several hours. It was only my gnawing hunger that made us leave or we could have stayed for another two hours.

    This is a really hands on museum and there are all kinds of scientifically based activities that are fun for both kids and adults who never bothered to grow up. One of my favorites was trying to trace something while looking in a mirror, not as easy as it sounds. And I loved the screen that made us look like we were in the A ha "Take on Me" video.

    If you want to visit the Tactile Dome, there's an additional $3 charge and reservations are highly recommended, it was closed for our visit and it sounded like it was closed for maintenance for all of September.

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  • tvdandy's Profile Photo

    A Photographers dream! The Palace of Fine Arts

    by tvdandy Written May 24, 2009

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    Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
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    If you are a big fan of the movie 'Vertigo' you will recognize this building as a background shot when Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak were taking a stroll in the park. This is a gorgous park, and the fine arts building is a artistic wonder. This is a beautiful building, built with a Greek flair. Fellow photo buffs will absolutley love shooting in this area. Have fun shooters!

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    • Photography
    • Castles and Palaces

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  • yellowbell's Profile Photo

    Feed the Birds and Join a Wedding Photoshoot

    by yellowbell Updated Feb 23, 2009

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    Birds of the Palace of Fine Arts
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    The Palace of Fine Arts (designed for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition) is a favorite backdrop for a wedding photoshoot. It's easy to see why - lovely gardens, romantic fountain, and historic building.

    Mom and I had a fun time feeding the birds (I mean scaring them away) and watching the graceful swans in the pond.

    Nearby is the science exploratorium/museum where kids can learn a lot.

    Note: This historic building is need of repair so a huge section was cordoned off to tourists.

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  • Gypsystravels's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Gypsystravels Updated Sep 12, 2008

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    The Palace of Fine Arts was originally constructed as a temporary structure for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition.

    The Exhibition Hall houses one of the most unusual museus in the world.
    more on this later

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  • sunshine9689's Profile Photo

    FREE museums - 1st Wednesdays of a month

    by sunshine9689 Updated Mar 5, 2008

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    Mapquest. Exploratorium
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    Exploratorium is an interactive science museum for KIDS mostly. Save $14 on a Wednesday visit.
    Adults can enjoy the artificial lake and Roman columns nearby.
    LOCATION: 3601 Lyon Street.
    HOURS: 10am-5pm.
    DIRECTIONS: From downtown take bus #30 at Stockton/Sacramento Str, get off at Broderick/Beach.

    SF Zoo is free that day as well. Save $11.
    LOCATION: Sloat Blvd at 47th Ave.
    HOURS: 10am- 5pm.
    NOTE: Since it is located near the Golden Gate Park, you may want to visit Japanese Tea Garden (entrance fee $4) for a free guided tour at 1pm (meet at the main gate).

    Museo Italoamericano is free as well.
    LOCATION: Fort Mason Center, Building C
    HOURS: 12-4pm.

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  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Mar 2, 2008

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    The Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition by architect Bernard R. Maybeck. It was built to resemble overgrown Roman ruins while still functioning as a museum. Its early years were spent as an art museum, but in 1934 it was modified to house eight tennis courts. During World War II the decaying palace was used by the US army to store vehicles, and these vehicles were used by the newly created United Nations, which was first established in San Francisco.

    In 1964 the original Palace of Fine Arts was completely demolished and rebuilt over the next several years. During construction no permanent use of the new palace had been determined until 1968 when University of Colorado physics professor Frank Oppenheimer suggested it be used for the study of science and technology. The museum opened in 1969 and grew rapidly until its expansion in 1980. Oppenheimer was the first director for the museum and continued in this role until his death in 1985.

    Interestingly, Oppenheimer was also a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bombs. His brother Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Manhattan Project and the first director of Los Alamos National Laboratories. Oppenheimer was an admitted communist party member and was investigated after World War II for possibly leaking nuclear secrets to the USSR.

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  • joits's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by joits Written Feb 28, 2008

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    Beauty within a gem
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    This is a must see. It's such a beautiful structure and I think it's very relaxing to walk amongst the structures and just admiring it. It's also a great spot for photographs and the only limitations are you imagination. Take a seat at one of the many benches around the pond and people watch. There's a whole variety of people there, tourists, locals, grand parents and grandchildren, wedding parties, prom dates in formal wear...

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  • sunshine9689's Profile Photo

    FREE 1st Wednesdays of the month

    by sunshine9689 Updated Feb 5, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    February, 2008.
    1 more image

    Exploratorium is an interactive science museum which is worth paying a visit to regardless if you have to pay ($14) or not.
    LOCATION: 3601 Lyon Street.
    HOURS: 10am-5pm.
    DIRECTIONS: From downtown take bus #30 at Stockton/Sacramento Str, get off at Broderick/Beach.

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  • machomikemd's Profile Photo

    Cool!

    by machomikemd Updated Oct 20, 2007

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    Big Face Hehe!
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    Built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition (Designed by architect Bernard Maybeck), with a style and grandeur worthy of its name which celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake.

    Today, it's home to the Exploratorium, an interactive science museum, as well as a 1,000-seat theater that's ideal for events, including the stunning Ethnic Dance Festival. At other times, it's used for film festivals, lectures and concerts. But it just looks so pretty--it's even surrounded by a lake with swans. You can walk all around it, under the main arches, and in and out of the huge classical columns. On a sunny day, it's an absolutely beatiful (and romantic) place to go for a picnic.

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  • DJMist's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by DJMist Written Jun 11, 2007

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    Hailed as the most original design of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts is now home to an exploratorium. It is a wonderfully unique building with beautiful gardens.

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  • Hellfirejen's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Hellfirejen Written May 25, 2007

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    We stumbled upon this by seeing the top of the Palace and thinking, thats an odd thing to be in the middle of San Francisco!!! The gardens are really nice, and if anyone has seen the film Stigmata, the bit thats supposed to be in the Vatican, is actually filmed there.

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  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo

    Not Yet a Ruin

    by SteveOSF Written Apr 6, 2007

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    The Palce of Fine Arts
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    The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. It was designed by renowned architect, Bernard Maybeck. It is one of only two structures that were not demolished after the expedition, and the only one left on the site. The grounds make for a pleasant stroll and there is a theatre that is used for special events, presentations, or concerts. It's adjacent to the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum.

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  • Tom_Fields's Profile Photo

    Exploratorium

    by Tom_Fields Updated Jan 2, 2007
    The Palace of Fine Arts
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    This is one of the best family activities in the Bay Area. Here's a chance for kids to learn fundamental scientific principles and techniques, through direct, hands-on application. And it's an excellent learning experience for most adults, as well. Allow several hours here.

    It's housed inside the Palace of Fine Arts. This building is the only one left over from the grand Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915.

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    • Family Travel

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