Palace of Fine Arts Exploratorium, San Francisco

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 72 Reviews

3601 Lyon Street (415) 561-0360

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • Palace of Fine Arts Exploratorium
    by apbeaches
  • Birds of the Palace of Fine Arts
    Birds of the Palace of Fine Arts
    by yellowbell
  • Palace of Fine Arts
    Palace of Fine Arts
    by yellowbell
  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 14, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    a marvelous setting for wedding photos
    2 more images

    The Exploratorium sounds like a fun hands-on kind of science museum and by the looks of the lines to get in, a popular one at that. But it was a glorious day and the last thing I wanted to do was go inside and learn even the most fascinating information. What drew me here in the first place was the architecture of the neighboring Palace of Fine Arts, which was intended as a temporary structure and a part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The light was incredible that afternoon and the hues imparted on this artificial classical ruin were captivating. There was a wedding party getting their photos taken here. With the garden setting and large pond in the foreground, I’d have to say it seemed a perfect place for it. It’s a bit out of the way but if you’re doing the walk from the Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll pass right by it or if you take the MUNI bus, you make your bus change just around the corner from it. If it’s nice out, it’s worth checking out, even if you have no intention of visiting the Exploratorium.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Sandi-2004's Profile Photo

    IF YOU LIKE SCIENCE OR WANT AN UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE

    by Sandi-2004 Updated Oct 28, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    THE EXPLORITORIUM will give you something unique. Besides the many fascinating (and I say that as someone who never cared much about science) interactive explanations as to why things are the way they are scientifically, there is also THE TACTILE DOME, an interactive excursion through total darkness, where your sense of touch becomes your only guide! The Tactile Dome, is encased in a geodesic dome about the size of a large weather balloon. Visitors enter through a light-lock room into a totally dark maze (path). Then, for an hour and fifteen minutes, they FEEL, BUMP, SLIDE & CRAWL through and past hundreds of materials and shapes which blend, change and contrast.

    The purpose is to disorient the sensory world so that the only sense the visitor can rely on is touch. The sensation is so outside ordinary experience that a few people panic. An attendant in a control panel can reach every part of the ant-hill like maze almost instantly &
    lead the frightened person back to the safety of
    light.

    There is MUCH MORE to the EXPLORATORIUM
    than The Tactile Dome, but that is the part that most stands out in my memory. It was a very unusual experience!!

    Related to:
    • Study Abroad
    • Singles
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Callavetta's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Callavetta Written Jun 8, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Built for a former World's Fair, today this is the site of the world famous Exploratorium, an interactive museum for learners of all ages. The grounds are beautiful and often you will see people taking wedding photos. Free parking behind the building (a rareity in SF!)

    Was this review helpful?

  • pigletsmom's Profile Photo

    Other Worldly

    by pigletsmom Updated May 22, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The fantastic Palace of Fine Arts

    The Palace of fine Arts reminds me of Europe in another time.
    I've never been to Egypt, but it reminds of some exotic far away land. Really extraordinary park that is so impressive to walk around. Very enchanting. Take time to check out the mansions that encircle the park, each with a unique style of revival architture. Visit my travelogue for more images.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Budget Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Bernd_L's Profile Photo

    Impressive building

    by Bernd_L Updated Oct 29, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Palace of Fine Arts

    The Palace of Fine Arts was build for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 and it's the only building that mad it until today. It's a masterpiece of architecture which is home of an interactive science museum - The Exploratorium.

    When I visited San Francisco I was reading a novel and the showdown of this thriller happened to be beneath the big dome of this building. What a coincidence!!

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Family Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Carmela71's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Carmela71 Updated Sep 7, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Palace of fine Arts


    Since I saw the first photo of this building I wanted to visit. Obviously the photo was in a sunny day with beautiful flowers not the horrible sky and fog we had hehehe but anyway is a beautiful one.

    It is just near Golden Gate Park, close to the Marina. It was constructed in 1915 for the Panama Pacific International exposition.

    It is now a theatre and on their web page you can see what they are playing. You can also rented for events

    Was this review helpful?

  • smschley's Profile Photo

    PALACE OF FINE ARTS

    by smschley Written Mar 12, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was an event dedicated to progress, the Worlds’ fair that celebrated San Francisco's recovery from the 1906 earthquake and fire. Funds came from six million dollars in donations, five million in state bonds and five million in San Francisco taxes. The expo lasted for 288 days and the buildings extended about a mile along the shore. The rosy rococo palace is the sole survivor of the many tinted-plaster structures. For purposes of an exposition, the buildings were supposed to last a year and then collapse readily, durability was not a concern.

    After the Exposition, 33,000 supportive signatures were gathered, and $350,000 was raised towards the duplication of the Palace in lasting materials. Two World Wars stopped the project from going any further, and the Palace slowly crumbled from the ravages of the weather and ill-use. Finally, the structure had to be fenced off as it was a public hazard

    Finally in 1964, a contract was awarded and the reconstruction began. Workers removed original design elements from which molds were made. The rotunda, colonnade and all except the steel framework of the gallery were torn down and replaced with concrete castings. In September, 1967, work was completed of a stripped-down version of Maybeck's original. The addition of the remaining original colonnades was completed in January, 1975. The 1,000-seat theater was added in 1970 and is used for many festivals and events. The massive columns, great rotunda (dedicated to the glory of Greek culture), and swan-filled lagoon have been used in countless fashion layouts and films

    Was this review helpful?

  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Dabs Updated Oct 16, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Palace of Fine Arts
    2 more images

    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.

    Was this review helpful?

  • littlesam1's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by littlesam1 Written Sep 7, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Palace of Fine Arts
    3 more images

    You are in the marina district of San Francisco. You are walking in an upscale neighborhood with beautiful homes. The Golden Gate Bridge is just in the distance. Then suddenly you are transported to a Greco-Roman palace. You see tall Greco columns and fountains, trees and a park like setting. You have not entered into some strange time warp. You have just stumbled onto The Palace of Fine Arts.

    This beautiful structure was built for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. It was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck. San Franciso was just recovering from the historic earth quake and was trying to revitalize its tourist industry. From the pictures and diagrams that I have seen the International Exposition appears to be huge. This Palace of Fine Arts is all that remains today. It was restord in the 1960's with a grant from Caspar Weinberger.

    This is truly a magical place once you find it. Its located between where Lombard Street starts to open toward the Golden Gate Bridge. There is also a museum located here called The Exploratorium.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Andraf's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Andraf Updated Mar 18, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Palace of Fine Arts

    The Palace of Fine Arts is San Francisco's most dramatic piece of architecture. Despite the name is not an art museum or a palace for that matter but rather a Classical style ruin at the edge of a beautiful lagoon. It was designed by the Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck for the the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 and built with the intention to last until the end of the exhibition. When the buildings of the fair were torn down, citizens lobbied to spare the Palace of Fine Arts. And spared it was but by early 1960s the building which was made from such materials as wood, plaster and burlap started to crumble and became a ruin in the true sense of the word. Finally, the money for reconstruction was found and in 1962 the building was rebuilt using reinforced concrete. The lagoon is the perfect spot for an afternoon walk, watching the swans gliding on the lake in front of the rotunda.

    Related to:
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Andraf's Profile Photo

    The Exploratorium

    by Andraf Updated Mar 18, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Exploratorium, San Francisco

    The Exploratorium is the most engaging science museum that I've seen so far. Their philosophy is to teach science through hands-on participation and that's what makes it interesting. You'll have to push buttons, rotate wheels or perform a wide variety of other actions to set the experiments in motion. Each experiment has instructions and explanations nearby so you can understand what it is you're setting in motion. We spent 3 hours there and only got through half of the museum before the closing hours (well, we are geeks so maybe we were enjoying it more than other people). It is incredibly fun. Exhibits are located on the main floor and mezzanine level being divided into 13 subjects areas Electricity, Motion, Weather, Vision, Light, Color and Sound. The Exploratorium was established in 1969 by physicist Frank Oppenheimer who was the one that embraced the philosophy that it's best teach science through hands-on participation. The museum was full of kids, so if you travel with kids this is one of the places in San Francisco that would be nice to visit. The top attraction of the museum is the Tactile Dome, a totally dark sphere in which you crawl your way along, touching sensorially stimulating objects and textures (not for claustrophobes). You'll need reservations for the Tactile Dome.

    Was this review helpful?

  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Exploratorium

    by Dabs Updated Sep 28, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Just like being in an A ha video
    1 more image

    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.

    Was this review helpful?

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts - Roman decor

    by SLLiew Written Oct 8, 2006

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Located near the entrance of Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

    There is a nice lake for picnic or strolling. The building consists of a classical Roman rotunda. There Roman columns to create a classical atmosphere in a park.

    Also the kids will enjoy the Exploratorium. Hands--on science exhibits to learn the basic principles of science.

    Was this review helpful?

  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo

    Not Yet a Ruin

    by SteveOSF Written Apr 6, 2007

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Palce of Fine Arts
    2 more images

    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.

    Related to:
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Road Trip
    • Budget Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Palace of Fine Arts

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Mar 2, 2008

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    4 more images

    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.

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: San Francisco

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

63 travelers online now

Comments

Hotels Near Palace of Fine Arts Exploratorium
4.5 out of 5 stars
409 Opinions
0.4 miles away
Show Prices
3.5 out of 5 stars
74 Opinions
0.4 miles away
Show Prices
4.0 out of 5 stars
262 Opinions
0.4 miles away
Show Prices

View all San Francisco hotels