"After Dark" lets adult enjoy Exploratorium kid-free

One of the biggest success stories is the Exploratorium?s adults-only program, with seven times more night time visitors than in the old building.
October 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's been six months since the Exploratorium reopened in a new building on Pier 15 in San Francisco.

The hands-on museum has had record attendance, and is well known as a great place for kids and families. But one of the biggest success stories is actually the Exploratorium's adults-only program, with seven times more night time visitors than in the old building.

The programs, called "After Dark," happen every Thursday night. The most elaborate events are the first Thursday of each month when there is a theme with special shows and lots of extra activities. You will find science, fun, and maybe even romance. The only limitation is you must be 18 years or older. That turns out to be a big draw.

During the evening events, liquor is served at bars all over the museum. The night we were there, there was something called a "Freestyle Bar." Bartenders served up alcohol and a meal ? in a glass. The customer chose the ingredients including fruit, vegetables, even pork.

Another After Dark program featured an experiment mixing corn starch and water. That simple combination creates what is known as a "non-Newtonian fluid." When you move it around quickly, it acts as a solid. When you move it around slowly, it acts as a liquid. Either way, a lot of adults were having fun sticking their hands in the goop.

Melissa Alexander, Director of Public Programs at the Exploratorium, said "After Dark" is a "strategy to get adults excited about engaging with the exhibits themselves and to gain some confidence and some energy around making this a library of exhibits for you to use."

The museum's Tinkering Studio encourages adults to make things while they are there. One program focused on "Old School Arcade Games." Visitors built controllers for a video game using new technology called a MaKey MaKey, along with an old classic, the toilet paper roll.

After Dark was first conceived for young adults and there are always lots of them there. But it turns out, adults of all ages are enjoying this chance to act like children - without any children around.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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