Though FLOAT's neon sign is small and easy to miss in the window of a converted historic cotton mill, its interior is anything but unremarkable. The artist-owned urban art spa stimulates the mind with work from established and rising local artists and submerges clients in warm, dark chambers that relieve bodies of their senses. These floatation therapy sessions enhance relaxation and open up channels of creativity, freeing brains from the incessant digital stimulation and algebraic speed-limit signs of the outside world. While enclosed inside the tank, clients float in a weightless state in a solution composed of 1,000 pounds of medical-grade Epsom salts and water. There, air, water, and skin become alike—refreshing the nerves while recharging the mind more efficiently than sleep. Complementing floatation sessions are massage services that enhance already relaxed states.
The San Francisco Maritime National Park Association welcomes boating enthusiasts and history buffs alike to board antique ships—including a 1930s sloop yacht, an 1890 steamboat, and a nineteenth-century wooden-hulled scow schooner—docked at piers in and around the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The association even lays claim to a pristine World War II submarine, the USS Pampanito, which sees more than 110,000 visitors every year and boasts National Historic Landmark status for its world-class example of maritime preservation. They've even restored and repaired the equipment inside to full operation for an immersive and realistic experience. Another huge draw is the Balclutha, a moored 1886 square-rigged tall ship with three massive masts.
The land-locked Maritime Museum, housed inside a WPA-built structure designed to look like an ocean liner, keeps the seafaring fun going with hands-on activities and exhibits that explore the city's nautical past. In addition to answering questions and helming educational programs, staff members also recruit volunteers to pitch in aboard and around the old ships, where they can learn firsthand how to care for museum pieces, practice public speaking skills, and memorize nautical terms that will help make their stories of pirate heritage way more believable.
Nestled in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area Discovery Museum entices children's inquiring minds with a host of exhibits modeled after the surrounding sea and city. The Wave Workshop lets kids explore the San Francisco Bay's ecology and test their own boat designs against simulated wind and waves. In the 2.5-acre Lookout Cove which overlooks the bay itself, a 23-foot-tall Golden Gate Bridge entices children to put on hardhats and help construct a giant model.
One of San Francisco's oldest cultural institutions, the de Young Museum has steadily expanded since it was built for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. It now stands among the country’s most-visited public art museums. The museum's painstakingly curated permanent collections chiefly fall into three categories: more than 1,000 American paintings from the 17th through 21st centuries; international textiles and costumes; and art from the Americas, Pacific, and Africa. The staff also curates a dynamic selection of visiting exhibitions that have featured photography, sculpture, and cultural artifacts. The museum’s architecture and grounds evolve right along with the collections, as natural materials such as copper, stone, wood, and old baseball cards age against the surroundings of Golden Gate Park.
A nonprofit organization dedicated to the celebration of the art, history, and science of pinball, the Pacific Pinball Museum welcomes hardcore enthusiasts and casual fans alike to learn about and play the popular game. Over 85 operational machines—all set to free play—line the walls of the museum, including electro-mechanical, wood-rail, and wedgehead models, as well as the newest digital machines. Along with historic games on display, such as an 1879 Montague Redgrave Parlor Bagatelle and a Gottlieb 1931 Baffle Ball, three playable clear cabinets reveal the inner workings of the engineering marvel, from the wires feeding the lights to the tiny steelsmiths forging new balls between every play. Enthusiastic guides conduct regular tours of the facilities, whose walls feature hand-painted murals celebrating the game’s diverse colors and symbols.
Traditionally, the zoo provides the comfort of seeing animals that could not make a surprise visit to your backyard; this is a comfort CuriOdyssey dispatches to give weight to its message of science education. The menagerie of nearly 100 mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds primarily showcases local species like the Channel Island fox and the red-shouldered hawk, which have relatively small niches that have been squeezed by environmental degradation and human encroachment. Native species can be glimpsed within a complex of 25 lush habitats, including a 4,000-square-foot walk-through aviary and a replica of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Sunny, outdoor gardens fill more than 1.3 acres with plots that rotate with the seasons and plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds for live study. Among the science exhibits, Forces explores fundamental forces in nature such as gravity and magnetism. All the exhibits are designed to enable close observation and experimentation characteristic of the scientific method. This aim is supported by shows, such as daily otter feedings—spied from behind the glass of a cross-sectioned riverbank—and a variety of classes.
The Oakland Zoo was first established in 1922, but it didn’t find its permanent home until 1939, when it was thoughtfully constructed amid the rolling hills of Knowland Park. Today, the Okland Zoo is home to more than 660 animals, who thrive in biomes designed to mimic their natural environments.
The sprawling African savannah is one of the zoo’s largest habitats, housing hyenas, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. The centerpiece is a 1.5-acre lion exhibit called Simba Pori, which translates to lion county in Swahili. Inside, a pride of lions freely roam an enclosure outfitted with kopje rock structures, a pond, and a booth where the king can sign autographs.
Over in the rainforest habitat, chimpanzees and white-handed gibbons swing through the treetops. Emus and wallaroos—a cousin of the wallaby and the kangaroo—roam freely in the Wild Australia exhibit, accessible via one of the zoo’s rides, Outback Express Adventure Train. Other rides include the Endangered Species Carousel and Sky Ride, a chairlift that soars above the habitats and offers Bay Area skyline views.