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Download the Exploratorium Event Policies
Download the Approved Caterers List
Download the Preferred Vendor List
The approved caterers below offer a variety of menus and price ranges, as well as excellent food and exceptional service. The Exploratorium requires the use of approved caterers for all events. No outside caterers may be used. Each caterer listed below is familiar with our venue, policies, and procedures, and will carry our required insurance, health permits, and liquor liability insurance.
The Exploratorium is available for rental events when the museum is closed. This currently includes Friday through Wednesday evenings, plus some daytime availability Mondays.
The standard evening rental contract is 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., which includes the setup, event, and strike. Events may begin no earlier than 6:30 p.m. to allow for proper preparation and setup.
Spaces offered for your event
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 comprises four major indoor galleries and the Kanbar Forum, a flexible space with state-of-the-art AV that can be set up for anything from theater-style seating to cabaret seating or seated dinners. Each gallery is unique and varies in square footage and exhibit content, which offers many great options to craft the perfect event. Access to nonrented galleries is not available to hosts, guests, or vendors during the event.
|Fisher Bay Observatory Gallery & Terrace
|With expansive views of the Bay and the city, the Fisher Bay Observatory offers an astonishing vantage point from where visitors can explore the geographic and social dimensions of our regional landscape.
Window View: 90
||The East Gallery is a window for investigating living things of different sizes—from stem cells to familiar insects and plants to the entire San Francisco ecosystem.
|Bechtel Central Gallery
Seated with one focal point: 280
||The Bechtel Central Gallery is a laboratory for investigating light and sound and how we perceive these phenomena. This combination of physics with perception is a signature of the Exploratorium’s approach to learning.
|Osher West Gallery
Seated with one focal point: 70
||The Osher West Gallery is a stage on which to explore human psychology and socio-cultural phenomena. Topics range from internal cognitive experiences, such as attention and emotion, to more external social behaviors, such as communication and negotiation.
||160-200 (depending on configuration)
||The Kanbar Forum is a cabaret-style theater with flexible seating. With a state-of-the-art Meyer audio system, this space is perfect for presentations, film screenings, lectures, cocktail receptions, lounges, and much more.
Types of Events Allowed
The Exploratorium’s goal is to create a culture of learning through innovative environments, programs, and tools that help people nurture their curiosity about the world around them.
Because the Exploratorium is a nonprofit, private institution, and its goal extends to its public policies, the following types of events are not allowed:
- Political events or celebrations, including but not limited to fundraising events and rallies
- Events where entrance requires advance or on-site ticket purchase
- Events advertised to the general public
Fundraising events, including any event where guests contribute monies on an optional basis—or are solicited for monies after the event—are permitted with certain guidelines:
- No political fundraising is permitted.
- No on-site ticket sales are allowed. All funds must be secured by the organization in advance or after the event.
- Marketing for the event must be through the organization's communication channels and cannot include advertising to the general public.
- Collateral, including electronic and paper invitations, flyers, newsletters, etc., must be approved by the Exploratorium. This statement must be included: "The Exploratorium is not a sponsor or beneficiary of this event."
- When seeking in-kind donations, the organization must disclose to the donor that the Exploratorium is not a beneficiary of the donation.
- Calendar restrictions apply based on Exploratorium annual fundraisers.
- It is important to the Exploratorium that all visitors, including attendees of a nonprofit rental event, have an understanding of the Exploratorium’s goals. Consequently, the Exploratorium will work with any nonprofit rental to provide event attendees with a membership brochure. This can take the form of placing brochures within event gift bags, at table settings, or through other distribution methods approved by the Exploratorium.
For any events that are not full-facility rentals, the Exploratorium reserves the right to book concurrent events in any galleries not included in your rental contract. The Exploratorium will work to avoid conflicts when there is more than one event scheduled in the museum.
We require a 50% deposit to confirm a hold on a date. The balance of rental fees is due three months prior to your event date. We accept payments by check or wire transfer. Checks should be made payable to The Exploratorium, c/o Amy Adkins, Museum Rentals Manager. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept payment by credit card.
We provide an Event Coordinator,
Operations Technician, and Explainers for all gallery rental events. Our docents, called Explainers, facilitate guest interactions with exhibits. The Event Coordinator will assist you with logistics during load in and will approve the satisfactory cleanup of food and beverage stations and décor following your event. The Operations Technician will be on hand to help with power and other facility-related needs. An Audio Visual Technician to run in-house AV equipment is available at an additional charge.
Facility security will be provided at event entrance(s) and exit(s) in correlation with the galleries rented. Please contact the Museum Rentals department if you have any special security needs.
The Exploratorium will be able to provide select AV packages. Magnetic Image Video is our exclusive AV provider for use of Exploratorium AV equipment. They can be reached at 415.456.7900 or http://www.mivideo.com for a quote.
The Exploratorium requires the use of approved caterers for all events. No outside caterers may be used. Each caterer on our list is familiar with the Exploratorium’s facility, procedures, rules and regulations, and carries our required insurance, health permits, and liquor liability insurance. Approved caterers offer a variety of menus and price ranges, as well as excellent food and exceptional service. Please see the attachment for the full list of Approved Caterers.
Before each event, all vendors are required to schedule a walkthrough with a member of the Museum Rentals team to make arrangements regarding deliveries, power needs, floor plans, loading areas, and pickup times. Outside vendors are also required to provide a certificate of insurance with an Additional Insured Endorsement meeting the Exploratorium’s insurance requirements. (See the Insurance section below for details.)
Floor Plans/Event Timelines
The Exploratorium must approve specific plans involving event timelines, caterers, musicians, florists, and all décor, including sound, plants, and lighting schemes. Approval must also be given for positioning of tables, bars, musicians, etc., and any special needs that the renter may have. All requests for planning must be received by the Exploratorium by no later than three weeks prior to the event. Careful planning allows us to provide you with the greatest assistance to accommodate your needs and the ability to evaluate potential conflicts with museum operations well in advance. Please note that plans requiring permits from the Port of San Francisco will require a lead time of eight weeks or more.
Vendor load in takes place via the Pier 17 internal drive lane. Load-in procedures will vary depending on the space(s) rented. Vendors need to confirm load-in procedures for each event and schedule use of the drive lane through the Museum Rentals department.
We feel that the value of an event experience at the Exploratorium lies in the integrity of our exhibits. Many of our exhibits are delicately balanced, difficult to move, or permanently placed. For these reasons, we are hesitant to move our exhibits and are only able to relocate select exhibits to accommodate event layouts. Your Museum Rentals contact will show which exhibits in your gallery are considered moveable. Nothing should be taped, tied, nailed, or otherwise attached to or in front of the exhibits, graphics, walls, floor, or furniture.
Much of the available electricity in the museum is used to power our exhibits. Select galleries (Bechtel Central, East, and Fisher Bay Observatory) contain company switches, which are available for event power. Company switches require special tie-in cables and may only be used by approved lighting or AV vendors.
The Exploratorium Operations department has one such tie in and can provide this for an additional charge. All lighting and sound personnel must notify the Museum Rentals team of their power needs prior to the event. While we can accommodate most requests, we may ask that you provide a generator. The museum does not provide extension cords or other equipment, and we require that any cables on the floor be safely covered and taped using Gaffer's tape.
All entertainment, stage, and speaker placement must be approved by a Museum Rentals team member at least three weeks prior to the event. Any amplified music is subject to volume control at the discretion of the Event Coordinator.￼
Helium balloons are not permitted, as they can get loose and catch in the rafters. Loose flower petals, hanging fruit (like grapes) used as decoration, and fog machines are not permitted because they jeopardize safety. Glitter and confetti are not permitted, as they are difficult to remove from the museum floor and exhibits.￼
The Tactile Dome, located in the Osher West Gallery, is a by-reservation-only attraction available to the public during open hours. The Tactile Dome can be reserved for evening events that include the Osher West Gallery. Please inquire with the Museum Rentals department for pricing and availability.￼
All decorations, promotional materials, supplies, decor, etc. must be removed immediately following the event. The museum does not have available storage areas, so rental deliveries and pickups must be made the same day as the event unless previously arranged with the Museum Rentals department. There will be a charge for equipment that is not removed from the museum after the event has concluded. The Exploratorium is not responsible for any materials left behind.￼
Ship Berthing on East End of Pier
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is located on Port of San Francisco property in the midst of the city's maritime operations. As such, the Port of San Francisco reserves the right to berth vessels on the east apron of the piers. In the event that the Port of San Francisco assigns a Navy vessel to berth on the east end of the pier, the Port of San Francisco reserves the right to close all access to the East Apron and limited portions of the Pier 15 South Apron. While such berthings are a relatively rare occurrence, please note that events will proceed as scheduled with normal cancellation penalties in place.￼
Certain installations, décor, and amplified sound affecting the exterior of Pier 15 will require a permit from the Port of San Francisco. Please discuss any exterior event plans with the Museum Rentals department to determine whether or not a Special Event permit will be required.￼
The use of any open flame during an event will require you to obtain a Fire Permit. The use of candles, sterno, and open-flame decorative lighting on dining tables, buffet tables, and stands within assembly occupancy must be approved by the Port of San Francisco and SFFD. Please consult the Port’s permit website for additional information. You can also contact the Port by phone at 415.274.0400, or by fax at 415.732.0400.￼
The Exploratorium requires certificates of insurance from clients, caterers, and all vendors that show the following:￼
- $1,000,000 General Liability
- $1,000,000 Automobile Liability
- $5,000,000 Umbrella Liability (Renter and Caterer Only)
- $1,000,000 Workers Compensation
- The Exploratorium, The City and County of San Francisco, The San Francisco Port Commission and their officers, agents, employees, and representatives listed as additional insured with the vendor’s insurance to be primary and noncontributory AND the additional insured endorsement pages ￼
In the event that the renter, its caterer, or any other vendor uses a beverage service, the beverage service must carry comprehensive general liability insurance, including liquor liability with a limit of liability not less than $1,000,000. The renter or caterer must also carry host liquor-liability coverage as a part of its general liability insurance.￼
All caterers and vendors must also have the Exploratorium listed on the insurance certificate as additional insured with the vendor's insurance to be primary and noncontributory. Certificates of insurance should either refer to the specific event date or include the following description: "This additional insured coverage applies to any and all events held at the Exploratorium."￼
Certificates of insurance can be sent to Amy Adkins, Museum Rentals Manager, via regular mail to: The Exploratorium, Pier 17, Suite 100, San Francisco, CA 9411-1455 or by email￼.
All insurance certificates must be received at least two weeks in advance of the event.￼
FOOD & BEVERAGE POLICIES
The Exploratorium’s list of approved caterers will include those offering beverage-service options. Any alcohol must be poured by a licensed, insured bartender. Although a bartending service will manage the distribution of alcohol, the event sponsor is ultimately responsible for the safety of all its invitees, guests, agents, or subcontractors, including for the distribution of alcohol. Absolutely no alcohol may be served to minors. The Exploratorium reserves the right to confiscate alcohol and any illicit substances from underage attendees and to contact the appropriate authorities if deemed necessary.
Deliveries & Pickups
The museum does not have available storage areas, so rental deliveries and pickups must be made the same day as the event unless previously arranged with the Museum Rentals Manager. There will be a charge for equipment that is not removed from the museum after the event has concluded. Upon arrival, delivery vehicles should approach the entrance to Pier 17, alert security of their arrival, and await directions to their drop-off location. Deliveries may be made prior to the museum’s closing with advance approval from the Museum Rentals department, but floor setup may not begin until the general public has cleared the area at 5:30 p.m.
Caterers and suppliers are required to load out all equipment and supplies by the end of the contracted hours so the museum can open for normal office operation by 9:00 a.m. on the day after the event.
When renting the Fisher Bay Observatory, the Observatory kitchen is available to use as a catering kitchen. This room, which is a multiuse area, must be left at least as clean as it was found. Please observe the posted guidelines. When the Fisher Bay Observatory is not included in a rental, please coordinate with the Museum Rentals department to identify the ideal location for prep during your event.
The event rental area and event prep areas should be bussed for stray plates, glasses, etc. All debris and garbage should be bagged and removed from the premises. Caterers are to supply brooms, mops, and buckets. It is advisable that, for large parties, caterers supply extra trash containers. Any food or liquids on the floor should be swept or mopped up. All trash, recycling, compost (including flowers, decor, etc.) must be removed from the premises on the night of the event.
Cleanup is subject to the approval of the Event Coordinator. After an event, we ask that the catering wrap-up crew be out promptly so we can secure the building.
SEAGLASS Restaurant and the Seismic Joint Café are private concessions owned and operated by Curiosity Catering. Use of these areas as part of your event must be arranged directly through the Museum Rentals department at the Exploratorium: 415.528.4500. Please be advised that the use of the sink, counters, and kitchen area by other caterers is not permitted.