Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity (thanks Alex!) to go to a really fun event called "Skateboard Science" at the amazing Exploratorium museum in San Francisco. I love museums after hours, and skateboard culture is so interesting, I knew it was going to be a cool evening.
The main event for the evening was a demonstration of different skateboard tricks done by a half-dozen hardcore skaters, zooming around an impressive set of ramps, platforms and jumps. A couple of expert commentators explained some of the different tricks, had the skaters perform them, and then displayed the same trick in slo-mo on the big screen for us all to appreciate.
As a non-skater, this was really helpful for me to appreciate the difficulty of what they were doing. Before I didn't even grok how it is even possible to jump in the air, flip up your board, have it spin under you 360 degrees, and then land on it. Oh and do it while flying off of a ramp into the air. It's still really hard to comprehend, but I understand better the concept and physics behind it.
There was also exhibits demonstrating different physics principles involved in skateboarding and skater movies playing all night.
It had been a super long time since I've been to the Exploratorium, so I spent a lot of my first hour there just wandering around and reacquainting myself with the permanent exhibits. Being able to wander the museum with hardly anyone else there was a huge treat! I really liked the sections that deal with the senses and how your brain works, full of displays you can play with and manipulate.
My favorite exhibit by far was the Tactile Dome, an experience I have long known about but never had the nerve to try. Basically it's a completely pitch black pathway of tunnels that you crawl through, using just your sense of touch to guide you. It's deceptively small — while inside I swear that I crawled for yards and yards, but must have just been inches at time. At different junctures the texture of the floor and walls and ceiling change from rubber to shag to slippery plastic. At one point I thought I had gotten lost and actually doubled back, but the changing texture of the walls told me that I was actually progressing.
As I finally found the exit, the light and noise of the larger museum flooded my senses. I stumbled back to my feet and put back on my shoes and jacket. "How was it?" asked a docent. "I want to go again!" I said, a complaint I'm sure they must hear a thousands times a day.
Meanwhile, the rest of the evening's festivities were just getting started. As the evening wore on, more and more people started arriving, mostly in hip youngsters in their 20s and 30s, chatting in small groups and playing with exhibits. Definitely these AfterDark events must be good pick-up joints for single folks and date night spot for couples. The open bars seemed to be doing brisk business.
Overall, I can't think of a better way to see the Exploratorium, at least as a child-less adult. I can't wait to come back.