Imagination and Innovation Merge in the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s $20 Million Renovation

Beloved by local families for more than three decades, the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) in Sausalito welcomes more than 350,000 guests a year. The museum’s spectacular Fort Baker setting in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a definite perk. But the real draw here are the interactive, learning-oriented exhibits that keep kids, from tots to 10-year-olds, engaged, excited and exploring — earning much gratitude from weary parents and caregivers. This year, the museum has completed a major $20 million renovation of its campus, with five new research-backed exhibits designed by renowned architecture firm Olson Kundig and Design Principal Alan Maskin. Here’s a look at these new spaces.

Tot Spot 

tot spot

Landscape-inspired rooms invite toddlers to crawl, feel and hop through themed environments, all the while gaining an age-appropriate introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning concepts. The bay and water room features a play structure offering different tactile experiences, while the forest and habitat room offers plenty of interactive areas to explore, and a black-and-white wall mural by Steven Valenziano features animals and plants that are native to Marin County. 

How Things Work 

how things work

From household appliances to a circuit board and a Mini Cooper, this exhibit reveals the inner workings of familiar objects to spark children’s curiosity and encourage abstract thinking. Kids can gain an entirely new perspective on the exhibit by climbing up to the “attic” perch.

Lookout Cove

Look out Cove

BADM’s outdoor boat exhibit, a longtime favorite of museum guests, has been replaced by “Faith,” a larger, more accessible, decommissioned commercial fishing vessel from Bodega Bay with multiple interior and exterior levels to explore. Before arriving at the museum, the boat was prepared at Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito and then sailed to the museum campus, where it was craned out of the water and transported across the site via truck.

Try It Studio 

Increasing digital literacy is the focus of the Try It Studio and Think, Make, Try Classroom — a necessity in the tech-forward Bay Area. The exhibit features a number of machines that children can use and adapt, including a kinetic drawing arm, interactive music box and 3D printers.

Gumnut Grove 

gumnut grove

This imaginative climbing structure inspired by the seedpods of the eucalyptus trees prevalent on the BADM campus invites 5- to 10-year-olds to explore risk and develop confidence in a safe environment. The design is the result of an interactive process that started before it was built, where children were invited to share their ideas for the new outdoor play area.


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Lotus Abrams

Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.