Parents searching for a hands-on, multimedia arts and technology experience for their children need look no further than Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum. Since 1998, this novel 34,000 square-foot facility has occupied the rooftop of Yerba Buena Gardens. It was created as part of an urban renewal project initiated by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, covering some 87 acres in the South of Market area.
Today, Zeum fosters "Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication.'' As a nonprofit 501(c), community-based organization, it seeks to nurture the 3Cs in local youth and their families by inspiring new ideas and innovative solutions. Each year, some 250,000 youth are served by the museum's interactive exhibits, camps, workshops, and free public events.
In Zeum's Main Gallery, visitors can use multimedia arts tools to give free rein to their imaginations. They are urged to create digital music, computer graphics, 2-D and 3-D animations, special effects, news broadcast shows, and puppet shows. The results can be taken home on DVD.
Zeum's facilities include an Animator's Studio, a Music Production Lab, and a Digital Workshop. Recently installed, too, is a MetaField Maze - a virtual reality game that requires use of the whole body to roll a marble through a computer-generated, room-sized maze projected onto the floor.
Zeum also offers a full schedule of field trips throughout the year. These educational outings encourage project-based learning, the development of critical thinking skills, cooperation, and collaboration. They allow participants to plan the trips as well as implement them, and each one concludes with a group wrap-up discussion.
No visit to the museum is complete without a ride on the hand-carved horses, giraffes, camels, and other animals on the Zeum Carousel, open daily from 11am to 6pm. This popular attraction was created in 1906, and for many years it served at a local amusement park called Playland-at-the-Beach. Since 1998, it has been a fixture at Zeum in Yerba Buena Gardens, fully restored to its original grandeur. The cost for two rides is just $3 per person.
Located right next to the carousel is Zeum's outdoor caf,. It provides beverages, sandwiches, and snacks from 11am to 6pm daily. Meanwhile, the Zeum Theater hosts all kinds of performances, screenings, presentations and concerts. Visitors should call ahead for performance calendars and ticketing information. The theater is also available to groups for private rental year-round.
The Zeum Store offers an assortment of gifts, toys, and educational items for sale. Among them are creative games, marionettes, masks, arts and crafts projects, imaginative books, and products from around the world. The store is open for business from 11am to 6pm on Thursday through Sunday. Zeum members receive a discount of 10% on all purchases.
The museum's operating hours are from 1pm to 5pm on Wednesday through Friday and 11am to 5pm on weekends. When field trips are scheduled on weekdays, some exhibits may not open till 2pm. The price of general admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students, seniors and youth aged 3~17. Zeum members and children aged two and under are admitted free of charge.
Zeum is located downtown at the corner of Fourth and Howard streets. The address is 221 Fourth Street, San Francisco, California 94103. Access is easy via public transportation using the MUNI, BART, CalTrain, or Amtrak's Capitol Corridor (Moscone Center stop). By car from the South Bay, take Interstate 101 North to Interstate 80 east. Get off at the Fourth Street Exit. Turn left on Bryant, left of Third, and left again on Howard to reach the entrance. Parking is available at local garages on Mission, Third and Stephenson streets.