OFFBEAT ORBS: California and strange rounded structures have a long and storied history. There's the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard, a Tinseltown theatre that's marking its half-centennial in 2013. There's James Turrell's Perceptual Cell, a light-and-sensory experience that's on view at the Los Angeles County of Art through spring 2014. And there's The Exploratorium's Tactile Dome, a 1971-built icon that's been a San Francisco favorite -- nay, legend -- for over four decades. The dome's purpose? Give people a maze-by-touch experience (meaning much of it was fully dark). The dome's builder? August Coppola, the father of Nicolas Cage. The dome's legend? That depends on the person you ask, but many people love it for its good-vibe-y, alt-experience, early-'70s aura. Us? We remember leaving with dried beans in our shoes, accidentally, from the final pit you slid into. (You, too? Yeah. Beans, everywhere.)
DOME, UPDATED: The scoot-through maze, which challenges visitors to feel wall-and-floor textures as they move within, bowed on Oct. 30 with a newer vibe but the same sensory-big experience. "Like the hundreds of other exhibits that were updated for their new home on Pier 15, the new Tactile Dome has been built while still preserving the spirit of its past, and its reopening is one of the final groovy steps in the Exploratorium's re-location," reads an announcement. We're most happy, probably, by the use of the word "groovy," because goodness forbid that a '70s wonder lose its innate '70s spirit.
BUT... one thing that definitely hasn't changed is this: You'll need to make reservations. It's fifteen bucks, plus admission into The Exploratorium. Trust us on this, though: If you desire a quirkier, friend-laughing adventure, with a happy whiff of shag-carpet-bean-pit '70s cool, the Tactile Dome has you covered. Welcome back to the Bay Area's esoteric and wonder-filled touch maze.