The Early Explorers Cove is the perfect combination of learn-through-play space, reading room, and activities area for our smallest visitors—ideal for children up to 5 years of age.

Join your little ones while they read books, "plant" vegetables, meet creatures, and use their imaginations to sail the 1905 Galapagos seas in the H.M.S. Academy. Toddlers and children are introduced to the wide world of animals, nature, and science through hands-on activities, storybooks, and more.

The Cove is free with general admission or membership and welcomes all children 5 and younger when accompanied by an adult.

Please note: Starting August 1, the Early Explorers Cove will close for renovations and many exciting updates! It will reopen in late September as the reimagined Curiosity Grove, a newly expanded play and activity space for children and families highlighting California’s diverse forest ecosystems and offering new early childhood programming. Stay tuned for details!

Cartoon raccoon peeking from behind a tree

Coming Soon: Curiosity Grove

Join us on September 30 when we unveil Curiosity Grove, a reimagined environment for little learners and their families, highlighting California’s diverse forest ecosystems. Exciting updates await your exploration, including an expanded play space for children and families, dedicated nursing area, shoe-friendly flooring, and new early childhood programs. 


A mother and toddler laugh while playing with an interactive toy in a corner of the Cove.

The Play Space

Become a sailing scientist, tend a play garden, find a story in the reading corner, or head for the hills on a toddler-sized rocking snail! The Cove is packed with activities for curious, growing minds. 

A little girl uses a magnifying glass to hunt for "fossils" in an Explorers' Cove game.

Special Programs

From "trekking" around the world to exploring the science of our young visitors' own backyard, Cove programs pack developmentally appropriate activities into each session. Please check our calendar to learn more, as some programs require advance reservations. 

A young boy laughs while peering out of the porthole of the Cove's model ship.

Explore More!

Members can stop by the Cove to pick up an Aquatic Take-Along pack that introduces 2- to 7-year-olds ​to the underwater world of Steinhart Aquarium. Featuring illustrated cards and hands-on props (like castanets and suction cups), it's a fun way to bring complex concepts to life.

A little girls watches a turtle, one of several live animals that visit the Cove.

Close Encounters

The Early Explorers Cove is home to some very special (and gentle) residents: a colony of Madagascar hissing cockroaches and an eastern box turtle. Children are encouraged to say hello and learn more about the animals from Cove staff.

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Early Explorers Cove Hours

Cove Hours

Monday - Saturday
10 am – 5 pm

11 am – 5 pm

Last entry is at 4:30 pm, space permitting.



Cove Members' Hours

Cove Members' Hours

Tuesday: 8:30 am – 9:30 am
Sunday: 10 am – 11 am

Early Explorers Cove Location

Where to Find Us

We're located in the Bingham Family Leadership Center, to the left of the Lab Junior children's shop on the ground floor.