Lonely Planet Writer

Dive into a giant yellow ball pit at San Francisco’s pop-up Color Factory

From its painted ladies to rainbow crosswalks, San Francisco is already one of the most vibrant cities in the U.S., and this month it’s about to get a little more colorful. Oh Happy Day, artist Leah Rosenberg, and designer Erin Jang, are opening Color Factory, a sprawling pop-up “color experience” in the city’s Union Square neighbourhood.

A colorful new addition to the San Francisco streetscape opens this week
The Color Factory in San Francisc. Image courtesy of the Color Factory

According to Jordan Ferney, founder of Oh Happy Day, the City by the Bay is a fitting locale for Color Factory. “San Francisco has a great tradition and heritage around art and design,” she tells Lonely Planet. “However, right now, San Francisco is filled with creative and diverse people who spend way too much time online. Color Factory is an invitation to have delightful, real-world experiences.” Located in a 12,000 square foot space, the building’s brightly-striped facade hints at those colorful experiences that await within, including art installations, tasty treats, and an array of multi sensory elements.

Dive into this giant yellow ball pit at Union Square
The ball pit at San Francisco’s Color Factory. Image by: Color Factory

Among other gems, there’s a holographic prism room by Rosenberg, an installation with 10,000 rainbow ribbons by artist Jacob Dahlgren, a seven-foot lazy susan filled with multi-hued sweets from a few SF-based shops and bakeries, and a confetti room that mimics the inside of a snow globe. But perhaps the most ‘delightful, real world’ fun will go down in the massive ball pit filled with 207,000 yellow balls, where grown adults can channel the kiddie birthday parties of their youth. Also all-yellow: the gift shop by prop stylist Randi Brookman Harris. (Look out for soft serve ice cream in shades of the sunny color.)

Along the way, visitors can capture the colorful fun at a series of six room-sized photo booth stations. In true high-tech, San Francisco style, pics will be automatically emailed to users when they register a card and scan its barcode.

Painting the world green at the Color Factory
Green room at San Francisco’s Color Factory. Image by: Color Factory

While Ferney notes that the ball pit is “amazing,” the entrepreneur says one of her favorite parts of the exhibition isn’t technically part of the exhibition. “When visitors reach the end of Color Factory, they are invited to pick up a map of 17 specially-curated color experiences in the neighborhood,” she says. Guests can seek-and-find a secret alley mural by Jessica Hische, a real tattoo parlor offering temporary tattoos, and a green fortune cookie from the fortune cookie factory in China Town, among other adventures. “It was important for us to extend the experience beyond the walls of the exhibition, and help people remember to notice, experience and appreciate color in the world around us.”

The Color Factory opens on 1 August and runs through 31 August, and tickets are $32 each.