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The California Academy of Sciences

San Francisco's Natural History Museum is Not to Be Missed

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The California Academy of Sciences
Photo by Ocean Malandra
With it's living roof and endless exhibits, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest and well designed natural history museums in the world. From planetarium shows on the formation of the universe to getting up close with sharks and stingrays, much of the museums is hands-on and interactive. A wide variety of events, everything from cocktail parties for the adults to sleepovers for the kids, take place at the Academy and during each and every day guided walks, animal feedings and special presentations happen nearly hourly.

Visiting the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is located in Golden Gate Park, directly across the Music Concourse from the de Young Museum.

Getting to the Academy is fast and easy on public transit from downtown San Francisco, simply take the 5 Fulton Muni and get off at the 8th Avenue entrance to the park or the N Judah Muni Metro train and get off at 9th and Irving. Parking is available in the Music Concourse at an hourly rate.

  • Address: 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park
  • Hours: 9:30am to 5pm Monday - Saturday, 11am to 5pm Sundays
  • Admission: Adults $29.99, Youth, Seniors and Students $24.99
  • Contact: (888) 670-4433 www.calacademy.org
Admission to the California Academy of Sciences is also included in the San Francisco CityPass, which bundles the entrance fees to a handful of top San Francisco attractions along with a transit pass into one low price.

A wide variety of tours, including behind the scenes tours of the aquarium, are available with advanced booking.

Things to See at the Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences has so many exhibits and programs that it is nearly impossible to visit them all in one day, but here are some of the top attractions.
  • The Steinhart Aquarium: Home to almost 1,000 aquatic species from around the world, the Steinhart Aquarium is a major SF attraction in its own right. The Phillipine Coral Reef is one of the deepest reef exhibits in the world while the African Hall holds a penguin habitat modeled after an actual beach in South Africa.

  • The Morrison Planetarium: Featuring the largest all-digital dome in the world, which produces the most precise digital universe ever made, the planetarium shows a wide variety of different astronomical and geographical shows on a daily basis.

  • The Earthquake Exhibit: Experience for yourself what the 1906 and 1989 San Francisco earthquakes actually felt like in the Shake House and check out what happens beneath the surface of the earths plates at the walk-through earth exhibit.

  • The Kimball Natural History Museum: From the Galapagos Islands to the Savannah of Africa, this extensive museum within a museum is dedicated to animals and their ecosystems across the globe. Be sure to check out the full sized skeleton of Tyranosouras Rex and the 235-pound Foucault's Pendulum, which proves that the earth is rotating on an axis.

  • Rainforests of the World: Inside this 4-story dome the ecosystems of rainforests from all over the world, including the mighty Amazon, has been brought to life. Butterflies, reptiles and colorful tropical birds roam freely within each ecosystem and the lowest level holds a clear tunnel under the water that visitors can walk through.

The Living Roof of the Academy of Sciences

The whole Academy structure is an award winning model of sustainable design that is solar powered and super energy efficient but what has really drawn it fame in terms of eco-accolades is the living rooftop. The nearly 200,000 square foot rooftop is home to a living garden of native California plants, and actually acts as insulation to keep the building cool in summer. You can check it out for yourself from the rooftop observation deck, a real treat in the spring and early summer when the wildflowers are blooming.

Special Programs at the Academy of Sciences

From the Jurassic in the Park program, that features a 3D Dinosaurs Alive show, to the Nightlife at the Academy program that happens every Thursday night, there are all sorts of events constantly taking place at the California Academy of Sciences. For a complete listing of special events and programs check out the current schedule.

Dining at the Academy of Sciences

There are two restaurants located within the California Academy of Sciences:
  • The Academy Cafe: Actually in three locations, the Cafe serves light fare with global cuisine influences and is open the same hours as the Academy.

  • The Moss Room: With living walls that are part of the Steinhart Aquarium, this fine dining restaurant is only open for lunch and serves meals based on local and organic ingredients. Reservations are recommended. (415) 876-6121 www.themossroom.com

Shopping at the Academy of Sciences

The Academy Story, located near the entrance, is stocked with clothing, books and gifts while the Lab Jr., which sits next to the Planetarium, is full of educational toys and games.

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