California Academy of Sciences

Things to do Golden Gate Park
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California Academy of Sciences (Photograph: Tim Griffith)
Photograph: Tim Griffith
California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences (Photograph: Tim Griffith)
Photograph: Tim Griffith
California Academy of Sciences San Francisco, California Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences

The opening in 2008 of the redesigned Academy marked the debut of the world's “greenest” museum and put San Francisco firmly on the world science museum map—it's the only such institution to combine an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and scientific research program under one roof. The complex is anchored by a four-story rainforest dome that's home to flitting butterflies and birds, and a “living roof” that features some 1.7 million native plant species. In between is the Steinhart Aquarium with the world's deepest living coral reef display, an Amazonian “flooded forest” viewed via an acrylic tunnel, the all-digital Morrison Planetarium, a live penguin habitat, an African Hall with lifesize dioramas of lions and gazelles, and a swamp featuring Claude, the albino alligator. As opposed to most museum fare, the Academy's dining options are first-rate: The Academy Cafe offers a half-dozen organic, sustainable ethnic food stations; the Moss Room is a proper, fancy sit-down restaurant with a dripping moss wall.


Venue name: California Academy of Sciences
Address: Golden Gate Park
55 Concourse Dr
San Francisco

Opening hours: Mon–Sat 9:30am–5pm; Sun 11am–5pm
Transport: Bus 5, 16X, 44, 71
Price: $34.95, seniors and youth 12–17 $29.95, children 4–11 $24.95; children under 3 free. Free on select Sundays throughout the year; check website for dates.
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Monica L

During my first-ever trip to San Francisco, I visited the California Academy of Sciences. A friend and host kicked off the trip by bringing us on a Thursday night when the museum opens its doors not just for perusing, but also for happy hour. The mixture of cocktails, millennials, and a natural history museum sounded like recipe for disaster, but was instead an amazingly fun time. The relaxed nature of the evening made the museum experience feel more intimate and engaging than I’ve had at other institutions – this is indicative of SF’s city vibe on the whole. I had a great time exploring the Osher Rainforest exhibit and, of course, meeting Claude, the albino alligator. A peak at the Naturalist Center’s specimens is also worthwhile.