California Academy of Sciences

A magnificent blend of entertainment and education, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is one of the biggest and the most modern natural history museums in the world. It is a unique, wondrous place of discovery just a short drive away from the Silicon Valley.

The Academy got its start over 160 years ago, making it the oldest operating museum and research institution in California. In 1863, the Academy started as a learned society undertaking a variety of research. During the 20th century, the focus turned toward exhibits and education. In 2008, the museum underwent a complete overhaul and its newly constructed 400,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility houses over 26 million specimens. The building is the world’s first (and largest) Double Platinum LEED-certified museum in the world.

“Discover an aquarium, rainforest, planetarium and natural history museum—all under one living roof.”

The museum is divided into four levels, all with a concentration toward natural history.

The Osher Rainforest spirals through the center of the building and is overflowing with all forms of exotic plant and animal life. Birds, spiders, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians coexist in the steamy exhibit that includes a Bornean forest floor with a ‘river’ bursting with fish of all shapes and sizes, a Madagascan mid-section and a Costa Rican canopy topped with a 90-foot diameter glass dome. The flora and fauna on all levels includes an amazing variety of trees, bushes, creeping vines and flowering plants.

With its 75-foot dome display, the Morrison Planetarium will immerse visitors in the vastness and beauty of the planet Earth and our universe while the Steinhart Aquarium sends you to the varying depths of our oceans. The unique Earthquake exhibit allows visitors to learn about the shifting and shaking of our planet as they literally experience the 1906 San Francisco and 1989 Loma Prieta earthquakes.

In keeping with it’s green construction, even the Academy’s Living Roof is an exhibit. It provides a habitat for local wildlife, has various weather monitoring stations as well as hills and meadows whose vegetation covers almost 90% of the rooftop, creating insulation, capturing excess rainfall and transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen.

These only begin to touch upon the incredible events and exhibits available at the Academy. A complete, detailed list can be found here.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 5pm and Sundays 11am to 5pm and is a wonderful way to spend the day. The museum has a full-service café offering a wide variety of foods as well as gift shop. You can purchase tickets online or at the door. Visit the Academy’s website for directions, a daily schedule of events or to otherwise plan your visit.