With its native plant–covered living roof, retractable ceiling, three-story rain forest, gigantic planetarium, living coral reef, and frolicking penguins, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the city's most spectacular treasures. Dramatically designed by Renzo Piano, it's an eco-friendly, energy-efficient adventure in biodiversity and green architecture. The roof's large mounds and hills mirror the local topography, and Piano's audacious design completes the
dramatic transformation of the park's Music Concourse. Moving away from a restrictive role as a museum that catalogued natural history, the academy these days is all about sustainability and the future. The locally beloved dioramas in African Hall have survived the transition, however.
By the time you arrive, hopefully you've decided which shows and programs to attend, looked at the academy's floor plan, and designed a plan to cover it all in the time you have. And if not, here's the quick version: Head left from the entrance to the wooden walkway over otherworldly rays in the Philippine Coral Reef, then continue to the Swamp to see Claude, the famous albino alligator. Swing through African Hall and gander at the penguins, take the elevator up to the living roof, then return to the main floor and get in line to explore the Rainforests of the World, ducking free-flying butterflies and watching for other live surprises. You'll end up below ground in the Amazonian Flooded Rainforest, where you can explore the academy's other aquarium exhibits. Phew.
During peak periods the museum adds a $5 surcharge to tickets purchased at the door, so buy yours online ahead of time.
Mar 24, 2011
I can't believe it took me so long and so many visits to San Francisco, to finally visit the California Academy of Sciences! I missed so much. This place is amazing! Two tips: 1. Buy your tickets online - we got a 20% discount :) 2. If you want to take in the Planetarium show - and I suggest you do - go directly after entering to sign up for a show time. They fill up fast and have limited seating. Then you can take your time viewing the aquarium
and the rainforest - both chocked full of interesting creatures and beautifully displayed. The living roof is interesting but it was a cold day so we didn't spend much time up there. The cafeteria serves above average museum food and there is also a restaurant we didn't try. I cant wait to return and perhaps attend one of the evening lectures or music events. The ambience of the place would make something like that sparkle.