WOW – what an amazing museum! The California Academy of Sciences is our favorite museum in San Francisco. It’s the only place in the world that houses one of the world’s largest Planetariums, an Aquarium and Coral Reef, a Natural History Museum, and a glass-domed Rainforest – all under the same roof.
Plan on spending the whole day here – there’s SO much to see. Get a Skip-the-Line California Academy of Sciences General Admission Ticket and save yourself the hassle of waiting in long lines.
The Planetarium offers an incredible experience! See what it feels like to travel into space and explore the universe. We recommend that you get your Planetarium show tickets when you arrive at the museum before they sell out (they’re included in the price of admission). The shows are extremely popular and the line gets longer throughout the day.
Our favorite area of the museum is the Rainforest. Judging from the crowds, we’re not the only ones! Head over to the Rainforest early before the line gets too long. Costa Rica (the top level) is truly magical. Peer over the railings and look down through the center of the Rainforest where you’ll see free-flying birds and butterflies, and fish swimming below. It’s truly stunning!
What’s even more amazing is the view of the Amazon-flooded Forest, located three levels below. Watch people under the 25-ft long acrylic tunnel as they gaze up at the fish swimming overhead. After visiting the Rainforest, take the elevator down to the museum’s spectacular 25-ft deep Aquarium. It houses the world’s deepest (and the nation’s biggest) interior Coral Reef ecosystem. It contains over 3,000 exotic fish, including sharks, rays and sea turtles. Be sure to check out the Moon Jellies too. We could have stood there watching for hours. The sea life is incredible!
Don’t miss the Penguin feeding (10:30am and 3:30pm) at the far end of African Hall. That’s when they’re at their most playful. Arrive early if you want to get a good view as this is one of the museum’s most popular attractions and the room fills up quickly.
Take the elevator up to the 2.5-acre “green” Living Roof and open-air Observation Terrace. The views from the top are spectacular, especially on a fog-free day. Get a bird’s eye view of Golden Gate Park, the Music Concourse (and Bandshell) and the M.H. de Young Museum. The Living Roof features almost two million native California plant species, including perennial plants and colorful native wildflowers. Specialists are on hand to answer your questions, so don’t be shy.
When you get to the Swamp (another popular museum exhibit), say hi to Claude. He’s the first White Alligator we’ve ever seen and he’s quite stunning. Bonnie is the other alligator. They make quite a pair!
All that walking around is bound to make you hungry. No worries – head over to the Academy’s spacious open Piazza, located just inside the main entrance. It’s a fun place to grab a cup of coffee and and a snack, relax and people-watch. There’s also the Academy Cafe offering food from the Mediterranean,Southeast Asia and Mexico, as well as a noodle station featuring Charles Phan’s Vietnamese classics. And then there’s the more fancy Moss Room, an intimate 65-seat restaurant showcasing Loretta Keller’s signature California-Mediterranean cuisine.