Family Travel: California Academy of Sciences, Flickr: johnloo

Hatches at the Academy

The California Academy of Sciences, located in San Francisco’s beautiful and diverse Golden Gate Park, touts itself as being the only place on earth where an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and a four-story rainforest co-exist under one roof.  

The structure of the museum is within itself a major accomplishment and architectural achievement.  Taking nearly 10 years and $500 million dollars to build, the new building is an amazing structure that from certain angles blends almost completely in with the natural park environment.  The museum is also the greenest on the planet, possessing the platinum rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  Recycled water systems, soil and recycled blue jean insulation, a living roof equipped with solar energy panels, natural light and floor heating panels help to make this museum incredibly sustainable.  

If you aren’t swayed to visit by the green architecture, never fear.  The most popular exhibits in the museum include the 4-story dome walk-through rainforest—it’s hot in the rainforest, so dress in layers if you plan to spend any time in this exhibit!  The rainforest is full of free flying birds, reptiles, amphibians, an underground view of the river fish, and even a cave with bats!

The rest of the Steinhart Aquarium, also part of the Living Collection, is home to more than 38,000 animals from all around the world.  The 25-foot deep coral reef aquarium is one of the largest on the planet.

The Morrison Planetarium is the world’s largest all-digital dome.  Planetarium shows run every hour on the half, and are included with your admission.  Tickets are given out on a first come first serve basis and usually fill up quickly.  Note to parents: kids under three are not allowed in the planetarium, and the recommend age for most shows is six.

The Kimball Natural History Museum carries 150 years of research under its belt, in addition to the 20 million specimens on site ready for discovery.  In addition to a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, a giant T-Rex, Foucault Pendulum, and sixteen dioramas fill the museum’s corners with plenty of hands-on-learning opportunities.

The museum offers two restaurants, the Academy Café, a casual quick service restaurant with numerous multi-cultural options, and Moss Room, a fine-dining experience.  Chef Charles Phan oversees both restaurants where fresh, organic and healthy meal options abound.
 
Museum admission starts at $29.95 for adults, $24.95 for kids 12-17, and $19.95 for kids 4-11.  Children under 4 are free.  Four times a year, the museum offers free days on a first come, first serve basis.  To encourage sustainable practices, discounts are offered for arriving to the museum via public transportation or bicycle.


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photo: johnloo

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