The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is one of San Francisco’s most popular attractions, with over a million curious visitors every year. Founded in 1853, the academy was totally rebuilt in 2008 and now comprises an aquarium, a planetarium and a natural history museum, alongside state-of-the-art facilities which have helped to maintain its reputation as one of the world’s most important research institutions in the field of life sciences.
The Kimball Natural History Museum houses exhibits that chronicle the evolution of life on earth, from prehistoric times to the present day. Learn what makes an earthquake, take a virtual African safari, see animated skeletons of our ancestors, and watch the fascinating Foucault pendulum demonstrate the Earth’s rotation.
The Morrison Planetarium, the largest all-digital planetarium in the world, displays the wonders of the universe in unique and astonishing detail. Special shows give you an astronaut’s view of our planet on an interstellar journey through space and time. At the Steinhart Aquarium you can experience the climate and creatures of the rainforest and see over 38,000 species from penguins to piranhas. The Northern California Coast Gallery replicates the fascinating marine world of the Pacific coastline, with tide-pool walkways and underwater windows to bring you as close as possible to the action without getting wet!
You can wander at will around the exhibits, or take a behind-the-scenes guided tour – see the website for full details. There’s also a programme of special events, lectures and workshops which are popular with locals as well as visitors.
The academy is open every day except Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Christmas. There is on-site parking but spaces can be limited, especially at peak times, so use the excellent public transport options that serve the Golden Gate Park for a stress-free journey.