California Academy of Sciences

Delivering the wonders of land, space, and water in an exquisitely wrapped package, the California Academy of Sciences brings the above, below, and beyond of the entire world to life. Serving as one of the largest, innovative, and most eco-friendly natural history museums in the world, this Golden Gate Park jewel glistens with the promise of prehistoric sensations, astronomical exploits, dazzling gems and minerals, and living examples of extraordinary plants and animals.

california academy of science

Inside the Academy of Sciences

With recent cutting-edge renovations, the Academy of Sciences now serves as a dynamic arrangement of planetary, aquatic, and historic specimens and exhibits that showcase a harmonious existence between earth, space, and the oceans. Visitors are treated to a unique journey into the past, present, and future of the world – one that lasts a lifetime.

Pushing the envelope of sustainable architecture, the new Academy of Sciences uses the ingenious creativity of designer, Renzo Piano – a Pritzker Prize-winning architect behind the designs of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and New York Times Headquarters Building in Manhattan. Housed within a single structure, the new Academy offers many nooks and crannies to explore, including an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, 3D theater, lecture hall, two restaurants, gift shop, and relaxing adjacent garden and aviary. There is also a scientific archive boasting more than 20 million specimens, which accompanies an impressive library.

The History of the Academy of Science

The makings of this natural history playground started in 1853 where it first served as an original research center. Since the state of California had joined the United States only three years previous, the Academy was deemed the first association of its kind to prosper within the western part of the U.S. At first, the society, which aimed to collect an assortment of common and unusual items about the region, was called the California Academy of Natural Sciences, and later renamed the California Academy of Sciences in 1868.

Throughout the years, the Academy has been attached to many great firsts, such as leading the way in providing advanced positions within the science world for women, who were typically limited to taking cataloguing and filing jobs. The Academy began to branch out from research and constructed the first official museum in 1874, positioning their building on the corner of California and Dupont Streets. Each year, about 80,000 visitors journeyed to the site.

The demand was so great to explore the finds within the Academy that a newer, larger building was erected in 1891, which was situated on Market Street to accommodate the masses. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1906 destroyed parts of the library and specimen collections, forcing the eventual move to Golden Gate Park in 1916. Making the transition to the North American Hall of Birds and Mammals allowed future expansions to unfold. In 1923, the colorful Steinhart Aquarium blossomed, while the Simson African Hall found a home in 1934.

frogDuring the post-World War II era, the Academy underwent additional changes and received the Science Hall in 1951, followed by a gateway to the stars with the Morrison Planetarium in 1952. The Eastwood Hall of Botany was added in 1959, which preceded the rapid growth of numerous specimen collections, regarding subjects such as molecular biology. More buildings were added throughout the 60s and 70s, including new galleries.

It wasn’t until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that the initial plans to reconstruct the Academy of today began to take shape. At that time, the Bird Hall had to be closed and the Steinhart Aquarium suffered extensive damage.

Eco-Friendly Winds of Change

Today, the damage of old is but a memory as renovations for a newer, better, more ecologically sound California Academy of Sciences began in 2005 with a grand re-opening taking place on September 27th, 2008.

To date, this makes the Academy one of the greenest museums in the world from top to bottom – equipped with energy-generating solar panels that prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions) and radiant sub-floor heating. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls allow interior offices to reap the benefits of natural light. Recycled steel and sustainable lumber resources were also used to create the building that now uses 30% less energy consumption than federal code requirements.

Things to Do

Since one of the main goals of the Academy is to explore the various realms of science and then educate the public, there are plenty of interesting exhibits to investigate. One moment you’re viewing the latest changes concerning botany, geology, or biodiversity, while the next is spent analyzing prehistoric toothed birds or coming face to face with live anacondas in the Amazonian Flooded Rainforest exhibit. Specimens from across the globe decorate the inside of the Academy of Sciences, including an impressive display of aquatic treasures. Some of the things that guests can now enjoy at the Academy of Sciences include:

a) Tour Rainforests of the World: Enclosed within a 90-foot diameter dome, this slice of tropical paradise surrounds visitors with floating butterflies and lively birds. Travel the spiraling pathway, which leads to three distinct rainforest habitats – Costa Rica, Borneo, and Madagascar.

b) Hands-On Exploration: Stop by the Discovery Tidepool, where hermit crabs, sea stars and other creatures deliver interactive education regarding the California terrain.

c) See the Stars: A state-of-the-art digital projection system accompanies a 180-degree screen at the Planetarium, which presents an enhanced terrestrial experience through real-time data provided by NASA.

d) Visit the Naturalist Center: The Academy allows guests to research exhibits and examine specimens at their Naturalist Center, which also provides a venue for lectures and small public programs.

e) Attend a Lecture: A variety of key speakers make appearances at the Academy, including sold-out functions that showcase global warming wisdom from the likes of the 45th vice president of the United States, Al Gore.

f) Swamp-Sightseeing: Head for the Swamp, where turtles, subtropical fish, and the rare white alligator provide snapshots into a prehistoric past.

white alligator

g) Discover the Latest in “Green” Design: Promoting a better relationship between humans and their natural surroundings, a vegetation-covered roof helps increase biodiversity. An open-air observation deck conveniently places guests in the thick of the “Living Roof.”

Contact Details

Location: 55 Music Concourse Drive (located right between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and JFK Drive).

Phone Number: (415) 379-8000

Hours: Monday – Saturday (9:30am – 5pm); Sunday (11am – 5pm)

Admission Price:

Adult $29.95
Senior (ages 65 and over) $24.95
Student $24.95
Youth (ages 12-17) $24.95
Child (ages 4-11) $19.95
Ages 3 and under FREE

The California Academy of Sciences offers free entry on the following Sundays in 2012:

February 5, 2012
June 3, 2012
September 16, 2012
December 9, 2012

As well as on neighborhood-specific promotions sorted by ZIP code on certain weekends. Note: Admission grants you access to all museum and aquarium exhibits, rainforest, living roof and planetarium shows.

For further price information please visit:

Interesting Fact: Recycled blue jeans are responsible for 68% of the California Academy of Sciences’ insulation.

Map: California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park

26 Responses to “California Academy of Sciences”

  1. Jeff
    March 28, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    The Academy of Sciences is a GREAT place to visit. They always have something new and exciting!

    • GO TO CAOS
      March 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

      1. That is rude to all the people that work there, because they want to make it enjoyable for you. :( 2. If you’ve never been, don’t post offensive comments. :(

  2. Tegl
    March 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Sounds like a fantastic place to visit!

  3. CP
    March 28, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    Do you think it will be really crowded on Easter?

    • baldy
      July 16, 2011 at 6:06 am #

      yes i think it will be very crowded on the ester day :) by: Tow Mater

  4. JJ
    April 12, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    this is great!

    • baldy
      July 16, 2011 at 6:07 am #

      yes it was iv been here loads of times

    April 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    The academy is a great place to visit on the Thursday nights when there’s special event every Thursday night. On Thursday nights you can experience a nightlife party environment in the academy as well as check out the exhibits, partying and learning together.

  6. Joanne
    July 4, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Entrance fees are expensive, how can families afford this,terrible.

    • ECF
      March 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      i would rather have my kid go here for 20 bucks than disneyland !

    • George
      August 21, 2012 at 7:12 am #

      City pass helps…

    • halolo
      March 26, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      California Academy of Sciences is a GREAT place for kids and adults of all ages! The admission is cheap, and I have a season pass. Such a great learning experience for city people! (don’t forget to see the penguins) (m)

    • Cynthia Ozeki
      September 12, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      If you have a Bay Area library card, you may be able to take your family once for free using the new Discover and Go passes. Check out your library web site!

  7. Lance burton
    November 29, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    20 bucks for a 4 year old?! that’s outrageous!!

  8. uggs
    December 1, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    expensive and bad food, will not go there again.

    • George
      August 21, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      yep. much better food in the Avenues. Clement Street is close enough with greater variety, less costly, better tasting foods. Look in between the blocks for hidden away city parking lots;-) Eat before you get there, especially with kids and save the big bucks to enjoy in the neighborhoods…

  9. sandy
    December 9, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    do more to protect the environment,it is more and more important

  10. Kristie
    January 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Too expensive for not enough. It was rather disappointing. If you must go, I advise checking to see if there are tickets on Craigslist.

  11. Brian
    January 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    You REALLY need to add more lighting to the cross walk on Middle drive east by the Cal Academy. I was driving Thursday night along Middle drive east and was looking into the headlights of oncoming traffic and with the combination of a very dark street, no lighting whatsoever, and headlights in my eyes, I nearly hit a child running across the cross walk. I simply could not see anyone on the sidewalk. The child was saved by someone screaming “STOP”. Please fix this asap! You are going to have to do anyway when someone gets killed there, so do it before that tragedy strikes.

  12. milinda
    March 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Took the kids yesterday for the first time. We all loved it. They were so fascinated by all the fish, shark, rays, etc. Nice to know they have a free admission day every month! Thanks!

  13. john james
    April 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Its very expensive and not worth for the money. I should be less than $5

  14. Maria Diaz
    June 2, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    This is really a place for a family visit, but the place is definitely overpriced, particularly for a normative family–it can const over $100 (+ food, etc.). It is outrageous. How can 3-5 year old children, who barely can understand the place have to pay $20?!! The exhibits are quite mediocre for adults and even for discerning and precocious children. The planetarium show is quite good and the roof visit is fun–but they are not worth the family entrance fee.The food is so so and there is no access to the cafeteria unless you pay an entrance fee (contrary to the De Young museum where you have free access to many spaces in the museum.

    In short–not worth the visit. Thankfully, I did not take my whole family. I went in with the 12 year old child and my husband had to babysit outside with the 4 year old due to the prohibitive prices.

  15. ROB
    June 28, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    30 bucks! shameful san francisco. another ploy to rip off the public to pay for the bloated san francisco infrastructure and city staff. how does a family afford this? where does it end?

  16. Ada
    August 16, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    Do you any of you understand how much money it costs to keep a place like this running? There are thousands of animals to feed. This is a truly special place you cheap scapes can go to San Diego Sea World and pay $60-70 per person and you are supporting the cruel act of cetaceans performing tricks for dumbed down humans who have no idea how horrid the conditions those animals live in. Maybe you just didn’t explore enough, but in my opinion the CAS is definitely worth your 30 dollars.

  17. Masako Miyashita
    January 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Hi there to every one, the contents existing at this site are genuinely remarkable for people experience, well, keep up the nice work fellows.|

  18. Aunt Rhonda
    February 9, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Is there parking?

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