In Praise Of: California Academy of Sciences

T. Rex from belowT. Rex from below

For those of you who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this may be nothing more than a reminder or a pleasant nudge to get over the Academy… but for those of you who live elsewhere and have not had the pleasure… the California Academy of Sciences is located in Golden Gate Park in the middle (more or less) of San Francisco. It’s simply a fantastic place to enjoy a day with your family or wander around getting lost in the exhibits or the Steinhart Aquarium located on the lower floors.

The moment you enter you are greeted by a nice T. Rex skeleton (the picture above is looking up through the dino) and a docent gave my daughters the opportunity to touch the mighty beast.  On the other side of a large glass snack area sits the awesome four story rainforest sitting in the middle of the space like a glass vegetative R2-D2 head (pic below).


Inside this thing is fantastically humid and warm environment complete with gorgeous plants, birds and butterflies and an enjoyable assortment of reptiles, amphibians and a few freaky spiders.  Moving up a circular path, each level has something to offer.  Usually frogs or snakes in a few tanks. Because I have a pair of snakes in the house and they come with me to get the food, my girls aren’t too wowed with what they have as far as reptiles go… but I’m a sucker for the poison dart frogs and mantellas.  It’s when you get to the top that’s best though.  That’s when you have a whole host of butterflies flitting about… the only downside is making sure my youngest didn’t keep trying to catch them.


I love that I managed to get this ginormous spider in mid-web-spinning action.  It happens to be about the size of my middle finger….

My wife and I have often, even before we had kids, had memberships to either the Cal Academy, the S.F. Zoo or other museums only for the fact that if we had nothing to do and wanted a way to kill some time and some child-type energy we had a place we could go as often as we liked for hardly more than the price of admission for one day.  We often only go for two or three hours, exploring a section at a time.  So thanks to that we get to take advantage of getting in to the Academy an hour before the general public.  No crowds in the rainforest, no crowds in the aquarium (which is beautiful) and best of all… tickets for the earliest shows in the Morrison Planetarium. It’s not just a place for Pink Floyd laser shows anymore… it’s currently running a Jodie Foster narrated film on “Life”. (The previous two films were narrated by Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg… they were incredible) When my five year old saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago her response was “Awwwwesommmme…” in a wonderfully and truly awed tone.


All over the place there are dioramas, skeletons, stuffed critters, displays on climate change (ahem) and casts of various hominids (cough) including a particular cast of Lucy.  If you stare at the African savanna diorama long enough you will notice not only the leopard in the tree above you but also a projection of an elephant herd passing idly by in the background.  It’s details like these that make the relatively newly-remodeled California Academy of Sciences so great.  They even have a living roof!

Check out their website here.  They have a whole hell of a lot more to offer than what I’ve mentioned.  And you really can’t go wrong with you or your kids learning something.

R2-D2… is that,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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