San Francisco – Everyday Insider! (TM) Trip 19I

Today, I’m sharing the fabulous new, ecologically-wondrous building, designed by Renzo Piano, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park which houses the California Academy of Sciences.

I remember when the Academy was free admission and you would see a Victorian-style statue of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner”, located somewhat close to the entrance. That was probably because the Museum used to be quite “a mixed bag”.

Because the museum began in 1853, its outlook and exhibits really needed modernizing!

However, in at least one aspect, the California Academy of Sciences (formed only 3 years after California became a state) was very forward thinking. It gave female scientists an equal footing! That’s quite something in 1853! Through the decades, many prestigious female scientists worked and contributed here.

The new building is a mega-million, ecological marvel which re-opened in September 2008 after a long wait. Its collection gets mixed reviews. Those of us who remember the giant crocodile / alligator pit which greeted everyone at the entrance think that’s hard to top. They didn’t try, and now there’s only one lonely white alligator in the collection.

But, in place of that writhing pit of snappers, there are new marvels. The rainforest exhibit is the main one. It unites with the building’s architecture to take you 4 stories, from the floor to the canopy, and you are inside the forest. Watch out! You can get bombed by birds, so have wipes in case you get hit!

Just about everyone loves the butterflies inside the rainforest, and be sure to see the rooftop, where the building’s sterling ecological and conservation elements “shine”, even if the weather is foggy!

The only way down from the rainforest sets you up for the Steinhardt Aquarium, on the lower level. Some of the exhibits were also replaced here (no dolphins -boo!), but you can still enjoy the intimate looks at smaller aquatic animals.

The Museum can take 4 – 5 hours at a decent pace, and for some people, even that will not be enough. But, if you have small children, that’s probably too much time.

Children under 7 are not allowed in the 30 minute Planetarium show, but that gets mixed reviews, and criticism that it’s narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. Strange choice, but why does it have to be a scientist, anyway?

The former Morrison Planetarium was larger. This one has been compressed and although it has fabulously comfy chairs, the stairs are extremely steep and the timed-tickets are all gone within an hour of the Museum opening. They are first-come, first-served.

The Museum is expensive. I guess they are aware that they have the renovation to pay back.The gift shops and cafeterias are expensive, but you cannot leave and get back inside. So make your plans accordingly. The food is actually quite good and there are even vegan options. After leaving the Museum, consider Jenny’s Hamburgers at 9th and Lincoln.

The dusty, taxodermic animals are still there, in the Kimball Natural History Hall, in their dioramas. More interesting is the Foucault pendulum!

And, there’s almost no “space-stuff”, as it’s always been oriented to Natural History.

However, after the remodel, there’s renewed, worthwhile education about our Planet and its wonders and the dangers to it.

It’s important to see what the future can be – positively and negatively.

The building leads the way:

___ It produces 50% less waste water than previously, and recycles rainwater for irrigation

___ It supports an amazing “green roof” with an area of 2.5 acres

__ It has 60,000 photovoltaic cells in its solar panels and uses natural lighting in 90% of occupied spaces

___ The structure was constructed with over 20,000 cubic yards (15,000 m3) of recycled concrete, 11 million pounds (5,000 tons) of recycled steel and wall insulation made from scraps of recycled denim (Levi Strauss, who began making denim clothing in the California gold-fields, and whose company is still in San Francisco, would be proud!).

The Museum is open, free, on the 3rd. Wednesday. Be in line by 7:45am that day! Dress warmly, too. You are close to the ocean and it will be at least a 90 minutes wait. But, at $20+ dollars per person per visit, locals should look into family passes etc.

Sometimes there are promo coupons for discounts. Look on the Museum’s website. There are also “Neighborhood Days” for locals, based on a specific zip-code each time, and proof that you live in the area. There is a link on the Membership part of the site for information on zip-code days.

The Museum is also open Thursday evenings. And, admission fees are less then.

Directions & Parking

The Academy is popular you are strongly encouraged to bike or travel by public transportation, especially on weekends. Museum visitors who do take public transit should show their bus ticket. That will save $3 on admission and skip the hassle of parking.

For those of you who are driving, understand parking is available in the Music Concourse Parking Facility, and the museum entrance can be accessed via the garage elevator. That facility includes 15 conveniently located parking spots which are wheelchair accessible.

California Academy of Science Real-time Parking Reports on your cell phone. In the event that the primary garage is full, that mobile phone site provides directions to two additional parking locations.


Family Membership for One Year: $159
(Fully tax-deductible)

Includes admission for two cardholders and all of your own children or grandchildren 18 years of age and under each time you visit, plus all membership benefits.

Guests may apply ticket purchases toward a conversion to a Membership plan only on their day of visit and by 4:30 pm PST. The value of up to two adult tickets purchased may be applied to any individual Membership product. The value of two adult tickets purchased, plus the value of all children’s tickets purchased, may be applied to any family Membership product.

All Memberships are valid for one year from date of purchase. Memberships are not transferable or refundable.

Members-only Hours at California Academy of Science
Tuesdays: 8:30 am – 9:30 am
Sundays: 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Members may bring ticketed guests during members-only hours. All guests must have a paid admission ticket and be accompanied by a current member.

General Admission:
Adult $24.95
Senior (ages 65+) $19.95
Student $19.95
Youth (ages 12-17) $19.95
Child (ages 4-11) $14.95
Ages 3 and under FREE

Hours for the Public:

Monday – Saturday: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
3rd. Wednesday: FREE

Tickets can be purchased up to an hour before closing.
The Academy is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.

55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 379-8000

Wheelchairs are available at the Coat Check, on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Moss Room accepts luncheon and dinner reservations.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

Leave a Reply