55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

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Built for Speed Exhibit
for Speed

From speedy ocean animals to the world’s fastest sailboats, find out what it takes to be swift in the sea. Learn about the fascinating adaptations of the ocean’s fastest animals, examine a sailboat designed by ORACLE TEAM USA, defender of the 34th America’s Cup, and more!

Speed Demons of the Sea


See the amazing adaptations that sailfish, yellowfin tuna, Humboldt squid, and shortfin mako sharks have evolved for speed and long-distance ocean travel. From streamlined body shapes and retractable fins to piston-like muscles, these creatures demonstrate that there is more than one way to be fast in fluid. After comparing the forms of these speedy animals, put your knowledge to the test by making a fictitious fast fish out of fanciful fins and body shapes.

Built to Race

See ORACLE TEAM USA’s AC72 and AC45 wing-sail catamarans in action on San Francisco Bay.

ORACLE TEAM USA's AC45 and AC72 wing-sail catamarans demonstrate creative design and boundary-breaking technology. Catch a glimpse of the AC45 catamaran suspended from the ceiling between the Swamp and the Piazza.

The Orca Lab

Orca fin

Photo courtesy of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Cetacean Research Program

During the first few weeks of Built for Speed, visitors will be able to watch as Academy staff and volunteers carefully assemble the skeleton of an 18-foot-long juvenile orca that washed ashore deceased at Point Reyes National Seashore in November 2011. The skeleton was retrieved and transported to the Academy for future scientific study. Once assembled, the skeleton will be on view for the duration of the exhibit.

Learn more

Take Action

Cutting net

Photo courtesy of Tyler Mifflin

Plastic waste, wastewater pollution, and unsustainable fishing are three major threats to the health of the oceans today. Learn about these threats and find out how you can help at Ocean Action stations throughout the exhibit. Created from manmade marine debris, these stations highlight community-based initiatives offering tips for taking conservation action.

Orca Discovery

Orca Discovery

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are the fastest members of the dolphin family. They can reach top speeds of 55 km/h in open water or cruise slowly during long oceanic migrations. Their large size, great strength, and torpedo-shaped bodies contribute to the marine mammals’ prowess as mighty hunters.

Listen to an Orca’s Call

Orca recording courtesy of John K. Ford, PhD, Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

A Rare Specimen

Orca specimen

Photo courtesy of Ben Yaffe

Long before the juvenile orca washed ashore in Northern California, researchers knew him. Scientists had photographed this orca off the coasts of Canada and Alaska and identified him as Orca O319. He died of unknown causes.

Academy scientist Moe Flannery led the team that responded to the stranding. Since little is known about this type of orca—called an offshore ecotype—the skeleton was retrieved and transported to the Academy for future scientific study.

Learn more about her year-long experience with Orca O319.

Rebuilding Orca O319

Orca articulation

Follow “bone-building expert” Lee Post, Academy staff, and volunteers as we articulate the bones of a real orca skeleton on the exhibit floor. Follow our progress and submit your questions.

Learn more

See 286 pieces of an 18-foot-long orca whale assembled by 37 volunteers and 5 staff over 5 weeks in this time-lapse video.

Watch here

Select Date
African Hall
Animal Attraction
Aquarium Elevator
Aquarium Stairs
Cafe & Moss Room
Coral Reef Exhibit
Discovery Tidepool
Early Explorers Cove
East Garden
Exit from Rainforest
Flooded Forest
Forum Theater
Islands of Evolution
Level 1 Elevator
Level 1 Stairs
Living Roof
Naturalist Center
Northern California Coast
Observation Deck
Planetarium Entrance
Project Lab
Reef Lagoon
Science in Action
Stairs / Elevator to Living Roof & Naturalist Center
Swamp (Aquarium Level)
Upper Gallery
Water Planet
West Garden

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    Our Actions Matter

    Orca Discovery

    Ocean Action sculptures created by Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang. Learn more

    We are all stewards of the ocean, and collectively we are helping fragile marine ecosystems and the amazing animals that live there. Join with millions of others through partner organizations and be part of the solution by taking steps to reduce plastic waste, unsustainable fishing practices, and wastewater pollution.

    Pass on Plastic

    There are numerous ways to reduce the amount of plastic trash–from toys to takeout containers–that blows into waterways and rides the ocean currents.

    What can you do?

    Orca specimen

    Photo courtesy of Stiv Wilson/5gyres.org

    The nonprofit 5Gyres is working to create a planet free of plastic pollution. Millions of tons of tiny bits of plastic float in giant patches—also called gyres—in oceans around the world. It degrades slowly and endangers sea creatures that mistake it for food. Learn more

    Orca specimen

    Photo courtesy of Rik Panganiban

    The best way to keep plastic out of the ocean is by using less of it, but you can also be imaginative and find creative ways to reuse plastic trash. See how the Academy’s Pearson Young Scientists did just that as sustainability sleuths.

    Orca specimen

    Photo courtesy of Michael Stewart

    Participate in the Waste to Waves program, a recycling effort that collects your Styrofoam waste and recycles these materials into new surfboard foam cores. Check out their website to find a convenient drop-off spot. Learn more

    Be Seafood Savvy

    Orca articulation

    Creative Commons: Jon Anderson

    Orca articulation

    When eating, make ocean-friendly choices. Your seafood selections will help protect the health of the food chain and sustain wild, diverse, and healthy ocean ecosystems.






    Make it easy by using the Seafood Watch® smartphone app, created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This easy-to-use pocket app helps you select the best choices on a seafood menu and tells you which items to avoid.

    Download the app.

    For more ideas on sustainable seafood, check out a recent Science Today article highlighting timely developments from around the world.

    Clean Up the Flow

    Orca articulation

    Photo courtesy of Maureen Decombe

    Remember—everything that goes down a drain or storm sewer can end up in the ocean. Easy steps that will have a large impact on protecting water quality and marine life include:

    • Taking care to properly dispose of motor oil
    • Avoiding commonly used pesticides and fertilizers on lawns and gardens
    • Using “eco-friendly” cleaning products

    Want more ideas? The Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition seeks to reduce waste and pollution while creating vibrant green spaces. Learn more

    Purchase Online


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    Surfboard Contest


    Surfboard at the California Academy of Sciences

    Now through September 29

    Enter for a chance to win the custom-made surfboard featured in Built for Speed!

    Learn more



    What are your ideas for re-imagining plastic waste to help keep it out of the ocean?

    Tweet Your Idea

    Thank You


    Built for Speed is generously supported by:

    • Lakeside Foundation
    • The Bernard Osher Foundation
    • Wendy and Eric Schmidt
    • Oracle

    The California Academy of Sciences is the Official Education Partner of ORACLE TEAM USA.

    Shop Online


    Academy store

    Take home your experience with special Built for Speed merchandise.

    Learn more

    San Francisco CityPass



    Save 44% off admission to California Academy of Sciences, plus 4 more top San Francisco attractions: 7-day MUNI Passport, Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, Exploratorium, Monterey Bay Aquarium OR Aquarium of the Bay. Adult: $84 (value $149) Child (5-11): $59 (value $112) CityPASS is valid for nine days beginning the first day of use.

    Learn more