55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
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11:00 am – 5:00 pm
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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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’Tis the Season for Science


Celebrate the festive winter season with live reindeer, indoor snow flurries, and a giant Snowman Theater—all part of the Academy’s annual holiday exhibit. Along the way, discover amazing adaptations that enable reindeer to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. November 27 – January 5

’Tis the Season for Science returns for a fourth year to celebrate reindeer and their unique adaptations. Made famous through countless fairytale depictions, these animals are no less remarkable in reality. From their powerful, resilient feet and fast-growing antlers to their ultraviolet vision and marvelous migratory exploits, find out just how perfectly adapted these creatures are to environments most of us consider uninhabitable.

Interactive Reindeer Discovery

Guest and children at the California Academy of Sciences

At four separate interactive zones, take a moment to stand in a reindeer’s tracks. See, feel, and experience for yourself the extraordinary traits that enable reindeer to attract mates, stay warm, find food, and travel farther each year than any other land mammal.

  • Control the growth of reindeer antlers—some of the world’s fastest growing bone.
  • Feel the astounding insulating properties of reindeer fur.
  • See the world in ultraviolet light to get a sense of how reindeer view the world, including their favorite winter food—even when it’s buried beneath the snow.
  • Spin a device called a phenakistoscope to see how reindeer run.

Snowman Theater

Mother, child, and Snowman Theater at the California Academy of Sciences

Step inside the giant Snowman Theater and enjoy an immersive, kid-friendly show that explores the science behind this extraordinary species in a fun and memorable way. Created by the talented team that produces our planetarium shows, Roaming with Reindeer explores what life on the Arctic tundra is like for these magnificent Nomads of the North.

Live Reindeer


Meet five-year-old reindeer Willow and Yukon. Both fully grown, the two already have distinct personalities. Willow, a female and the smaller of the pair, is full of energy and has recently taken to pushing Yukon around. Having just finished growing a new set of antlers, Yukon, a male, is larger but more docile. He tends to let Willow go first when their handlers offer treats.

Although they look wild and share many amazing physical characteristics with their wild cousins, Willow and Yukon are domesticated animals. Members of a species (Rangifer tarandus) that also includes wild caribou, reindeer were first domesticated in the Eurasian Arctic more than 2,000 years ago. They’re still commonly raised as pack animals, as well as for their energy-rich milk.

Special Holiday Programs

Holiday program at the California Academy of Sciences


Daily at 11:30 am

Learn about African penguins and their marine adaptations—including an explanation for their tuxedo-colored feathers and why they’re such great swimmers. Play a fun spelling game and learn a new mystery word of the day. This program is recommended for children 12 and under. Free with Academy admission.


Daily at 12:00 pm

Ever wonder how reindeer are able to travel so far? Get up close with live caribou and discover why these animals are known as the Nomads of the North, migrating up to 3,000 miles every year. Learn about their unique adaptations and what makes them such an important part of the northern ecosystems.


Daily at 1:30 pm

Team up and investigate the migration patterns of a variety of animals by participating in a friendly game show-style trivia contest. Learn how animals prepare for or relocate during the coldest season of the year—and how they’re unique physical and behavioral traits enable them to perform these feats.

All of these programs are free with Academy admission. For a complete list of programs, see our Daily Calendar tab.

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    Live Performances

    Barker College Chamber Orchestra

    Barker College Chamber Orchestra

    Friday, Dec. 20, 12:30 pm

    Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Barker College boasts one of the largest school music programs in the country. More than a thousand Barker students are involved in instrumental and choral programs, and the group appearing on the Piazza stage will play a range of pieces from their well-honed repertoire.

    Chris Bradley’s Jazz Band

    Saturday, Dec. 21, 12:30 pm

    A fixture on the West Coast’s traditional jazz scene, Chris Bradley’s Jazz Band has been performing throughout the Bay Area for more than ten years, bringing a little bit of New Orleans—and bringing back ’20s and ’30s jazz favorites—to listeners everywhere.

    Golden Gate Park Band Clarinet Quartet

    Sunday, Dec. 22, 12:30 pm

    The Golden Gate Park Band has been playing free Sunday public concerts since 1882. Their Clarinet Quartet, under the direction of Michael L. Wirgler, continues that tradition from the Academy’s very own Piazza stage—and proves exactly how festive a clarinet can be.

    Golden Gate Park String Quartet

    Golden Gate Philharmonic String Quartet

    Monday, Dec. 23, 12:30 pm

    This non-profit San Francisco-based youth orchestra is dedicated to fostering musical talent among children in grades K–12. Nationally recognized for their superior ensemble training, the GGP provides educational opportunities to local kids and beautiful music to the city at large. Their string quartet will grace the Piazza’s stage with a selection of holiday music.

    The Golden Gate Carolers

    The Golden Gate Carolers

    Tuesday, Dec. 24, 12:30 pm

    Usher in the holiday eve with the Golden Gate Carolers, a group of exceptional Bay Area singers who have been refining their caroling arrangements for years. It all adds up to a brilliant performance of holiday favorites under the Piazza’s falling snow.

    Chuna McIntyre

    Thursday, Dec. 26, 12:30 pm

    Yup’ik Eskimo musician and storyteller Chuna McIntyre has performed in museums and institutions around the world. He’ll share Eskimo culture with Academy audiences through traditional dances, songs, stories, and clothing.

    Westlake School of Performing Arts

    Friday, Dec. 27, 12:30 pm

    Enjoy a festive performance by students from the Westlake School of Performing Arts on the Academy’s Piazza stage.

    Chuna McIntyre

    Chuna McIntyre

    Saturday, Dec. 28, 12:30 pm

    Yup’ik Eskimo musician and storyteller Chuna McIntyre returns to the Academy to share his culture through traditional dances, songs, stories, and clothing.

    Community Music Center Woodwind Ensemble

    Sunday, Dec. 29, 12:30 pm

    The Community Music Center has a long, proud history of making music accessible to everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area, regardless of financial background. Founded in 1921, CMC served more than 2,300 students of all ages and levels last year, and their Woodwind Ensemble will spend Sunday afternoon serenading Academy visitors.

    Creative Arts Charter School

    Monday, Dec. 30 and Tuesday, Dec. 31

    The students of San Francisco’s Creative Arts Charter School present a joyful, musical performance on the Piazza stage.

    The Golden Gate Carolers

    Wednesday, Jan. 1, 12:30 pm

    The Golden Gate Carolers return to ring in the New Year with a brilliant performance of holiday favorites.

    Careers in Science Youth Interns

    Careers in Science Youth Interns

    Thursday, Jan. 2, 12:30 pm

    The Careers in Science Intern Program gives young people from San Francisco the opportunity to immerse themselves in the natural sciences, both within the Academy and out in the field. On Thursday, they’ll share with the audience what they’ve learned about Arctic adaptions.

    Golden Gate Park Band Saxophone Quartet

    Friday, Jan. 3, 12:30 pm

    The Golden Gate Park Band has been playing free Sunday public concerts since 1882. Their Saxophone Quartet, under the direction of Michael L. Wirgler, continues that tradition from the Academy’s Piazza stage.

    Careers in Science Youth Interns

    Saturday, Jan. 4, 12:30 pm

    The Careers in Science Interns are back! They’ll take to the Piazza stage with a holiday presentation about the adaptations that Arctic wildlife have evolved to deal with extreme seasons.

    Bell Appeal

    Sunday, Jan. 5, 12:30 pm

    This SF-based handbell ensemble performs all manner of music styles, supporting their “Not your average handbell choir” tagline. A perfect way to ring in the New Year!



    Experience the world’s only aquarium-planetarium-rainforest-living museum.

    Buy Tickets

    Scuba Santa
    Coral Reef Dive


    Santa scuba diver

    Watch as Santa suits up in scuba gear and plunges into the world’s deepest living coral reef exhibit. Outfitted with an underwater microphone, he’ll merrily answer all of your reef-related questions. Daily at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm, from December 19–24.

    Meet Santa Claude!


    Santa Claude

    Santa Claude, the one-and-only “Alligator Santa,” will be making special holiday appearances on December 24, 31, and January 1 starting at 10:00 am. Don’t miss your chance to meet the Academy’s loveable albino alligator character and take a professional holiday photo with family and friends.

    Did You Know?


    Seven Things You Never Knew about Reindeer

    • 1. Reindeer are the only species of deer in which both males and females grow antlers. They shed and regrow these fast-growing bones every year.
    • 2. Reindeer migrate up to 3,000 miles per year—farther than any other land mammal.
    • 3. Reindeer have broad hooves that function like snowshoes and a keen sense of smell that can detect food buried under snow.
    • 4. Reindeer are excellent swimmers. Their coat is made up of hollow hairs, which keeps them warm and makes them more buoyant.
    • 5. People living in the Eurasian Arctic have domesticated reindeer for their milk, which has a higher fat content than cow’s milk.
    • 6. Reindeer and caribou are members of the same species but live in different regions. Reindeer are domesticated and live in Eurasia while wild caribou live in North America.
    • 7. Lichens and mosses are important foods for reindeer in winter. They prefer one species of lichen so much that it’s been named “reindeer lichen.”

    Shop Online


    insect menagerie

    Stuff your stockings with our exclusive ’Tis The Season for Science holiday merchandise.

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    Send a Holiday eCard


    Happy Holidays

    Send a custom greeting—and a free gift—to your friends and family.

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