Home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and world-class research and education programs, the California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco's must-see destinations. From the splashing penguins in African Hall to the wildflowers on the roof, the building is bursting with life. A four-story living rainforest and awe-inspiring coral reef ecosystem will delight visitors of all ages, while immersive space shows will transport audiences beyond the boundaries of our planet. Opportunities abound to meet Academy scientists, share in their discoveries, and join the journey to make our world a greener, more sustainable place to live.
100 Word Description
Come nose-to-beak with penguins and parrots, watch sharks and sting rays cruise beneath your feet, and feel the spray of the California coast. Fly through space and time from the safety of your planetarium seat, take a virtual safari in African Hall, or climb into the canopy of a living rainforest. Face your fears—and an albino alligator—inside the Swamp, and meet scientists as they return from research expeditions around the world. From the depths of a Philippine coral reef to the outer reaches of the Universe, it's all inside the California Academy of Sciences.
55 Music Concourse Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: (415) 379-8000
Hours of Operation
Monday – Saturday: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas
*On Thursday nights, the Academy is also open from 6-10pm for NightLife, a weekly event for visitors ages 21 and up, featuring music, bars, and cutting-edge science.
Youth (ages 12-17): $24.95
Senior (ages 65 and over): $24.95
Child (ages 4-11): $19.95
Ages 3 and under: FREE
Discount for taking public transportation to the Academy: $3 per person
Note: Prices include access to all components of the Academy experience, including all museum exhibits, aquarium displays, planetarium shows, and the living rainforest. During peak periods, including some holiday weekends, an admission surcharge and extended hours may apply.
The California Academy of Sciences includes two culinary destinations run by renowned chef Charles Phan (chef and owner of The Slanted Door), featuring local, organic, sustainable food.
Major Exhibit Descriptions
All exhibits are ongoing and included with general admission, unless otherwise noted.
From fish that can change sex to insects that eat their mates, explore some of the wildest mating strategies in the animal kingdom in this revealing aquarium gallery. Delve into the science of sex as you encounter live animals that have evolved remarkable and often surprising techniques for attracting mates and producing offspring. Meet snails that shoot "love darts" at one another, octopuses that are literally willing to lose an arm for the chance to mate, barnacles that win the award for most well-endowed, and more than a dozen other notable creatures. Museum specimens from around the world provide windows into additional mating and courtship practices, and interactive iPad labels offer slideshows and video footage of some of the most fascinating reproductive behaviors. You'll never think of the birds and the bees the same way again.
Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet
Prepare to be moved! In this major exhibit, delve into the science behind earthquakes and learn how societies prepare for and respond to these destructive phenomena. Experience a high-magnitude jolt in our earthquake simulator, walk through a 25-foot-diameter model of the Earth, and discover what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. Along the way, you’ll see how earthquakes fit into the larger story of plate tectonics, a constant process that builds mountains, moves continents, and creates the landscape in which life evolves or goes extinct.
African Hall - ongoing exhibit
Take a virtual safari through Africa by exploring the majestic dioramas of African Hall. Lions and cheetahs face off with zebras and antelope through the glass windows of their detailed displays, and a lowland gorilla invites you to ponder your ancestry. Look closely as you wander through the hall—these dioramas contain a few surprises: live tortoises, lizards, and fish have taken up residence in some of the smaller displays, and African penguins dip and dive in a 25,000-gallon tank at the end of the hall. Penguin feedings take place twice a day. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
California Coast - ongoing exhibit
It never rains at the Academy's California Coast, an exhibit that highlights the state's diverse marine environments. Watch waves roll onto a sandy beach, peek inside a 100,000-gallon rocky coast tank, play hide-and-seek with a giant Pacific octopus, and come face-to-face with leopard sharks. You can even hold a hermit crab at the Discovery Tidepool and meet a 165-pound sea bass in the Tank of Giants. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
Evolving Traditions: Southwest Native Pottery and Silver – ongoing exhibit
Drawn from the Academy’s anthropology collections, this new exhibit highlights Native American pottery and silver jewelry created by members of the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes, and by the Rio Grande Pueblos. Pieces range from the dramatic black-on-black pottery of Maria and Julian Martinez to the wrought silver bracelets of Kenneth Begay and others. Pieces from the 1920s through modern day document that certain designs and patterns persist. As they are carried on by successive generations, they are also simultaneously modified as the tradition evolves. A video display shows potters and jewelers at work. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
Islands of Evolution
Visit the remote islands of Madagascar and the Galapagos through the eyes of Academy scientists, and discover why islands function as laboratories for evolution. Examine specimens collected during Academy research expeditions, including Galapagos tortoise shells and fishes. Learn how scientists search for new species, and then put your new knowledge into practice, netting virtual butterflies with Wii gaming wands and setting pit-fall traps for virtual beetles. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
The Living Roof
Stop and smell the wildflowers during a visit to the Academy's living roof, a 2.5-acre expanse of native California plants. Part of the museum's green building strategy, the roof provides superior insulation, prevents storm water runoff, reduces the urban heat island effect, and creates new habitat for native birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. An engineering marvel, the seven hills of the living roof roll over the Academy’s major exhibits and echo the hilly topography of San Francisco.
Upon arrival, please check the day’s show schedule, which is subject to change. Passes available on-site on a first-come-first-served basis. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
- Earthquake: Evidence of a Restless Planet
Journey through our planet's geologic history to witness the processes that shape our landscape in Morrison Planetarium's current show, narrated by Emmy-nominated actor Benjamin Bratt. Begin your journey in 1906 with an all-digital recreation of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked San Francisco, and then dive into the Earth's interior to see how it happened. You will then embark on a high-speed tour through the past 200 million years, witnessing the formation of the Atlantic Ocean and visiting the cradle of humanity in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, along with sites of historic earthquakes in India, China, and Japan. Along the way, you will discover how seismic events continue to shape our landscape.
Philippine Coral Reef - ongoing exhibit
Dive into the world's deepest living coral reef tank without donning a wetsuit. Five underwater windows offer a fish's eye view into one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Find Nemo—and 2,000 other reef fish—darting through a technicolor forest of coral, watch garden eels emerge from their underwater burrows, and admire the brilliant hues of a giant clam. Talk to scuba divers inside the exhibit, and on the surface, follow a boardwalk through a mangrove lagoon, where sharks and sting rays cruise beneath your feet.
Rainforests of the World - ongoing exhibit
Step inside a living rainforest, where water dripping from the mahogany and palm trees sets the beat for a symphony of croaking frogs and chirping birds. Peer into one of Borneo's caves, meet chameleons from Madagascar, and climb into the tree-tops of Costa Rica, where hundreds of tropical butterflies flutter like colorful confetti. Finally, descend in a glass elevator into the Amazonian flooded forest—the land of anacondas, piranhas, and electric eels. An acrylic tunnel allows you to walk beneath the Amazonian river fish that swim overhead.
Science in Action - ongoing exhibit
Go beyond the headlines and gain in-depth information about recent scientific discoveries around the world. Live talks by Academy scientists and short video pieces provide timely and relevant news about the natural world.
The Swamp - ongoing exhibit
Peer over the bronze railing of The Swamp tank if you dare—an American alligator and alligator snapping turtles rule the water below. Claude, a rare albino gator with startling white skin, may steal the lion's share of the attention, but it's hard to ignore his neighbors for too long. Snakes, frogs, and salamanders live in smaller tanks nearby, completing this snapshot of life in the swamps of the southeastern United States.
Water Planet - ongoing exhibit
What does it take to live underwater? Find out in this innovative exhibit that includes dozens of aquarium tanks filled with fish, reptiles, amphibians, jellyfish, and other invertebrates. The exhibit also features a short film about the most precious resource on the planet: water.
What is Missing? – permanent art installation
Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
Where the Land Meets the Sea – permanent art installation
Like a line drawing in space, this sculpture by renowned artist Maya Lin depicts the topography between Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to the land features Bay Area residents are used to seeing, the stainless steel sculpture seamlessly plunges below the water line, showing the terrain under the surface of San Francisco Bay, a perspective few ever get to see. Located on the Academy’s West terrace. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park. (415) 379-8000.
Each day's full schedule of events is available on the Academy's website www.calacademy.org. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free with general admission. Visitor favorites include:
The Academy's African penguins are always especially animated during meal time. Watch the birds dip and dive in their tank at the end of African Hall as a biologist dons a wet suit and hands out vitamin-stuffed herring and capelin twice a day. Each feeding takes 10 minutes, and questions are encouraged.
Coral Reef Dives
Watch as a diver suits up in SCUBA gear and plunges into the world’s deepest living coral reef exhibit. Outfitted with an underwater microphone, the diver will answer all of your reef-related questions.
Visit the Swamp and learn about some of the Academy's most popular animals, including an American alligator and alligator snapping turtles. You'll find out what it takes to care for these amazing creatures, which are native to swamps in the southeastern United States.
NightLife (ages 21+): every Thursday
Every Thursday night, music, creatures and cocktails come together for NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences. Explore exhibits and aquarium displays while sipping creative cocktails, and let exotic animals from around the world transport you to the tropics, Tibet, and dozens of other remote destinations. Special planetarium shows will take you even farther afield. Each week features a live band or DJ, and a unique theme – from salsa dancing to sustainable seafood and beyond. Find weekly details at www.calacademy.org/events/nightlife/. Tickets are $12 per person. NightLife is for those ages 21 and over; a valid ID is required for entry.
And many more, see www.calacademy.org/events for a full schedule.