desert scene

Members: $12;
Non-Members: $15
New! Planetarium Pass Reservations: $3 (more info)
21+ with ID

DJ set by Britt Govea of (((folkYEAH!)))

Can't stand the heat? Desert NightLife is a cool way to explore the unique animals and resilient plants of the world's wild, arid ecosystems.

Schedule of Events

Animal Encounters 
West Garden
7 & 8 pm

  • Learn about some of the amazing adaptations of various desert-dwelling lizards, snakes, and tortoises with live animal presentations by experts from the East Bay Vivarium.

Smoke & Succulents
Science Today
7:30 & 8:30 pm

  • At 7:30, hear a live talk from Cactus Jungle and learn what it takes to grow your own prickly garden.
  • At 8:30, develop your amor of mezcal with the enthusiasts from Mezcalistas. They’ll share everything they know about its history, how it’s made, and their personal tasting notes for this Mexican agave-based spirit.

Desert Landscapes
Project Lab
6 – 10 pm

  • Cactus lovers can marvel at Cactus Jungle’s display of desert plants and ask them anything about local flora, succulents, and drought-tolerant plants.
  • Learn how cultures adapted to desert climates around the world with objects on display from the Academy’s anthropology collection.
  • Feel the desert vibe with projections from classic Westerns and desert landscapes throughout the building, and check out some of the desert’s most fascinating mineral specimens, courtesy of the San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society.

Western Cinema 
Philippine Coral Reef
6 – 10 pm

  • Drop into the Philippine Coral Reef to check out vintage 16mm projections of untamed desert terrain and classic Western films.



  • Hurry! Last entry for our Rainforest dome is at 7:45 pm. Please note: drinks are not allowed inside the Rainforest exhibit.
  • Thirsty? Each bar area features a unique seasonal cocktail—there are multiple bars throughout the museum.
  • Special programs and lectures may have limited seating and admission will also be made available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.



  • With Planetarium Pass Reservations, you can select your showtime in advance and guarantee your seat under the stars. $3; optional, but recommended. Available online only.
  • Free passes will still be available onsite at the Planetarium kiosk on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early for your best chance to obtain a free pass.



  • A variety of food options are available at NightLife from 6:00-9:30 pm, including The Academy Cafe, The Terrace Bar and Restaurant, and The Academy Cafe Food Cart located in the front lobby.
  • Enjoy a different fresh seasonal "craft on draft" cocktail at each NightLife bar area designed by our resident mixologist Shane McKnight!

All bars accept cash and credit cards.


Planetarium Shows

6:30 pm

Some of the most powerful telescopes on our planet sit high in the Chilean desert.

7:30 pm, 8:30 pm

Embark on a journey into the hidden world of coral reefs

Upcoming NightLife Events

January 24th at 6:00 pm

Escape the winter doldrums with a trip to Tropical NightLife.

January 31st at 6:00 pm

Explore the Academy through rose-colored glasses: Tonight we’re celebrating the wonderful world of color.

February 7th at 6:00 pm

NightLife partners with SF Beer Week for a froth-filled evening of brews!

February 14th at 6:00 pm

Come celebrate your Valentine's, Palentine's or Galentine's at the official Noise Pop Music Festival pre-party.