California Academy of Sciences

Only have an hour or two to visit the Academy? We’ve put together a short guide featuring tips and can’t-miss visitor highlights to help you plan your day. 

If you have 1–2 hours:

Osher Rainforest

Steinhart Aquarium: Highlights include the Philippine Coral Reef, home to the deepest indoor display of living coral in the world, and the California Coast tank, which showcases the diversity of animals found in California’s coastal waters.

Osher Rainforest: A glass dome houses the four-story living rainforest, where birds and butterflies fly freely amongst lush tropical trees, plants, and other animals from around the world. 

Living Roof: When the sun is out, nothing beats visiting our rolling green roof for views of Golden Gate Park and beyond. California wildflowers bloom in spring while dozens of native plants provide habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies year-round.

African Penguins: Visit our colony of charismatic South African birds. Join a biologist for penguin feedings at 10:30 am and 3 pm daily.

The Swamp: Meet its most famous resident, Claude, an albino American alligator, who shares his home with a trio of prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtles.

Morrison Planetarium: Reserve a ticket (free with admission) at the Planetarium kiosk to see our newest show, Incoming! Asteroids, Comets, and the Hard-Hitting Stories of Our Cosmic Origins, narrated by George Takei. (Show runs approximately 30 minutes.)

If you have 3–4 hours:

Shark Lagoon

See everything above, plus:

Shark Lagoon: Watch rays, sharks, and fish glide beneath your feet and around our Philippine mangrove lagoon.

Earthquake: Learn all about the ground beneath your feet. See, hear, and feel history in the popular Shake House, which simulates California’s two biggest earthquakes from within the walls of an iconic San Francisco Victorian home. 

Human Odyssey: What do you know about your 200,000-year-old ancestors? Follow the evolutionary path of Homo sapiens from Africa to all corners of the world.

Color of Life: Find out how animals use color for communication, survival, and more with interactive exhibits, live animals, and vibrant specimens. 

If you’re visiting with kids:

Early Explorers Cove
  • Kids can touch starfish, urchins, abalone, and various tide pool residents at the Discovery Tidepool.

  • Starting 9/30, bring the littlest ones to Curiosity Grove, a brand-new, forest-themed learning and activity space that's now open to all ages.

  • Find the “kid-sized” opening and enter a world of small, wiggling eels at the Children’s Eel Garden, located next to the Philippine Coral Reef tank.

  • Touch specimens, watch videos, play games, and ask questions at the hands-on Naturalist Center.

Other Tips

Gouldian finch, Color of Life

Love space?

Morrison Planetarium is the first stop for you—and right now we're playing two shows, Incoming! and Habitat Earth—but don’t forget to check out what’s playing at Hohfeld Hall (located at the entrance to the Planetarium) either. These 15-minute, astronomy-themed programs are hosted by a live presenter.

Love live animals?

  • Learn even more about our live animals at one of our daily programs, like the Penguin Feeding, Ssssnake Encounter, or Swamp Discovery. Keep an eye out for docents with orange lab coats—they're often accompanied by special animals not usually on the public floor.
  • The Color of Life exhibit features several live animals, including an aviary of Gouldian finches, green tree pythons, and a color-changing day octopus.

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Academy Hours

Academy Hours

Monday–Saturday: 9:30 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 11 am–5 pm

Member Hours
Tuesday: 8:30–9:30 am
Sunday: 10–11 am

We're open every day of the year.