California Academy of Sciences | San Francisco
I’m always on the lookout for cool, free things to do in the city. I mean, who isn’t? So when I discovered Neighborhood Days at the California Academy of Sciences, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Neighborhood Days provides free entrance to the California Academy of Sciences for people who live in a certain San Francisco zip code on certain days of the year. No matter your feelings about corporations, a big “thank you!” to Target for sponsoring these free days at the Academy. General Admission on a normal day is $35 per person, making it quite the savings.
One of the many wonderful things about the Academy is the layout. A reef environment, which provides a home to sting rays and black tipped reef sharks, surrounds the Morrison Planetarium. A four story bio-dome lets you explore the Amazon from forest floor to the top of the forest canopy to beneath the flooded forest.
Blue Morpho butterflies (a creature I giddily recognized from my time spent playing Amazon Trail as a child) flutter about the dome, occasionally landing on museum goers. One rested on the bald man’s head in front of me for a solid 20 feet as he strolled. Others landed on shoulders, purses and even outstretched hands. It was difficult not to smile as kids tugged their parents’ shirt sleeves to point out colorful birds and insects.
After spiraling around the inside of the dome on a paved walkway, an elevator transports visitors to the lowest level of the aquariums to see the “flooded forest” through a transparent tunnel underneath the Amazon. The tangled tree roots and giant freshwater fish mesmerize onlookers, until they discover the next aquarium. My personal favorite was the Philippine Coral Reef, a 25 foot deep, vibrantly colorful home to many Nemos, much to the squeal and delight of children.
While it would be perfectly understandable to sit in front of the aquariums for your entire visit, there are still more things to explore. An earthquake exhibit provides tips for preparing for and surviving an earthquake, as well as the opportunity to see what it would have felt like to have been in the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked San Francisco in 1906. Upstairs, kids can learn about the different fields of the natural sciences at the Naturalist Center. As an Anthropology major, I was excited to see a plethora of primate and early human skulls for viewing. Finally, you can head up to the living roof for views of the Golden Gate Music Concourse and de Young Musuem.
Exhibits are immaculately kept, artfully displayed, and masterfully intertwined. The California Academy of Sciences will excite kids and adults alike about science, nature and the earth we call home. Even sweeter if you can get in for free on a Neighborhood Day.
California Academy of Sciences. 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94114. 415.379.8000 ww.calacademy.org