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 to Mars (and beyond the Milky Way!) 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, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
Major Exhibit Descriptions
All exhibits are ongoing and included with general admission, unless otherwise noted.
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.
Altered State: Climate Change in California
Walk beneath an 87-foot-long blue whale skeleton, come face-to-face with a live rattlesnake, and marvel at dozens of other California treasures. Then track the potential impacts of climate change in California and around the world, and learn what you can do to help. Measure the impact of your family's everyday decisions on a carbon scale, and share your ideas for treading more lightly on the planet at a feedback station.
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, 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.
Early Explorers Cove
Take your scientist-in-training to the Early Explorers Cove, a special exhibit designed for infants, preschoolers, and their caregivers. Tots can explore a 15-foot replica of the Academy's 1905 research schooner, climb into a tree-house, tend a miniature organic garden, or crawl into a child-sized burrow. The exhibit is also well-stocked with books, toys, puzzles, and dress-up costumes.
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.
Leave Planet Earth behind as you fly to the farthest reaches of the Universe inside the world's largest all-digital planetarium. Shows play 7-10 times daily.
Have questions about the natural world? The reference librarians and educators at the Naturalist Center can help you answer them. Bring in your leaves, feathers, rocks, shells, and other personal treasures for identification, look up the latest research on green technologies, or sign up for a special program in the adjoining classrooms and labs.
Philippine Coral Reef
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
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 bat 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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Academy is the epicenter for fun programs all summer long. Enjoy these new daily programs related to Earthquake:
» Earthquakes Demystified | 11:00 am
Separate fact from folklore surrounding earthquakes and learn how to prepare for the next big one.
» Ostriches: Grounded for Life | 11:30 am
Visit our baby ostriches and find out how these birds fit into the larger story of plate tectonics.
» Geology of Other Worlds | 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, and 2:00
In this 20-minute 3D show, explore the geology of Earth's neighbors using the latest images captured by spacecraft.
Did you know that:
» Ostriches are the only birds with two toes.
» They can run up to 43 miles per hour.
» They lay their eggs in communal nests dug into the sand.
» They are omnivorous and will eat almost anything.
» Their family tree has been influenced by plate tectonics, the same earth process that causes earthquakes.
Meet live ostrich chicks and learn more about these unusual birds during Ostriches: Grounded for Life, a daily program at 11:30 am that is part of the new Earthquake exhibit.
The California Academy of Sciences includes two culinary destinations run by renowned chefs Charles Phan (chef and owner of The Slanted Door) and Loretta Keller (chef and owner of COCO5OO). Both venues feature local, organic, sustainable foods.
- The Academy Cafe offers healthy, kid-friendly, multicultural food that appeals to a wide demographic. It is open Monday–Saturday from 9:30 am - 5 pm and Sundays from 11 am - 5 pm.
- The Moss Room is a full service restaurant that highlights the vital relationship between food and culture. Lunch is served daily from 11 am - 3:00 pm and dinner is served Wednesday - Sunday from 5-9 pm.