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California Academy of Sciences

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Set in the glorious Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. With over 46 million specimens, the museum also contains a planetarium and an aquarium so there’s something for everyone to discover! Book a ticket or a tour and plan your ideal trip to the Academy today.
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San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences Entry Ticket
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California Academy of Sciences: Nightlife Ticket
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Explore California Academy of Sciences entrance tickets
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California Academy of Sciences Thursday NightLife Admission
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SF: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour & California Academy of Sciences
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California Academy of Sciences NightLife ticket
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5 tips for visiting the California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences | Photo: Flickr, Dennis Jarvis - CC-BY-SA 2.0
Make sure to get a planetarium ticket when you arrive so that you don’t miss out - on busy days the shows can fill up, and if you book first thing then you can plan your exploration of the other galleries around the show.
Nautilus | Photo: Flickr, Jennifer Morrow - CC-BY 2.0
Visit in the morning if you’d like a quiet trip, as the crowds tend to increase over the course of the day.
After your visit, why not take a stroll or enjoy a picnic in the Golden Gate Park, which surrounds the Academy? It’s a great way to relax after a busy day of learning about science.
Pick up a map - the flow of the exhibits will mean you’ll have a great time just roaming, but there are some nifty exhibits (such as the albino alligator) which are tricky to find without a map.
Wear layers - the rainforest display is hot and sticky and the aquarium is much cooler, so it’s wise to have a sweater or jacket you can put on and take off as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will I see on a trip to the Academy?

The California Academy of Sciences combines four different themed sections, each of which could be an attraction in their own right! The oldest is the Kimball Natural History Museum, which includes exhibits from the Academy’s original collection from 1853. It includes the Tusher Africa Hall (featuring dioramas of African animals), the Gems and Minerals exhibit, and a version of Foucault’s Pendulum. You’ll also be able to visit the Steinhardt Aquarium, which was the first public aquarium to display flashlight fish and coconut octopuses. It’s home to 40,000 live animals from over 900 species. Look out for the special Twilight Zone exhibit, which features animals from 200 to 500 feet below the surface of the ocean! One of the Academy’s gems is the Osher Rainforest, a glass dome which recreates the conditions of the rainforest and contains over 1,600 live plants and animals, including 250 free-flying birds and butterflies and up to 100 exotic reptiles and amphibians. Finally, there’s the Morrison Planetarium, which has a 75-foot diameter screen showing several different shows each day. The planetarium is free to visit with a regular daily ticket (though you should book your time slot on arrival) but costs extra if you’re visiting NightLife on Thursday evenings. Read more.

Are the exhibits in the museum suitable for children?

Absolutely! Even very young children will enjoy seeing the animals in the rainforest and aquarium exhibits, the dinosaur fossils, and any kids with an interest in space will find plenty of exhibits to interest them, in addition to the planetarium show (which are suitable for children aged 4 and over). There are also plenty of other interactive exhibits, such as The Color of Life, where visitors get to explore all the different colors which can be found in nature, or Giants of Earth and Sea, which features the natural wonders of Northern California, from giant redwood trees, whale skeletons, and rooms simulating the region’s fog and earthquakes. Other hands-on exhibits include the Discovery Tidepool, where kids can interact with animals, the Naturalist Center (for puzzles and games), and the Curiosity Grove (a playspace for kids aged 0-5). Look out for special family events with arts and crafts, child-friendly shows, and story time. Check the website or ask on arrival to find out what’s available on the day of your visit. Read more.

I heard there are adults-only nights?

Yes! Every Thursday night the museum is open for visitors over the age of 21. Between 6 pm and 10 pm, you can discover all the exhibits, plus themed interactive events, music and cocktails. Events planned for 2019 include NightLife in Space: The Moon, Brain & Body NightLife, and a special event for Pride. If you don’t have children then the NightLife events are highly recommended, as they’re also cheaper than admission during the day. Read more.

What’s the deal with the roof?

The green roof of the California Academy of Sciences is 2.5 acres, 87% of which is covered by 1.7 million plants. The plant life is an excellent form of insulation, captures all the excess stormwater (stopping pollutants from entering the surrounding ecosystem), and makes lots of oxygen for visitors to the museum and park to breath! The architect, Renzo Piano, wanted to make it seem as though a piece of the park had been lifted up and the museum hidden underneath it. It was also a practical decision for the museum, because they can use it as an outdoor classroom to teach visitors about the native Californian plants and wildflowers which grow on the roof, the animals which live there, or simply use the roof as a high point from which to watch the stars or lunar and solar eclipses. Read more.

How long should I plan for my trip?

At least half a day to see all the major exhibits, longer if you intend to read all the explainers. It’s also a good day trip for those with children, who might need to take more breaks or want to spend more time in one of the play areas. Combine it with a day in the Golden Gate Park for a varied day out. Read more.

General information

opening hours

The Academy is open 365 days a year, including federal holidays. It’s open between 9.30 am and 5 pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays. Every Thursday night the museum has special NightLife entry for over 21’s only between 6 pm and 10 pm.


Tickets bought on the day cost $39.95 for adults, $34.95 for students, seniors (aged 65 and over), and visitors aged between 12 and 17, and ¢29.95 for children aged 4 to 11. Entry is free for children aged 3 and under.


Official site:


California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco
CA 94118

how to get there

The California Academy of Sciences is served by a number of public transport options. Visitors can take the N-Judah Muni Metro to the stop at 9th Avenue and Irving Street, before taking a 10-minute walk to the Academy. Alternatively, you can take the number 44-O’Shaughnessy bus to the stop outside the Academy, or the number 5-Fulton bus to the stop at 8th Avenue and Fulton Street. An underground parking facility is available, parking costs $5 an hour on weekdays and $6 an hour on weekends.
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