The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum that is among the largest museums of natural history in the world, housing over 26 million specimens. The Academy began in 1853 as a learned society and still carries out a large amount of original research, It is one of the most prestigious institutions in the US, and one of the few institutes of natural sciences in which public experience and scientific research occur at the same location.
Completely rebuilt in 2008, the building covers 400,000 square feet and is among the newest natural history museums in the United States. The primary building in Golden Gate Park reopened on September 27, 2008
Combining exhibition space, education, conservation and research beneath one roof, the Academy also comprises natural history museum, aquarium and planetarium. The varied shapes of these different elements are expressed in the building’s roofline, which follows the form of its components.
With its native plant–covered living roof, retractable ceiling, three-story rain forest, gigantic planetarium, living coral reef, and frolicking penguins, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the city's most spectacular treasures. It's an eco-friendly, energy-efficient adventure in biodiversity and green architecture. The roof's large mounds and hills mirror the local topography, and Piano's audacious design completes the dramatic transformation of the park's Music Concourse. Moving away from a restrictive role as a museum that catalogued natural history, the academy these days is all about sustainability and the future. The locally beloved dioramas in African Hall have survived the transition, however.
By the time you arrive, hopefully you've decided which shows and programs to attend, looked at the academy's floor plan, and designed a plan to cover it all in the time you have. And if not, here's the quick version: Head left from the entrance to the wooden walkway over otherworldly rays in the Philippine Coral Reef, then continue to the Swamp to see Claude, the famous albino alligator. Swing through African Hall and gander at the penguins, take the elevator up to the living roof, then return to the main floor and get in line to explore the Rainforests of the World, ducking free-flying butterflies and watching for other live surprises. You'll end up below ground in the Amazonian Flooded Rainforest, where you can explore the academy's other aquarium exhibits.
Things to do in SF!