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“A Really Good Science Center”

California Academy of Sciences
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USD 35.95*
and up
Skip the Line: California Academy of Sciences...
Ranked #35 of 713 things to do in San Francisco
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: The world’s only aquarium-planetarium-rainforest-living museum. 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.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Activities for young children
Reviewed 6 April 2018

This Science Center is very good with it's exhibits on the rainforest, the Coral Reef planetarium show, and the Aquarium. The admission fee is very reasonable and the planetarium show in the actual planetarium was amazing and very informative. They have a very cool rocks and minerals exhibit with many interesting an rare rocks. There is a second "planetarium" show which is just on a movie theater screen which uses old software and programming with outdated information. Besides this everything else was amazing but the eating conditions were better than average.

Thank llama_info
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"living roof"
in 304 reviews
"albino alligator"
in 244 reviews
"earthquake simulator"
in 168 reviews
"rainforest exhibit"
in 147 reviews
"an aquarium"
in 198 reviews
"planetarium shows"
in 72 reviews
"natural history"
in 72 reviews
"tropical rainforest"
in 60 reviews
"birds and butterflies"
in 52 reviews
"penguin feeding"
in 48 reviews
"golden gate park"
in 363 reviews
"all ages"
in 275 reviews
"earth quake"
in 45 reviews
"science museum"
in 159 reviews
"under one roof"
in 67 reviews
"great for kids"
in 78 reviews
"great museum"
in 96 reviews

268 - 272 of 5,634 reviews

Reviewed 6 April 2018

(1) As soon as you arrive, get your free timed tickets to the Planetarium so that you can pick the best time slot for you. May want to request tickets for a couple hours later, when the other exhibits are more crowded (rather than first thing). When we were there, the Planetarium topic was Expedition Reef. The doors open 15 minutes before the show although and everyone is asked to fill in all the seats.
(2) We were very disappointed to learn that the Earthquake exhibit closed in early March. All in all, we enjoyed our visit, but the museum is definitely overpriced for what you get. Maybe if we would have been able to do the Earthquake exhibit we would have felt differently. We were a family of 4 with 2 sons age 22 and 15.
(3) We went on a Saturday in mid-March and the place was overrun with little kids — but this is pretty much to be expected at a science museum. Not sure if weekdays or weekends are better. We arrived around 10am and were done before 2pm.
(4) Normal price is $35.95 for adults and $30.95 for teens and students. Fortunately I had seen that you could buy tickets on Groupon for their normal price ... and had a promo code that showed up in my inbox for Groupon (95% off up to $30!). So I bought the 3 adult tickets with the coupon (would only let me buy one type of a ticket at a time) and it cost me $77.85 total for 3 adult tickets. We then bought my 15 year old son’s ticket on my husband’s account and with the discount ... his ticket was $1.55! Overall, a total of $80 is about fair for the overall experience for 4 people. One other tip ... buy each ticket on a different Groupon account ... and you can pay even less depending on the type of Groupon (I didn’t think to do this until after I bought 3 tickets together). Once you arrive, you go to the ticket window and exchange your voucher for a ticket. For us (since we didn’t have access to a printer), we just handed over our phones and they were able to reference the vouchers that way.
(5) We all really enjoyed the aquarium in the basement, but navigating it is a little confusing, so be careful to not miss any of the cool stuff in the nooks and crannies. We also liked seeing the Albino Alligator. It’s a little sad seeing him all by himself (except some turtles) in the enclosure, but apparently he would not survive in the wild as he needs to be on the heated rock he is laying on ... and cannot be in the sun since he is albino. It was also fun to walk through the Rain Forest - which is a spiral path upward to where most of the butterflies are (no tickets required, but they manage the entries). When you exit the exhibit, you take an elevator down to make sure there are no butterfly hitchhikers on your clothes. The live penguins are located in the Natural History section, which other than that is mostly taxidermied animals. If you want to see the penguins being fed — it’s done at 10:30am and 3pm or you can watch the live feed.
Overall a good experience but definitely not worth the cost of the full price tickets. This is based on my experience at museums in NYC, DC, London, Germany, etc.

Thank Brenda S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 April 2018 via mobile

Our 8 year old is Autistic and obsessed with dinosaurs and all things science he was so excited going round he loved it and the learning centre upstairs as well. The aquarium in the basement was truly awesome the only sore point was the planetarium had time slots and because we had a baby with us as well we couldn’t fit it in due to feeding time. But for for everything else this was amazing we all had a great experience.

Thank James S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 April 2018

The California Academy of Science does "Night LIfe VIP Tours" on Thursday evenings.
On Thursday evenings, there is both a VIP tour, and a General Admission for over 21s as they have pop up bars. (Drink while you explore the exhibits is the best way I can describe it).

Here's some tips:

*We were on vacation and didn't have a car so we caught the 5pm Red Double Decker bus into the Golden Gate Park (where the Academy is) and walked around until 6pm opening. This was fun and recommended. (NOTE the very tall Observation Tower closes at 5pm)
* The doors to the Academy of Science close at 5pm, but reopen at 6pm.
* Prior to 6pm, you'll see people lining up. If you have a VIP ticket, ensure you check the ticket for your "Entry Door" number and line up behind that exact door. (there are several numbered doors at the entry and not everyone lining up on Thursday Night is going to the VIP tour).
* Ours was Door 3, the shortest line (about 30 people), Door 1 had a very long line, about 100 people. This place is popular on Thursday nights.
* While in line, but before the doors open, an attendant will check your ticket and stamp your hand. When they stamp your hand, make sure you say "where do I go when the doors open" because the general door with all the other people also opens and you don't go with them!
* When the doors opened, we moved over to the Right Hand Side and an attendant confirmed we were in the right place. (The ticket says wait near the TRex, but there was no one near the TRex! - There were many people moving about and the academy attendants were not immediately identifiable to us.
* We found the correct attendants and the attendants exchanged our tickets for two drink coupons and a wrist band (identifying us a VIPs) then when there was enough VIP Guests to fill an elevator, we were ushered into an elevator and went to a mezzanine floor.
* At the mezzanine floor was a bar and nibble food.
* Our TIP - no need to drink both drinks in the 30 mins you're on the mezzanine floor, overlooking the lobby (Yes to eating, Yes to one drink, but don't rush to get your second drink before the tour starts, I'll tell you why soon).
* The attendant we had was brilliant! She had to project her voice over a noisy environment, she was informative, she was attentive and gave us a few minutes to finish our snacks before the VIP tour starts.
* During this time, 'hundreds' of other people are entering the lobby to move through the general exhibition area/s
* Our tour started by going back to the same elevator, but going up to the living roof, and for the next 30 to 45mins, we were taken into the 'back stage' (back rooms) of the Academy and saw some awesome stuff.
* As we toured around, most of the time we were above the lobby / ground level where the 100's of other people were. From time to time I'd look down and see other bars serving drinks.
* At the conclusion of our tour, I asked one of the other bar attendants would he honour a VIP drink coupon? He said absolutely, So there is no need to rush your 2nd free drink upon entry, you can sip that one, and have your other free drink after the tour if you wish!
* At the end of our tour, we headed for the gift shop and then outside.
* There were no taxi cabs, no buses, but it was UberEverywhere out there.
* We had a 3 day Muni ticket (cable car, Tram, Bus) and decided to walk the 200 metres to the Golden Gate Park entrance and caught the "5" back into Down Town. So easy!

Summary - it was fun, lots of young people, lots of bars, lots to see.

I hope this has helped you!

Thank Slider W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 5 April 2018

Needed an activity to do while on Easter break. Was supposed to go to Sausalito Discover museum but changed plans.

Thank PickyPickyTracy_CA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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