California Academy of Sciences

This vast scientific institution is one of the world’s largest museums of natural history.

Founded in 1853, just three years after the Golden State joined the Union, the California Academy of Sciences is now a globally recognized scientific institution. It attracts more than a million visitors each year. This attraction includes an aquarium, a planetarium and a natural history museum.

Significant research into the human sciences takes place behind the doors of the academy. Global experts in botany, anthropology, ornithology, geology and an array of other disciplines work here. Completely rebuilt in 2008, the academy is now a striking attraction and is popular with visitors and locals alike.

Visit the Steinhart Aquarium, which includes a four-story dome developed to capture the climate and biology of the rain forest. Come face-to-face with 38,000 live species from all over the world, from the African penguin to sharks and stingrays.

Marvel at the wonders of the universe in the Morrison Planetarium, a state-of-the-art, all-digital planetarium that gives visitors the most accurate picture of the universe to date.

Head to the Kimball Natural History Museum for a look at exhibits from every corner of the globe. The displays explore the evolution of life on Earth, from prehistory to the present day.

Behind-the-scenes tours around the aquarium and the academy take place daily, including a weekly evening event for those over 21. (For a schedule of times see the website.) Knowledgeable guides help you make the most of your visit. If all of the learning leaves you with an appetite, enjoy a meal at the cosmopolitan Academy Café or the Moss Room.

The California Academy of Sciences stands in the heart of the Golden Gate Park and is easily accessible by public transit, car, bike and shuttle services. Note that the parking lot fills quickly on weekends and holidays.

The academy is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas.