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There’s more to California than Hollywood, Santa Monica and sunshine! If you like science, there’s a place just for you: the California Academy of Sciences. In this article, I’ll give you all the information you need to decide whether to visit.

California Academy of Sciences: several museums in one!

The California Academy of Sciences, sometimes called the “Cal Academy,” is in the heart of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

This renowned institution is a world-renowned museum.

With its aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and innovative research programs, the California Academy of Sciences is very comprehensive.

Probably the most surprising activity is the earthquake simulation room. It seems to meet with unanimous approval from all the reviews I’ve read on the web.

butterfly California Academy of Sciences
A bit of nature in San Francisco | Source: DreamArt123/

Depending on your wishes, you can visit only part of the museum, or all of it. For example, Amélie and I had planned to go before canceling due to lack of time, and our aim was to see only the science museum and the aquarium.


Highlights of a visit to the California Academy of Sciences

  • Biodiversity at your fingertips with the Rainforest Dome
  • The vast aquarium, home to a variety of marine ecosystems
  • The opportunity to attend lectures by world-renowned scientists
  • Central San Francisco location

Disadvantages at the California Academy of Sciences

  • The price is high compared with similar museums around the world.


What can you see at the California Academy of Sciences?

There’s so much to see and do at the California Academy of Sciences that every visit is an adventure.

As soon as you cross the threshold, you’re in the “Rainforest Dome,” a four-storey tropical forest home to free-floating butterflies, exotic birds, tropical fish and even spiders and snakes! You can cross it from top to bottom through an aquatic observation tunnel.

crocodile san francisco
Among the animals you’ll find some amazing white crocodiles. | Source: Anton_Ivanov/

Then, take a leap into the future with a visit to the Morrison Planetarium. With its 23-meter screen, the largest in the world, it’s as if you’re exploring the universe in real time. To access this section, you’ll need to book your visit.

In the aquarium section, dive into the underwater world with the Steinhart Aquarium, home to over 900 marine species. You’ll see reef sharks, African penguins (from South Africa), and even a living coral reef.

roof California Academy of Sciences
Photo of the roof of the tropical greenhouse Source: FiledIMAGE/

For a truly unique experience, climb up to the Living Roof. It’s a 1-hectare ecological wonder that’s home to 1.7 million plants native to California and offers breathtaking views of Golden Gate Park and the city. This living roof is not only beautiful, it also helps insulate the building and provide shelter for local species of insects and birds.


What is the price of admission to the California Academy of Sciences?

Prices depend on the day and time of your visit. Looking at the museum’s website, I saw that prices were around:

  • $40 to $45 for an adult
  • $30 to $35 for a child
  • 35 to $40 for a senior citizen.

Evening visits are available for people over 21.

Buy your tickets in advance. They’re cheaper when you buy them online than at the box office on the day of your visit.

Check out the current price on GetyourGuide.

How long does a visit to the California Academy of Sciences last?

Estimated tour time is about 4 hours. I’ve seen reviews of visits that have taken less time than that. The length of the tour will depend mainly on your interest in science, how busy the museum is and whether any areas are closed.

Some rooms may be closed for maintenance or exhibition modifications.


Where is the California Academy of Sciences located?

The exact address of the California Academy of Sciences is 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA.

How to get to the California Academy of Sciences?

By car, follow directions to Golden Gate Park. Pay parking is available nearby.

California Academy of Sciences
Car, bus, cab, the choice is yours. | Source: christopher babcock/

By public transport, take the Muni 5 or 5R bus to the stop on Fulton Street and 10th Avenue, then walk about 10 minutes to the Academy.

Of course, the journey can also be made by Uber or cab.


What are the hours of the California Academy of Sciences?

The California Academy of Sciences is open year-round, except for weekly closing days. Opening hours are

  • Monday to Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 1h00 – 17h00
  • Reopening on Thursday evenings for “Thursday Nightlife”: 6p.m. to 10p.m.


My opinion of the California Academy of Sciences: is it a good visit?

The location of the California Academy of Sciences is ideal. Right in the center of San Francisco, it’s easy to get around by public transport or cab. Its proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge is convenient for tourists. You can visit the museum before taking a closer look at the world’s most famous bridge.

visit California Academy of Sciences
A very large museum in a beautiful building.

Cal Academy’s greatest asset is its rich collection. It’s rare to find a large aquarium, a planetarium, an impressive tropical greenhouse, dinosaur skeletons and a terrace with a magnificent view of San Francisco all in one place.

The room that simulates the earthquake is surprising. It recalls the earthquakes that struck San Francisco (in 1906 and 1989) and the current risks posed by the San Andreas Fault.

Children and adults alike enjoy the visit. Even if it’s very busy, the size of the site makes for a pleasant visit.


What else can you do near the California Academy of Sciences?

Around the Academy, Golden Gate Park and the surrounding area are full of other fascinating attractions:

  • A boat trip on Lake Stow
  • The Japanese tea garden
  • Works of art at the de Young Museum
  • San Francisco Botanical Gardens
  • Ocean Beach
  • Golf at Golden Gate Park Golf Course
  • Lake Merced…

As for the city of San Francisco, our favorite visits were to Alcatraz prison, Pier 39 and the Golden Gate Bridge.


As a professional blogger, I take advantage of my flexible schedule to travel a lot. I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list!