Tuesday, December 09, 2008

California Academy of Sciences

The renovated, expanded California Academy of Sciences is one of the new attractions in San Francisco and we visited the place on Sunday. Located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park, it includes a museum, an aquarium and a planetarium.

The centerpiece of the museum was the new Rainforest exhibit. It was constructed as a 3-story exhibit inside a glass dome with the 3 levels reflecting the 3 levels in the rainforests. The tall trees, the foliage on all sides and the pool in the middle created a nice setting as we walked around and stressed again how important presentation is. Several birds and butterflies were flitting around in the open while some frogs were hidden in the plants. Past this open space, there were some very exotic animals(colorful chameleons, a huge toad, some unusual snakes, etc.) in cages.

From the 3rd level, a glass elevator took us to the aquarium in the basement of the exhibit. A tunnel with the fish swimming on both sides and above our heads was a pretty cool start to the walk through the aquarium. The exhibits were what one usually finds in most aquariums(like the Monterey Bay aquarium) with fish in all shapes and colors showcased in pretty, well-decorated cases.

Other attractions in the building included an albino alligator in a small swamp; an African center with stuffed animals displayed in very realistic settings; a penguin exhibit where we were just in time to watch the cute waddlers being fed; a couple of joystick-controlled games for the kids; and several colorful and well-arranged displays.

We learned later that passes were always handed out for the planetarium earlier in the day and that they were given out first come first served. Since it was a really busy day, the passes were sold out by the time we went there. So we missed seeing the planetarium and had to be satisfied with a couple of science exhibits(like a huge pendulum that was used to prove the earth's rotation) that were outside the planetarium dome. Our last stop was the roof of the building, which had been turned into a huge garden.

With something for everyone, the Academy of Sciences made for an interesting and informative day. Its well worth a visit but if you're going, just make sure you go early enough to grab those passes for the Planetarium.

A few photos from the visit can be seen here.


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