California Academy of Sciences
The California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, is a cutting-edge research and education institute with the mission “to explore, explain, and sustain life.” Set in a high-tech building designed by architect Renzo Piano, with a living roof, solar panels, and denim insulation, the museum is the greenest in the world.
The Steinhart Aquarium is the hub of the academy’s living collection, containing some 40,000 animals. You can see sharks and rays in the Philippine Coral Reef Gallery, and a giant octopus in the California Coast exhibit, which also has an interactive Discovery Tidepool. The Tusher African Hall is famous for its colony of penguins, and the Swamp Gallery for its albino alligator! In the four-story Rainforests of the World Gallery there are free-flying butterflies and birds along with anacondas, piranhas, and chameleons.
The academy contains many other exhibits on topics ranging from evolution to earthquakes, as well as the obligatory T-rex skeleton. There’s also the largest all-digital planetarium in the world, in which you can take an immersive tour of the universe and learn about recent discoveries in astronomy.
Special events take place each day (with adults-only nights on Thursdays) and there are various tours available. There’s a café and a fine-dining restaurant. Tickets cost $30–35 (toddlers go free) and the academy is open every day.