Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Free Day at the California Academy of Sciences!

No flash was used for this photo, it's not allowed for this light sensitive, albino crocodile.
Yes, this albino crocodile is really cool, but I wouldn't have seen it if it hadn't been Free Day at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It's a fun place to visit and we really enjoyed ourselves, but I just don't think it would be worth $125 for a family of four. This place is expensive; and though it is good, I don't think it compares to the Monterey Aquarium. That is why it is great to  take advantage of Free Day at the Academy.

The CA Academy of Sciences is located in the Music Concourse area of Golden Gate Park.
Four times a year, the Academy offers free admission to the general public. They do not advertise all the dates but if you scroll to the bottom of their admissions page, you can generally see the next time they offer Free Day. I say "generally" because as of now, their page is not up-to-date.
   On Free Day, you need to get there at least one hour early and wait in line. Everyone who waits in line is guaranteed to get in, but you may have to wait until people exit, before you can enter. We arrived one hour before admission and got in half an hour after it opened. It's a really long line!

This was only the beginning of the line, but it was a beautiful day and we took turns walking around.
 The Academy has four main areas: the Planetarium (we didn't have time to go there), the Rain Forest,  the Aquarium and the Living Roof. It also has some smaller sections, one of which is the Naturalist Center. It turned out to be my favorite room.

A picture's worth a thousand words, so here are some photos:

Inside the bio-dome and up a spiral staircase, gives you a view of the rain forest

Looking down on the vegetation below

There were interesting tanks of animals, and butterflies flying free, but hardly any birds. I only saw two songbirds.
 A note about the rain forest - it's warm and humid so dress in layers and bring a water bottle. There is no drinking fountain in the rain forest and I got extremely thirsty. Also, your only exit is to take an elevator down from the top. I think they do this to prevent butterflies from escaping but I found it very annoying because I was hot and thirsty and would rather have trotted down some stairs than wait in line for an elevator. I think they could redesign another exit with double doors to keep butterflies in, but that's just my opinion.

The tropical aquarium

A small touch pool
Yes, free day is really crowded!

Large mouth bass (I think)

The Living Roof has seven hills and a native California environment
Those are skylights behind us. They help regulate the temperature of the Academy interior.
An orca jaw on the field and a nice view of the city.
 A note about the Living Roof: despite the natural green, I didn't see a single bird or insect, maybe it was too windy. There were beautiful views but not much to hold a kid's interest. I did read that they hold some classes on the roof, but they weren't listed on the Roof's webpage.

I liked the Naturalist Center the best - so much to see and touch and it wasn't too crowded.
They have a huge selection of books to read while you're there.
Looking at models of scat and animal tracks

These bookcases were full of egg and animal specimens

A petrified dinosaur bone that you are allowed to touch

According to one docent, artists of all ages love coming here. I can see why.
 The Naturalist Center was by far my favorite because I was amazed at the number of specimens and books they had, not to mention all the things you could touch. I was also told the academy has an under-utilized research library (available by appointment only) with a "huge" number of books and other resources.

 Even though I think admission is too high, if you spent a long day here and took advantage of everything the academy has to offer, I think you would get your moneys worth. If you live close by, a membership would be a good thing to consider.

Admission Prices
$34.95 - Adult
$29.95 - Senior (ages 65+)
$29.95 - Student
$29.95 - Youth (ages 12–17)
$24.95 - Child (ages 4–11)
Children ages 3 and under are free

Free Admission and SF Neighborhood Day: once a quarter and two weekends a year, respectively. Check their website for the exact dates


To save money, bring a picnic and enjoy it in the park.

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