California Academy of Sciences

#2 in Best Things To Do in San Francisco
California Academy of Sciences picture
Anne Petersen/Flickr

Details

Museums, Zoos and Aquariums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
5.0scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 5.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere
Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 
The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 
On top of all of the permanent exhibits, each attraction features its own program of presentations and activities. Travelers suggest sticking around for the coral reef dive at the aquarium or venturing into the Shake House, the earthquake simulator found at the Kimball Natural History Museum. Admission may be pricey to some (adult tickets start at $34.95; entrance for children costs between $29.95 and $24.95, depending on age), but travelers say their experience was worth the cost. Visitors were impressed with not only the quantity of things to do, but the quality, with those young and old saying they left amazed at what they were able to see and do in a day. And a day is what you'll need to see everything, so make sure to pick and choose ahead of time if you're on a tight schedule. 
You can find the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, along Nancy Pelosi Drive. There are multiple public transportation links around the park, but the closest to the California Academy of Sciences is the Irving St. & 9th Ave. Muni metro stop. The academy is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information on the California Academy of Sciences, consult its website.   

Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 

The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 

On top of all of the permanent exhibits, each attraction features its own program of presentations and activities. Travelers suggest sticking around for the coral reef dive at the aquarium or venturing into the Shake House, the earthquake simulator found at the Kimball Natural History Museum. Admission may be pricey to some (adult tickets start at $39.95; entrance for children costs between $29.95 and $34.95, depending on age), but travelers say their experience was worth the cost. Visitors were impressed with not only the quantity of things to do, but the quality, with those young and old saying they left amazed at what they were able to see and do in a day. And a day is what you'll need to see everything, so make sure to pick and choose ahead of time if you're on a tight schedule. 

You can find the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, along Nancy Pelosi Drive. There are multiple public transportation links around the park, but the closest to the California Academy of Sciences is the Irving St. & 9th Ave. Muni metro stop. The academy is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information on the California Academy of Sciences, consult its website.   

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#1 Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and the city's most popular tourist attraction. The bridge's name, "Golden Gate," actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay), and was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat. 

There are plenty of great spots to capture a snap of the majestic bridge. But if you want a truly postcard-worthy shot, head to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, situated high on a hill overlooking San Francisco. If you have extra time, make sure to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The actual span of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area encompasses multiple places in San Mateo (south of San Francisco), San Francisco and Marin Counties (Alcatraz and Muir Woods included), but notable parts of this recreation area can be found just a stroll away from the Golden Gate. From the bridge, travelers will find some scenic, bayside trails, some of which lead to secluded beaches, including Kirby Cove and Black Sands Beach. If you really want a trek, journey to the Point Bonita Lighthouse for sweeping views of the bay, found at the very tip of the Golden Gate Strait.

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