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California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco Review

Posted by on Monday, June 24, 2019 Under: California Academy of Sciences
Many people from the Central Coast go north or south on the 101 to explore big cities for vacations. We decided to take a trip to the Bay Area! Without traffic, San Francisco is only a 3.5 hour drive north from San Luis Obispo. With a famous major city this close to SLO, we took advantage of the proximity and went on a family weekend getaway this past weekend to explore San Francisco and the California Academy of Sciences!
California Academy of Sciences Planetarium Picture(Picture of 1st level of California Academy of Sciences)
The California Academy of Sciences is an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest and natural history museum (plus more) all in one place! This multi-storied building with also live animals at almost every corner of the large space is fun for the entire family. It's an incredible experience and you won't find any place like it. California Academy of Sciences is located at Golden Gate Park and you can get there by public transportation from really anywhere in San Francisco using the "Muni" system.
Rooftop of California Academy of Sciences(Unique garden on the rooftop right above Level 3)

We started on the ground level which has the planetarium, rainforest, aquarium (you can get to the aquarium via the elevator inside of the rainforest), Curious Grove (for kids 5 and under), natural history, restaurant and cafe. The second level is the forum level, which we walked through the "What is Skin?" forum and the third level is the Education Center where students can get really interactive and learn more. We also saw beautiful gems and crystals on the third level. Lastly, the rooftop "R" level is the Living Roof with a one-of-a-kind garden where you can take in the beautiful view and a nice breath of fresh air. 

Broken down by each main level, scroll down to see  more pictures taken by Looking back at these wonderful pictures is making me so eager to revisit California Academy of Sciences once again!

Level 1: 
This large dome structure on the first floor is the Osher Rainforest. It's luscious with different interesting creatures you can find as you continue the climb up and blissfully, with butterflies flying all around you. It's so beautiful and one of my favorite places to take pictures. It's also stroller-friendly and the sounds of nature was so soothing, my 3 year old was asleep in his stroller the entire time while we were inside the rainforest. 

After you've reached the very top of the rainforest, there will be a guide near the elevator who will press the elevator button to get you to the Steinhart Aquarium level that's underground from here.

The Steinhart Aquarium section is quite big. Just when you think you've seen it all, there continues to be more sections and beautiful sea life to see. It was at the aquarium that my 3 year old suddenly awoken and boy, what a sight for him to wake up to! Both of my sons loved the aquarium.

After a couple hours of exploring, it was time for lunch and surprisingly, the California Academy of Sciences has a wide range of dining options at the Cafe! There were options like chicken tenders and fries, sushi, desserts, craft coffee and more. So if you didn't pack a lunch, it's okay. The Cafe here is great!

After lunch, the exploration continued for the rest of Level 1. We spotted the large fossils of a Tyrannosaurus Rex towering over us, cute penguins swimming, and a rare white alligator (yes, a real living one!). 

Another really fantastic section on the first floor is Curiosity Grove, which is intended for children 5 years old and younger. As a mom of a 5 year old and 3 year old, this is such a great treat for the parents and little ones as we get to take a bit of a break while the kids release some energy in a child-centered space. There were blocks, puzzles, a small playhouse, tree house, books and a nursing room as well!

Level 2:
Importantly, I want to note that the first floor's restroom near the elevator had a really long line so I suggest going to the second level to go to the restroom if you want to find a shorter line (or in our case, no line at all)!

A quieter floor than the first one, level 2 is where we found the "What is Skin?" forum. My kids are still too little to indulge in this section but if you have time, learn more about the largest organ of the human body here.

Level 3: 
I really enjoyed seeing all the gems and crystals on level 3. I couldn't help but sing "Money, money, money" out loud in the singing style of a BTS song while looking at these beautiful rocks. This mama may have caused a few odd looks with my singing but these gems really put me in a good mood! This level is also where anyone can get hands-on and touch some fur and be interactive with some more learning materials in the Educational Center. 

From Level 3, you'll find a set or stairs that leads up to the Living Rooftop or you can take the elevator and press "R" to get to the rooftop

Rooftop Level: (above Level 3)
This rooftop level at the California Academy of Sciences is really special. The unique living garden and the view from up high makes this floor a great finale and ending to an amazing educational adventure! Even if you're a little tired, try not skip this floor! It's really worth it. 

After three hours at the California Academy of Sciences, it was time for us to start our journey back to our stay and locate our "Muni". If we get the chance again and when the kids are a little bit older, we would love to sign up for the planetarium show. There's just so much beauty and interesting knowledge to absorb! This trip here has been so eye-opening!

(All photos on this post were taken by Please give credit if you plan on using any of these pictures.)

For more information about the California Academy of Sciences, you can go to their website:

The price of admission varies by date. Check out the discounted California Academy of Sciences prices through our travel partner aResTravel or buy from the California Academy of Sciences website and select the amount of tickets and exact date you plan on visiting. I recommend comparing from both websites and one is usually cheaper than the other, even with convenience fees factored in. Many attractions changed their ticketing system during the pandemic and come out at the end of it with a more clunky and harder to use booking system. However, many times I find to be a much more user friendly website experience for buying many tickets and it could be cheaper than buying from the attraction's website too, depending on the season. See all available tickets in San Francisco through  

Address of California Academy of Sciences: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

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In : California Academy of Sciences 

Tags: california academy of sciences  close to san luis obispo 

About Me

San Luis Obispo Mom Originally from San Diego, California, I'm a San Diego State University alumna, veteran's wife and mom of two kids who were born two years apart. After living on the East Coast for 6 years, we now reside in San Luis Obispo County and here, the exploration continues.
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