New Wander Woods exhibit inspires creativity and imaginative play and fosters meaningful connections with nature.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (December 6, 2021) - This winter, the California Academy of Sciences’ East Garden will be transformed into a wonderland of discovery with a new hands-on, nature play and exploration space: Wander Woods, opening Friday, January 14, 2022.

Situated outdoors beneath beautiful old-growth cypress trees overlooking Golden Gate Park, Wander Woods offers multi-sensory discovery and learning opportunities through areas dedicated to imaginative play activities. Winding pathways take visitors on an exploration of the garden, revealing a hands-on area where guests can build their own den from natural materials, a space for nature-driven creativity and honing fine motor skills, a log tunnel to crawl through, and a hillside nest and perch that provides a thrilling new view of the entire garden.

Wander Woods will offer hands-on experiences that unleash imaginations and foster a deep connection with nature. This kind of place-based environmental learning is powerful, helping children view themselves as part of, not apart from, the natural world,” said Scott Sampson, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences. “Understanding that we are embedded in the places we live is a critical step on the path to regenerate the natural world and ensure a healthy Earth for generations to come.”

To create this unique new space, the Academy partnered with renowned nature-based playspace designers and builders Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. "It was a true pleasure to design and build this park,” said Adam Bienenstock, Founder and CEO of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. “What emerged from the collaborative process is a place for the young and old to find a reprieve from the city to connect to nature and each other. The Academy’s commitment to these connections are not only shown in their investment in creating this space but the ongoing programming of it.”

Constructed from locally-sourced materials like salvaged tree trunks, Wander Woods features a variety of stroller- and wheelchair-accessible outdoor spaces that provide visitors an immersive way to explore the natural world. From observing a bug crawl to balancing on a log, Wander Woods promotes inquiry-based activities that nurture collaboration and complex reasoning. Although Wander Woods is ideal for children up to 12 years of age, guests of all ages can reflect, recharge, and reawaken their connection to nature in the Academy’s newest outdoor space.

In addition to self-directed outdoor play that stretches the body and opens the mind to creative thinking and problem-solving, Wander Woods will feature pop-up facilitated nature play activities and seasonal public programs.

Media will have the opportunity to visit the exhibit at a press preview on Thursday, January 13 at 9:30 am. The dedication will include remarks from Executive Director Scott Sampson and special activities to mark the occasion, more details to be announced. If you would like to attend the media preview please email

About the California Academy of Sciences The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and environmental education—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

About Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds was established in 2005. Since its inception, our company has grown at a 30% pace year-over-year, touting a current roster of over 50 employees and over one thousand projects. Our focus has been to establish ourselves as the nature play experts for the Municipalities, Nature Centers, Museums, Hospitals, Schools and Child Care Centers we work with. Our expertise ranges from optimal child development and sustainable sourcing practices, to creating play spaces that comply with the ASTM playground standard and that exceed the ADA for accessibility.

Press Contacts

If you are a journalist and would like to receive Academy press releases please contact

Digital Assets

Hi-res and low-res image downloads are available for editorial use. Contact us at to request access.