California Academy of Sciences

Only have an hour or two to visit the Academy? We’ve put together a short guide featuring tips and can’t-miss visitor highlights to help you plan your day. 

If you have 1–2 hours:

Osher Rainforest

Steinhart Aquarium: Highlights include the Philippine Coral Reef, home to the deepest indoor display of living coral in the world, and the California Coast tank, which showcases the diversity of animals found in California’s coastal waters.

Osher Rainforest: A glass dome houses the four-story living rainforest, where birds and butterflies fly freely among lush tropical trees, plants, and other animals from around the world. 

Living Roof: When the sun is out, nothing beats visiting our rolling green roof for views of Golden Gate Park and beyond. California wildflowers bloom in spring while dozens of native plants provide habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies year-round.

African Penguins: Visit our colony of charismatic South African birds. Join a biologist for penguin feedings at 10:30 am and 3 pm daily.

The Swamp: Meet its most famous resident, Claude, an albino American alligator, who shares his home with a trio of prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtles.

Morrison Planetarium: Reserve a ticket (free with admission) at the Planetarium kiosk to see our newest show, Passport to the Universe.


If you have 3–4 hours:

Graceful stingrays soar through Reef Lagoon

See everything above, plus:

Giants of Land and Sea: Some of the planet's largest living things and most epic natural phenomena can be found right here in Northern California. Virtually ascend a towering redwood, feel your way through the #FogRoom, and try to stay on your feet inside a 7.9-magnitude earthquake simulator.  

Gems and Minerals: Unearthed: In this colorful exhibit, touch sparkling specimens, see a giant quartz crystal up close, and discover minerals that glow fluorescent under UV light.

Reef Lagoon: Watch graceful stingrays and schooling fish glide beneath your feet and around our Philippine mangrove lagoon.

Color of Life: Find out how animals use color for communication, survival, and more with interactive exhibits, live animals, and vibrant specimens.


If you’re visiting with kids:

Early Explorers Cove
  • Kids can touch starfish, urchins, abalone, and various tide pool residents at the Discovery Tidepool.

  • Bring the littlest ones to Curiosity Grove, a brand-new, forest-themed learning and activity space that's now open to all ages.

  • Find the “kid-sized” opening and enter a world of small, wiggling eels at the Children’s Eel Garden, located next to the Philippine Coral Reef tank.

  • Touch specimens, watch videos, play games, and ask questions at the hands-on Naturalist Center.


Other Tips

Gouldian finch, Color of Life

Love live animals?


  • Learn even more about our live animals at one of our daily programs, like the Penguin Feeding, Ssssnake Encounter, or Swamp Discovery. Keep an eye out for docents with orange lab coats—they're often accompanied by special animals not usually on the public floor.
  • The Color of Life exhibit features several live animals, including an aviary of Gouldian finches, green tree pythons, and a color-changing day octopus.