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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco)

Last week, we visited the newly reopened California Academy of Sciences, located inside Golden Gate Park in the beautiful City by the Bay, San Francisco. The museum had been closed for years while they rebuilt it from the ground up to be one of the most amazing facilities in the world. We had taken the kids to the Steinhart Aquarium when it was temporarily located in downtown San Francisco, and I was looking forward to its grand reopening to experience it more fully. So when I saw FoodGal Carolyn Jung's post about her sneak-peak into the Academy before the doors opened, I knew it wouldn't be long before we went as well.

Once inside, we immediately went down to the under-water level of the Steinhart Aquarium. There, you are greeted with an expansive viewing room of the deepest live coral exhibit in the world, the Philippine Reef Tank. Diver Dave Chan was in the water, answering questions from the audience.

Diver Dave Chan in the Philippine Reef Tank at the California Academy of Sciences

Diver Dave Chan in the Philippine Reef Tank at the California Academy of Sciences

We continued to stroll through the Aquarium for over an hour before "coming up for air".

Daniel in the underwater viewing room at the California Academy of Sciences Philippine Reef Tank upside-down jellyfish tank at the California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium

large anemone at the California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Rainforest dome at the California Academy of Sciences

We broke for lunch at the Academy Cafe, a cafeteria-style eatery with new menu choices developed by Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame. The prices were tourist trap-dreadful, of course. But the food itself was surprisingly good. Annie got a couple of steamed buns ($3 each) and a plate of Vietnamese summer rolls ($6.50). Mum got a bowl of chicken pho ($8.50) and I bought two sandwiches ($8.50 each).

Hummus and Roasted Red Pepper with Olive Tapenade on Ciabatta @ California Academy of Sciences Cafe

Hummus and Roasted Red Pepper with Olive Tapenade on Ciabatta @ California Academy of Sciences Cafe

"Saigon Pork" on Ciabatta Roll @ California Academy of Sciences Cafe

One of the things that so impressed me about the California Academy of Sciences is its commitment to sustainability. From the solar energy power to the "living roof" to the separate "landfill" and "compost" bins in the cafeteria, this museum is dedicated to living lighter on the earth. So I was a little annoyed that someone had left their half-eaten lunch on the table before we sat down:

Food Waste @ California Academy of Sciences Cafe

Food Waste @ California Academy of Sciences Cafe

Half the quesadilla, most of the guacamole, half the grapefruit soda, and all of the french fries were left behind. Now, the thought of eating someone else's leftover food would strike most people as quite strange. But the more I stared at the untouched quesadilla, the more I wanted to just take it and save it for later (I was quite full from the lunch we had). Why let it go to waste, right? It's probably safe. Only Mum's disapproving looks kept me from actually doing it.

(OK now, tell me the truth, would you have taken the quesadilla?)

After lunch, we headed into the fully enclosed, four story-tall Rainforest Dome. Inside, the temperature and humidity are set to tropical climes. You start sweating right away. A cooling mist regularly wafts down from above to bring temporary relief. Butterflies flit all around, providing colorful distraction. We walked the spiral up to the top of the dome, then rode the elevator back down to the viewing tunnel under the flooded Amazon.

Butterfly in Rainforest Dome @ California Academy of Sciences Green Frog sleeping on the side of the glass exhibit @ California Academy of Sciences Rainforest Dome

Underwater viewing tunnel in the Rainforest Dome at the California Academy of Sciences Plant list for the Living Roof Atop the California Academy of Sciences

When we finally got out of the Dome, it was a relief! Not that we didn't want to see all the interesting exhibits, but that we were not prepared (in other words, overdressed) for the rainforest. We took another elevator up topside to check out the Living Roof.

By then, it was too late to see the Planetarium show or go through the Natural History Museum. We'll have to save that for another visit to the California Academy of Sciences. (But next time, we'll pack our own lunch!)

Here's a movie I made of all the different video clips (shot with the Flip video camera I won from Jaden):

Care to Comment?

A few people have told me that they were having problems leaving comments on our posts. At first I thought it was the CAPTCHA or the OpenID requirements, so I took those out. Now I suspect it was the inline comments hack I put in to this Blogger template. Sometimes, I think they should call this system Blog-GRRRR because it's so infuriatingly klunky.

In any case, I've gone back to comment inputting on separate pages. I hope you don't mind. If anyone is still having trouble leaving comments in their own name, you can still sign on as Anonymous. The only comments I won't tolerate are spammy comments, so comment away!

Aloha, Nate

Hungry for more eating out in San Francisco? Click below:

Mi Lindo Yucatan (San Francisco)

Roli Roti Porchetta (San Francisco)

Pistachio macaroon

Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar


laufamily said...

Sounds like a good place to take my kids.
Is Dave Chan related of Jack and Wai?

Anonymous said...

wow. I am going to have to visit the academy of sciences next time i'm up...

and yes, I would have eaten it.

Food For Tots said...

Hi Annie,
What a wonderful trip! I really hope that Singapore Govt will consider to build one over here soon.

I luv your recipes. They are great! Tks for sharing. ;)

Tracie Broom said...

Fabulous post!

In my collegiate waitering days I often struggled with the food waste thing. And I am pretty sure, if memory serves, that my coworkers and I were not averse to curing a snack attack with fancy pizza leftovers. Ah youth!

Anonymous said...

I played hooky from work yesterday & took my god-daughter - WOW, it really was fantastic. We had a great time and I can not wait to go again. We did not get to eat there as she is only 2.5 and after 3 hours of looking around, she was ready for meltdown! Next time!

Michelle said...

Looks like an incredible place! Especially for kids. I love that it's "green" too. Will have to make that a place to visit when we go to Cali next time (though the Ferry Street Building is always my first stop). Beautiful pictures!

Neeracha T. said...

What great photos - you put mine to shame!

Esi said...

I can't believe that person just wasted their food, but overall looks like it was a good trip!

taste memory said...

have not been there for AGES! totally miss SF sourdough/french crusty bread ~ man I could bite into that sandwhich! thanks for bringing back some of my fav haunts in my beloved city.....((cries))

ila said...

o wow... the academy is my all time favorite museum. i'm going up this weekend, so i'll make sure to visit! sans the food of course...

Unknown said...

Ahh, another vicarious living moment via Chez Annie & Nate. As wonderful as the CAS looks, I don't think I'll take the kids there any time soon. I have too many mixed emotions about returning to the city I used to call home.

I'm with Mum... you and daniellui can have a party with the mystery cooties. This waste is NOTHING compared to what kids throw out at lunch every day at school.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@laufamily - (hey, great name!) Yes, Dave is their son. Whatta lucky guy!

@daniellui - even if your mom was watching?

@foodfortots - Is there a large aquarium in Singapore?

@tracie - and you didn't get sick, right? ah, youth!

@chez us - hope you can go again, when she's a bit older.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@michelle - we're going to the Ferry Building on Saturday! Woo hoo!

@Neeracha - thanks! It's the camera.

@esi - I figure it was some kid, by the looks of it. But the parent is the one who needs to learn the lesson.

@taste memory - sounds like you left your heart here.

@ila - if you buy the food at the academy, make sure you have enough left on your credit card. Otherwise, have a great time!

@J - well, there's always the Tech Museum.

If kids are throwing away too much food, does that mean we're giving them too much?

Anonymous said...

Looks good! :)

One of my friends (and Blogger/Photographer for our site, the Wandering Gourmet) has a photo of an orchid she took hanging or being used somewhere within the new California Academy of Sciences building!

Food For Tots said...

Oh yes, there is a Underwater World in Sentosa. What I am impressed is the concept of a muzeum with an underground aquarium.

Unknown said...

@ nate-n-annie - I'd probably say half and half. Some parents pack too many options in hopes that the child will end up eating something. Kids also have their priorities. Eat or play and talk? No one is pestering them to eat, so they eat just enough to stave off the hunger pangs, then throw away the rest in order to have more play time. Then they're completely ravenous after school. =\

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Angie - you should come over here and see it yourself, maybe even take a picture of it LOL

@FoodforTots - it's probably easier than building one four stories high.

@J - I think our Daniel is more like the latter. :-\

Anonymous said...

this place looks amazing! makes me wish I was in the states all over again.