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