Tag Archives: california academy of sciences

Extreme Mammals at California Academy of Sciences

Did you know that whales once walked on four legs? Don’t worry you’re not alone, I didn’t know either. My son did, and he was happy to tell me all about the walking whale, Ambulocetus, while we toured the new Extreme Mammals exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

My Kid’s Picks:

Nothing impresses an eight-year-old more than the extreme, whether it be extreme cannon balls in the swimming pool or extreme mammals at the museum, so this exhibit was right up his alley. As we strolled the nine sections of the exhibit, my son tugged at my sleeve begging me to check out the “freaky” animals. He did stop and read the information behind each display, but seeing the fossils and animal models was the big draw. It’s one thing to learn about prehistoric animals at school, and a whole thing altogether to see them in person. His favorites were the glyptodont-an extinct relative of the armadillo as big as a car-and the live tree shrew in the Reproduction section.

Mom’s Verdict:

I really liked that the prehistoric focus of this exhibit, since this is the one area I found a bit lacking in the new Academy of Sciences. Whenever there is an opportunity to take my son to see some of these fossil and taxidermy displays in person, I will hop at the chance. This exhibit is better suited for school-aged children, but even the younger bunch will enjoy getting a glimpse of the extreme mammals. We saw a few toddlers touring the exhibit, but at a much speedier pace. The timed entry made the exhibit easier to see, without hordes of people trying to push your kid while he checks out that three-horned deer relative. The lighting is a bit darker in this particular hall, so it may be a bit scary to sensitive toddlers.

Useful Tips:

This exhibit requires you get passes for timed entry. Get your passes on the second level once you enter the museum. They are handed out on a first come, first serve basis.

There will be a picture taken of your group in front of two wooly mammoths before you enter. Do tell the photographer you would like to have at least 50% of your group not come out with their eyes closed in the picture. I speak from personal experience.

There is no photography allowed inside the actual exhibit, though, so I wasn’t able to share any with you. But there are a few on the Academy website.

I found my second visit to the new Academy of Science to be much more enjoyable, mostly because the crowds have thinned out. I will have to revisit my previous tips post and will have a more detailed post about the Academy later this month. In the meantime, head down to the Academy of Sciences to check out the Extreme Mammals before they’re gone. The exhibit runs until September 12, 2010.

We received complimentary media passes for this visit to the Academy of Sciences, as always views and opinions shared here are all my own.


San Francisco Family Vacation

Today’s Tip: California Academy of Sciences

IMG_2686Once upon a December, I tried to go to the California Academy of Sciences the week after Christmas. That story didn’t have a a fairytale ending: we didn’t get in, the scene outside the Academy was wicked, so we headed to some quieter places in Golden Gate Park. But I was determined to take my son for a visit, so we made a second attempt this last summer. This time, we came prepared with my plan of attack, and we had a great time. With only one trip under my sleeve, I am not an expert, but I did gain a few insights that I can pass on to you.

1. Buy your tickets online. On very crowded days, the Academy will stop selling tickets soon after it opens. Pre-purchase tickets to save yourself from the disappointment of being turned away or the possibility of standing in another line to purchase them there.

2. Queue up early. I don’t need to tell you that the early bird gets the worm. There will be a line at the entrance before the museum opens. You need to be in that line, so that you can be one of the first groups to get inside and enjoy some of the exhibits before it gets unbearably crowded.

3. Get your tickets for the shows as soon as you walk in. From the entrance, go left to the planetarium and snatch your tickets. You can choose which show time you prefer, so you don’t necessarily have to go to the first show. You will want to see the aquarium or the rainforest exhibit early, so opt for a later showtime. We were not able to see the 3-D Bug Show, but they do sell out of those tickets early as well.

4. The fishes don’t mind the crowds, but you might. After you get your tickets, head directly to the Steinhart aquarium. It is dark in that section and the design makes the crowds seem even more unbearable. This is the section where you want to especially hold on to your toddlers so that they don’t get lost. I know you want to enjoy some quality time with the jellyfish and not the museum security, so go to the aquarium early.

IMG_27395. Ready, set, go: Rainforest. The rainforest exhibit opens an hour after the museum, and although museum employees discourage people from queueing up too early, people do anyway. For us, this was the highlight of the museum, so I don’t recommend you skip this. The butterflies are the main attraction, and they are more plentiful in the higher levels of the dome. They will land on you, so don’t go if you get queasy about insects. My son stood there for about ten minutes, waiting for the butterflies to land on him. One finally did. IMG_2725

6. Bring your own lunch and seat. The meals are pricey and the dining areas are small. It’s common to see families eating their lunch on the floor of the Academy Cafe. We bought a snack, and had a bigger meal outside the museum afterwards.

7. The penguins are as crowded as the people gawking at them. After you hit the three main areas, head over to Africa Hall for a stroll through a very quiet African savannah. This is the retro part of the museum and the home of the penguins. They are cute, even I’ll admit it.

8. Take a breath on the Living Roof. If you need a break, go up to the trademark plant-covered roof. It is a lesson in green design and offers some good views of the plaza. IMG_2743