California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco
California, United States
Phone: +1 (415) 379-8000
closed on: Open daily except Thanksgiving and December 15
Museum Type: Anthropology / ethnography, Natural history
California Academy Sciences San Francisco Renzo Piano 02

Founded in 1853, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is one of the largest and most popular science museums in the world. The complex of the institution contains an aquarium, a natural history museum, a rainforest, and a planetarium.

Located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the museum was completely rebuilt in 2008, after the Loma Prieta earthquake badly damaged its old structures, built mostly between 1916 and 1977.
With a total floor area of 410,000 square feet and a construction cost of nearly half a billion dollars, the new home of the California Academy of Sciences, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and easily recognizable by its wave-shaped green roof, was, at the time of completion, one of the most environmentally-sustainable buildings in the world.

California Academy Sciences San Francisco Renzo Piano living roof

California Academy Sciences Renzo Piano cross-section

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Tyrannosaurus, California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Science, an exterior view of the building roof by Omar Bárcena (CC BY-NC 2.0), a section drawing by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, people sitting in front of the museum by Michael Fraley (CC BY 2.0), and a Tyrannosaurus skeleton in the museum’s lobby by The Scott (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The mission of the California Academy of Sciences is “to explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth”. The museum comprises four main sections: the Steinhart Aquarium, the Morrison Planetarium, the Osher Rainforest, and the Kimball Natural History Museum.

Steinhart Aquarium
With about 40,000 living animals of 900 different species, the Steinhart Aquarium is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States; it contains a large number of pools, tanks, and reconstructions dedicated to California’s marine flora and fauna, sharks, African penguins, the coral reefs of the Philippines, alligators, and sea turtles, together with special galleries featuring various types of salt water and fresh water animals, including the spectacular “Water Planet” gallery.

California Academy Sciences San Francisco Steinhart Aquarium 01

California Academy Sciences San Francisco Steinhart Aquarium 02


Steinhart Aquarium, photos by Gary Stevens (CC BY 2.0), Hillary Johnson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), and Sathish J (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Osher Rainforest
Housed under a large glass dome designed to provide a controlled temperature and humidity environment, the Osher Rainforest consists of reconstructions of four different tropical ecosystems: Bornean forest, Madagascan forest, Costa Rican forest, and Amazonian forest, each with its native flora and fauna.

Osher Rainforest, California Academy of Sciences

Osher Rainforest, photo by ca-e (CC BY 2.0).

Morrison Planetarium
One of the most technologically-advanced planetariums in the world, the Morrison Planetarium features a large domed screen, 75 feet across, on which a large scientifically-accurate video reconstruction of our universe is projected.

California Academy Sciences San Francisco Morrison Planetarium

Morrison Planetarium, photo by momboleum (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Kimball Natural History Museum
Comprising natural specimens and interactive exhibits, the large permanent exhibition of the Kimball Natural History Museum is divided into many sections, each covering a different theme related to nature and science including genetics, zoology, paleontology, Darwin’s theory of evolution, anthropology, Earth science, and geology.

The program of activities of the California Academy of Sciences comprises changing exhibitions, lectures, workshops, educational classes, and special events.

Cover image by newformula (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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copyright Inexhibit 2023 - ISSN: 2283-5474