California Academy of Sciences – tickets, prices, hours, what to see


California Academy of Sciences is one of San Francisco’s must-see destinations.

Since it is home to the Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, and Kimball Natural History Museum it is a perfect family outing.

It is often also referred to as Cal Academy.

In this article, we explain everything you must know before visiting the California Academy of Sciences.

1. How to reach
2. Opening Hours
3. Best time to visit
4. Cal Academy tickets
5. Nightlife
6. Free entry
7. What to see?
8. Museum map

How to reach California Academy of Sciences

There are many ways to get to the California Academy of Sciences.

It is best to use San Francisco’s network of Muni buses and Metro trains to get close to Cal Academy and then use Google Map to walk the rest.

Get Directions

N-Judah Muni Metro

The N Judah is a Muni Metro light rail line in San Francisco, and it is a convenient option to get to Cal Academy.

You must get down at 9th Avenue and Irving Street station and walk the 800 meters (0.5 Miles). It is a brisk eight minutes’ walk.

If you don’t want to walk, get onto the 44-O’Shaughnessy bus right outside of 9th and Irving Street Station and get down at the Cal Academy stop on Music Concourse Drive​.

#44-O’Shaughnessy bus

When Southbound, this bus stops at the Music Concourse on Tea Garden Drive (across from the Cal Academy).

When Northbound, this bus stops in front of the Academy on Music Concourse Drive. Bus Route

#5-Fulton bus

This bus stops at 8th Avenue and Fulton Street, just outside the park.

In five minutes, you can walk through the park and reach the Science Museum.

California Academy of Sciences parking

If you plan to drive to the California Academy of Sciences, the Music Concourse Garage is the best spot to park your car.

It is an underground parking facility a few steps away from the Academy’s main entrance.

You can enter the parking facility either from Music Concourse @ MLK, Jr. or Fulton @ 10th.

The Garage remains open from 7 am to 7 pm from Fridays to Wednesdays.

On Thursdays, it stays open longer – from 7 am to 11 pm.

The parking charges are $5/hour on weekdays and $6/hour on weekends.

After 5.30 pm, the cost of parking goes up to a flat rate of $17.

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California Academy of Sciences hours

From Monday to Saturday the California Academy of Sciences opens at 9.30 am and closes at 5 pm.

On Sundays, it opens later – at 11 am and closes at 5 pm.

However, if you are a member of the Museum, you gain early access on both Tuesday and Sunday.

Members can enter the Museum one hour before the rest of the public can enter.

Tuesday: 8.30 am to 9.30 am
Sunday: 10 am to 11 am

California Academy of Sciences’ Nightlife timings is from 6 pm to 10 pm on Thursdays.

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Best time to visit California Academy of Sciences

The best time to visit California Academy of Arts is after 2 pm on weekdays because you can then avoid large crowds.

Most of the school field trips to the Academy are scheduled in the morning, and it is normal to see lots and lots of students in the forenoon.

Weekends or school holidays attract even bigger crowds.

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How long does Cal Academy take

If you want to browse California Academy of Sciences and see only the must-see exhibits, you need around two hours.

However, if you want to get involved and attend the numerous planetarium shows, 3-D shows, and check out rainforest exhibit, etc. you must plan for three to four hours.

If you are visiting with kids who love Museums (and science), and you don’t mind having your lunch at the attraction, you can spend the whole day exploring.

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California Academy of Sciences tickets

When you buy California Academy of Sciences tickets at the venue, you get a physical ticket (as in the pic). However, we recommend you buy your tickets online to avoid waiting in the long ticket counter lines. Image:

It makes a lot of sense to buy your Cal Academy tickets online.

The two most important benefits being:

1. You get to skip the long lines at the ticketing counter

2. You don’t pay the extra $5 per ticket, which is charged on certain busy days

About Cal Academy tickets

This ticket gets you complete access to California Academy of Sciences – all exhibits in all sections.

You can cancel these Museum tickets up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.

Immediately after purchase, the tickets will be emailed to you.

On the day of your visit, just show the ticket in your email (on your mobile) and walk in.

Yes, that’s right – no need to take print outs!

Ticket Prices

Adult ticket (18 to 64 years): USD 36
Child ticket (3 to 17 years): USD 28
Seniors ticket (65+ years): USD 31
Student ticket (18+ years): USD 31

Children below the age of 3 years enter for free.

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California Academy of Sciences nightlife

If you want to feel like a VIP at California Academy of Sciences, opt for their nightlife experience.

Every Thursday from 6 pm to 10 pm, you can experience California Academy of Sciences’ nightlife – an event which combines Museum’s exhibits with cocktails and music.

As a bonus, you get to explore the Museum without the crowd.

The inclusions of this Nightlife ticket are:

– Priority entrance to the Museum
– Two drink tickets
– One-hour tour by a guide with private viewings
– VIP access to the 4-story rainforest exhibit
– Reserved seating for the Planetarium show

Only guests 21 years of age and older are allowed on this VIP tour.

The Cal Academy Nightlife tour costs 59 USD per person.

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Visiting California Academy of Sciences for free

San Francisco residents receive free entry to the Academy twice a year on designated weekends – one weekend in the fall and the other in the spring.

The other way to visit the California Academy of Sciences for ‘almost free’ is to buy discount cards – GoSan Francisco Card or San Francisco Mega Pass.

Go San Francisco Card

The Go San Francisco Card is an all-inclusive attraction pass valid for 1 to 5 days depending on your choice.

You pay once to buy the discount card, which then gives you free access to the top 25 attractions of San Francisco.

2-Day Go San Francisco Card

Adult Ticket (13+ years): US$ 119
Child Ticket (3-12 years): US$ 99

3-Day Go San Francisco Card

Adult Ticket (13+ years): US$ 149
Child Ticket (3-12 years): US$ 99

San Francisco Mega Pass

San Francisco Mega Pass is also a discount card, which helps you access the California Academy of Sciences for free (almost!).

With this card, you get to choose between 3, 4 or 5 top attractions as per your own interest.

You can then visit these attractions at your convenience without paying any entry fee.

Mega Pass: 3 Attractions

Adult Ticket (12+ years): US$ 69.99
Child Ticket (5-11 years): US$ 49.99

Mega Pass: 4 Attractions

Adult Ticket (12+ years): US$ 89.99
Child Ticket (5-11 years): US$ 67.99

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What to See California Academy of Sciences?

There are many exhibits to see at the Cal Academy, from the 87-foot-long skeleton of a blue whale to the T. Rex.

We list out the must-see sections of the Science Museum.

1. Morrison Planetarium

Morrison Planetarium at Cal Academy is a favourite amongst both kids and adults. Image:

Witness the wonders of the universe and beyond through the spectacular digital visualizations at the Morrison Planetarium of California Academy of Sciences.

The 75-foot dome displays one of the most accurate digital Universes ever created and projects an immersive experience one can sense only by being there.

Access to the Planetarium is included in the regular entry ticket.

2. Osher Rainforests

The Osher Rainforest is a highlight of the Museum.

It is a stunning glass dome of 90 feet, which engulfs a living, breathing rainforest.

The four-story high rainforest is full of butterflies, birds, spiders, Amazonian fish and so much more.

This rain forest has around 1,600+ live plants and animals.


Monday to Saturday: 10 am to 4.45 pm
Sunday: 11 am to 4.45 pm

3. Steinhart Aquarium

Steinhart Aquarium is the heart of the California Academy of Sciences with its beautiful architecture and fun, interactive exhibits.

The Aquarium focuses on showcasing and highlighting new discoveries and little know ecosystems.

It has more than 900 unique species with almost 400,000 live animals in its tanks.

It was the first ever Aquarium to further exploration of the “twilight zone”.

4. Kimball Natural History Museum

Taking the tradition of scientific research further, The Kimball Natural History Museum allows you to learn about some of the most amazing and significant discoveries and relevant issues of our time.

It is a step forward to make people aware of preserving our biodiversity and how to sustain it through their interactive exhibits and captivating historical specimens like the 87-foot tall blue whale skeleton.

5. Earthquake House

The Shake House explores seismic science and allows visitors to experience an earthquake.

The earthquake simulator resembles an old Victorian homeand is quite popular with kids and adults alike.

Update: The Shake House is no longer on view.

6. The Living Roof

Notice the greenery on the Science Museum’s roof. Image:

The Museum’s 2.5-acre rooftop is also referred to as ‘The Living Roof’ because 87% of it is covered in rolling hills, fields and local wildlife.

It is estimated that the roof of the California Academy of Sciences is home to 1.7 million plants.

7. Kid activities at Cal Academy

If you are visiting the California Academy of Sciences with children, here are a few things you must definitely try.

Discovery Pool: At this small pool kids can touch starfish, urchins, abalone, and numerous other tide pool creatures.

Curiosity Grove: This is a new, forest-themed learning and activity space created for children of all ages.

Children’s Eel Garden: Kids get to enter the world of small, wiggling eels at this exhibit located right next to the Philippine Coral Reef tank.

Naturalist Center: Just the perfect space for kids to get closer to nature by touching specimens, playing games, watching videos etc.

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California Academy of Sciences map

California Academy of Sciences is unique for having many never-before exhibits in one place, including a rainforest, planetarium, and aquarium.

For a first-time visitor, the Science Museum can be confusing.

You don’t want to miss any of the must-sees, and you don’t want to waste time looking for them.

That’s why we recommend you bookmark this page so that you can use the map, once you are in the Museum.

This California Academy of Sciences map also gives information about the visitor facilities such as restaurants, restrooms, gift store, elevators, first aid, baby changing rooms, etc.

Cal Academy Map

Popular attractions in San Francisco

# Alcatraz Island
# San Francisco Zoo
# Monterey Bay Aquarium
# San Francisco Bus Tours

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Pooja Das: She has a passion for both traveling and photography, which help her document her memories forever. She loves to explore city streets taking in the people, the colors, and the culture surrounding her. Occasionally she loves to step away from the hustle-bustle of urban lifestyle, and chill-out either alone or with friends. Favorite Cities: Istanbul, London, Marrakech, Venice

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