California Academy of Sciences

12Dec10

I very nearly gave up on this place.  It’s a natural history museum within Golden Gate Park, which is located a bit of a distance away from my hotel.  But I set out on Wednesday morning, resolute, armed with an umbrella because it was pissing down.  My first mistake was not writing down the directions before I left.  My second mistake was taking a map that didn’t include all of the streets surrounding the Park.  My third mistake was not wearing particularly watertight shoes.

All of this meant that when I finally found the Academy after about 45 minutes of hunting in goddamn forest, in the rain, I was in a pretty foul mood.  But, as it turns out, just like beautiful afternoon tea at SFMOMA is good for the soul, so is a full on rainforest and coral reef inside a building.

I do realise I’m going to sound like an enormous nerd when I say this, but this place was AWESOME.  I didn’t get any photos of the outside of the building (see: rain), but it’s covered with a living green roof.  Inside there’s a huge planetarium (not going to lie, had a little nap during that presentation), and, well… let me just post some photos and you can see for yourself.

Taken from I think the third level looking down. The planetarium is the grey shape on the left, and in the middle is the CORAL REEF.

Rainforest dome! You start at the bottom and then slowly wind your way up through the different layers.

A view of the rainforest roof.

There are butterflies and birds, just hangin’ out pretty much everywhere you look.

I promise that's a butterfly on the stand in the middle. I only had my phone with me, so the photos aren't the best quality.

When you get to the top you get a lift down into the basement, which is where you realise you’ve actually been walking over what is basically an entire ocean without you realising it.  Calling this thing an aquarium would be an insult.

The flooded rainforest floor!  Looking up at the ENORMOUS fish!

Divers cleaning the rocks. Those seemingly small surface pools on the main level actually become this.

Jellyfish!

There was a pool where you could “two finger touch” various sea creatures.  Swear to god, that’s the phrase they used.  “Two finger touch.”  Things I learnt while two finger touching: starfish are vicious, man.  They insert their stomaches into mussels and suck out the meat!

Random pram, child, and woman included in the photo below to give a sense of scale.  Watching this giant wall of fishies is definitely good for the soul.

There were also penguins!  In a random display case on the main level, next  lions!  Complete with a woman in a wetsuit feeding them all by hand.

And if all that wasn’t enough: reindeer, standing stoically in the rain.

Long story short, then: rainforests, fishies, and reindeer can help to turn a bad mood around.  As can seeing HP7 in an imax theatre later that night.  Of course, the good mood was ruined at about midnight when the stomach flu hit… but you can’t have everything.

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