There definitely is a diversity of subjects covered. The problem for me was that I felt none of it was really covered in much depth. Not only that, but several of the displays were lack-luster at best.The African animals exhibit consists largely of stuffed animals with live penguins in a tiny enclosure at one end of the hall. There are a couple of chameleons and one or two other live animals but mostly it’s a couple of stuffed animals with each species in a small diorama. Hardly the innovative presentation or display I would expect from such a lauded new museum – let alone one that costs $25 for an adult to see!
The swamp area was so under-whelming that when I mentioned it to my cousin afterwards he was convinced he hadn’t see it. “It was that part with the alligator,” I reminded him. “Oh, that’s it?!” Yes, that’s it. From the brochure and the website I’d expected a full on reproduction of a swamp. What I found was a pool about the size of your average backyard pool with one very asleep looking alligator and one very fake looking tree.The 4-story rainforest was enjoyable and while it may be the largest in the world it felt about the same size as the one at the Biodome in Montreal, only without the diversity of animals they had there. Yes, they have a lot of butterflies. But there are plenty of other places to see butterflies that don’t charge nearly the $25 admission fee of the Academy of Sciences!
The lower level of the museum is dedicated to the ocean. There is a tank which re-creates the Northern California Coast, a coral reef and a flooded forest in the Amazon. ID cards are provided to help you identify what you’re looking at. There is also a “Discovery Table” where the young and the young at heart can touch sea stars and sea urchins. This area was fine, but we’ve definitely seen the same or better elsewhere and again it seemed hard to justify the cost.The Planetarium shows can fill up on busy days. Thankfully we visited during the week, so there was no problem getting tickets. The shows are only appropriate for those over 6-years-old and no one under 3-years-old is admitted. My cousin enjoyed the show (about 45 minutes) but didn’t feel it was anything special. He’s seen the same or better elsewhere – again for less money. It’s basically a giant IMAX screen on which they display stars and galaxies while Whoopi Goldberg narrates.
There is a single T-Rex skeleton and another of a Great Blue whale. Interesting, but not really a reason to visit. And yes, the roof is green. Which means that there are native California plants living on it. As there are in much of Golden Gate Park – where you can see them for free!There is both a cafe and a sit-down restaurant. We chose to eat at the cheaper cafe. The food was varied (everything from Mexican to Asian to sandwiches) and surprisingly good. I had a brie, cranberry and Asian pear sandwich on walnut bread. It was delicious, if a little pricy at $8.50.
All in all it was an enjoyable time, but took hardly more than 3 hours including time to eat lunch and for my cousin to visit the Planetarium. At $25 for an adult ticket that’s quite a pricy few hours!