One of San Francisco’s most exciting museums, the California Academy of Sciences is located in Golden Gate Park to the west of the city proper. The academy is near the Rideout Fountain and de Young Museum, and it’s very well-placed for a stroll in the beautiful surroundings of the nearby San Francisco Botanical Garden.
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📖 History of the California Academy of Sciences
The Academy dates back to 1853, just three years after California joined the United States. A collection from local naturalists opened on Market Street in San Francisco, and this museum quickly became one of the most popular attractions in the West.
Disaster struck with the Great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. The museum building, and most of the specimens, were destroyed. Salvation came in the form of an Academy expedition that was in the Galapagos at the time. These explorers’ finds formed the core of the new collection, which moved to Golden Gate Park in 1916.
The museum expanded over the following years and remained a popular attraction. When a second major earthquake struck in 1989, it was an opportunity to rethink the museum experience. The mission to bring science to the public in the most compelling and interesting ways possible was refreshed. In 2007, the Academy of Sciences moved into a new Renzo Piano-designed building in the iconic Golden Gate Park.
The California Academy of Sciences was the first scientific academy west of the Atlantic seaboard, and the first public museum in San Francisco – and its pioneering spirit endures.
📍 How to get the California Academy of Sciences?
The academy is located at 55 Music Concourse Drive, CA 94118. It’s about 19 minutes’ drive west of San Francisco’s Financial District and downtown, and there are plenty of parking spaces nearby. Here’s everything you need to know about parking ahead of your visit.
The museum is well-connected with lots of travel options. These include the Muni bus and metro. Bicycling is a possibility, and for walkers, the Golden Gate Park shuttle service helps you get about nearby. Everything is well signposted, helping answer the perennial question, Where is the California Academy of Sciences?
🚎 Directions to the California Academy of Sciences by bus
San Francisco’s bus and metro system, known as Muni, is a convenient, affordable way to get to Golden Gate Park and the museum.
There are four Muni bus and metro stations within a 10-minute walk of the museum. The 44 O’Shaughnessy bus line stops nearest to the academy, directly in from of the building when traveling northbound. It stops directly opposite, at the de Young Museum, when traveling southbound.
The 5 Fulton trolleybus line halts at Fulton Street/8th Avenue at the north entrance to Golden Gate Park. From here it’s a five-minute walk to the museum. 5 Fulton is particularly handy since it links directly to Union Square, and near Japantown.
The 7 Haight bus route links with Union Square and the Mission district and stops a seven-minute walk away, at Lincoln Way/7th Avenue.
Muni buses can be boarded at the front or back, and have ramps or lifts, and bike racks. You can board at any door with the Muni mobile app, pre-paid Clipper Card, Visitor Day Pass, or Muni ticket. Always board at the front if you’re paying by cash – and make sure you have the exact fare.
🚊 Directions to the California Academy of Sciences by metro
Where is the California Academy of Sciences by metro? Take the N Judah rail/streetcar line which starts in downtown San Francisco. This line passes through Haight-Ashbury, making it handy for a visit to the heart of late 60s counterculture. It’s also easily accessed from many other metro lines when you change at the Market Street subway.
Disembark at 9th Avenue/Irving Street. Where’s the California Academy of Sciences from there? You’re just a block from the entrance to Golden Gate Park, and a 10-minute walk to the museum.
🚅 Directions to the California Academy of Sciences by BART
There’s no BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) stop within walking distance of the academy, but it’s possible to interchange to Muni. From the East Bay, exit BART at Montgomery Street Station and catch the 5 Fulton bus at Market Street/Sansome Street. You’ll disembark at Fulton Street/8th Avenue at the north entrance of Golden Gate Park and walk 5 minutes to the academy.
From the peninsula, leave BART at Glen Park Station and head to Bosworth Street/Diamond Street. Take the 44 O’Shaughnessy Muni bus and alight at Music Concourse Drive, right outside the academy.
Download a Clipper all-in-one transit card before you travel. This is more convenient than buying Clipper cards at BART stations, although that can also be done. Don’t forget that Clipper is your only payment option for BART; paper tickets are not accepted from 30 November 2023.
💡 Your guide to tickets to the California Academy of Sciences
There’s loads to do at the academy, so plan ahead and buy general admission tickets valid for one year from purchase.
Alternatively, try out the museum by night with a California Academy of Sciences: Nightlife ticket. Strictly for over 21s, you’ll enjoy an evening of music, cocktails, and all the delights of the academy.
To make the most of the City by the Bay, plan carefully and buy tickets ahead. The San Francisco CityPASS is a great general introduction to the delights of the area. This includes admissions to the California Academy of Sciences and to the Blue & Gold Fleet San Francisco Bay Cruise. You can choose a further two attractions from a range including the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens and the Walt Disney Family Museum.