Friday November 21, 2008

CA Academy of Sciences

My group at Work had an outing at the CA Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park yesterday. Our official meet-up time was 11:30 for lunch, followed by a "team activity".

Since Rich and I had thought it might be nice to see the new Academy exhibits, preferably together, Rich came along with me and we drove in early, arriving at the Park at 9:00. We found the parking lot (with some minor confusion and one U-turn and loop back). Once we were in the garage, parking was easy and there were plenty of signs pointing to where we needed to go.

We bought Rich a ticket, (at $24.95 for adult admission, we were happy that the Company was paying for my ticket), then waited for the doors to open at 9:30. There were about 20 people in the general admission line at 9:15, as many as two to three times that number when the doors opened. Add that to the number of people waiting at the group/members door and this was a very popular place on a foggy Thursday mornig.

The man ahead of us in line said he had tried to come the day before and gone away again; the line then had stretched down to the street and around the corner. (Third Wednesday is free.) He decided to come today instead.

The building is very handsome with lots of glass and guy wires and stuff. My Dad (an architect) would think it was interesting. A man in line said he'd heard it cost half a billion (with a b) dollars.

At 9:30, the doors opened and Rich went in. Unfortunately, I couldn't go in yet, because I needed my "group" ticket. My co-worker was supposed to be waiting at the group entrance with the tickets at 9:30. However, she was late and when she arrived there was some additional confusion with the tickets and the lunch coupons and the Academy liaison for groups.

I finally got inside at 9:55 and caught up with Rich. It turned out the rainforest doesn't open until 10 so we got in line for that.

The Rain Forest

The Rain Forest exhibit was pretty good. There were sweet little black birds. There were a zillion butterflies, many of which like to land on people. A large blue and brown butterfly (blue on the inside of the wings, brown with spots on the outside) landed on Rich's back.

There were many toads and snakes and lizards and chameleons and things in habitat cases that you could walk around on all four sides of. The Basilisk was regal. The blue poison arrow frogs were handsome. There were some enchanting little frogs with fluorescent green and yellow stripes.

Two large chameleons (one red and green and blue, the other green and blue and yellow) had screening on their cases so they could climb it with their nifty feet.

I did wish the rain forest area wasn't quite so humid (I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt) and that it was better designed for traffic flow - many of the cases were in little cul de sacs that got very crowded with people moving in and out. Another problem is the only real way to go "out" is to go all the way through, up to the top level, and then ride the elevator down. Although the elevator can stop in all levels, it's blocked off because you're not meant to do that.

The Aquarium

alligator_pipefish.jpg

Gar.jpg

At the bottom, you crossing from the elevator lobby into the Aquarium, Ah. There was forced air blowing down on the other side of a plastic curtain. I stopped in the doorway and stood under the cool air for but 5 minutes.

The rainforest critters were nice, but I think I liked the aquarium best. There were fish (of course) as well as anemones, star fish, sea horses, alligator pipefish, and gar (a large prehistoric fish that resembles an alligator with fins.)

The absolute best were the leafy and weedy seadragons. I took off my glasses and put my face right next to the glass. The leafy sea dragons have the most glorious eyes. The weedies have tiny ripply fins and almost-fur around their heads, almost like cilia, constantly moving.

Leafy-Sea-Dragon

The Group Thing

At 11:20 I left Rich on his own and went upstairs to meet my Work group at the Cafe.

Many of the lunch choices looked promising, however mine, at least, did not live up to the promise. I'm just happy it didn't cost me anything (the Company paid). Let's just say the best part was the two glasses of ice water.

I'll spare you the details of the Group Teambuilding Activity that followed lunch. Feel free to imagine a "scavenger hunt" through the Academy...

My Take

Some thoughts on the exhibits I sort of saw while going around and around trying to find the "scavenger hunt" answers:
The evolution section seemed interesting, with lots of hands on stuff and videos. I would have liked to spend a bit more time actually looking at it.

The global warming exhibit is simply depressing.

The Africa exhibit was not popular. I think that's because it's all dioramas — large stuffed (dead? fake?) animals behind glass.. With a real aquarium and a rainforest exhibit full of toads and butterflies, a bunch of "dead" animals behind glass are booooring. Very '70s museum style. It needed things to touch, snakes to watch, that sort of thing.

There were real, live penguins at the far end of the Africa room. I didn't get down to that end. There were maybe 30 people down there. You could have used the rest of the room for a roller rink. (By contrast, there were zillions of people in the building and, in many places, it was over-crowded.)

I never did get up on the "living roof".

In Summary:

  • Building: pretty
  • Admission: pricey
  • Exhibits: an odd mix from great to dull, lively to dead.
  • Rain Forest: a bit over-constrained but overall worth the effort.
  • Aquarium: awesome. I've always liked the Steinhart and it's even better in its new home.
  • Lunch: thoroughly mediocre (the best part was the glass of ice water)

Go, on a third Wednesday, after the buzz dies down. Do the rain forest first, then the aquarium. Don't buy lunch in the Cafe.

CA Academy of Sciences ( in category Trivial Pursuits ) - posted at Fri, 21 Nov, 19:28 Pacific | «e»


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