Travel & Day Trips

How Long Does the California Academy of Sciences Take?

If you’re looking for an afternoon of educational and entertaining exploration, the California Academy of Sciences is the place to be.

As a local and frequent visitor to the museum, I recommend allowing 3-4 hours for a full visit.

Whether you’re looking for a fun day out for the family or an afternoon respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, the academy offers something for everyone.

Planning to visit? Save more time with a “skip the line” ticket through Viatour, at the same price as normal admission.

Key Things to See at the California Academy of Sciences

The museum consists of multiple attractions: the Rainforest, Aquarium, Green Roof, California exhibits, and more. Each of these areas is unique and provides an array of educational and interactive opportunities to explore.

There’s also Wander Woods, a new outdoor area.

The Rainforest is an immersive experience that invites visitors to explore the canopy and the creatures that live there. The Aquarium is home to over 38,000 plants and animals, providing a fascinating glimpse into the underwater world. The Green Roof offers a peaceful outdoor area to take a break and appreciate nature.

Wander Woods at the Cal Academy
Wander Woods at the Cal Academy

In addition to these main attractions, the museum also offers an Earthquake Simulator, Nature and California Exhibits, and a Planetarium Show.

The Earthquake Simulator allows visitors to experience a simulated earthquake and the devastation that follows. The Nature and California Exhibits are filled with interactive displays and activities that will help you learn more about the plants and animals that call California home. The Planetarium Show is a unique experience that allows viewers to explore the night sky with a 3D show.

Budgeting Time For Your Visit

Your total visit time will depend on how many sections of the museum you want to visit.

If you’re in a rush, it is possible to do the museum’s highlights in 2 hours or less.

  • Start in the Rainforest and take the elevator down to the Aquarium.
  • Then head to the Main Level and check out the Fog Room and other California Exhibits.
  • If you take a quick pace, you can see a lot in a short amount of time. However, I would not recommend budgeting less than 2 hours if you want to see more than 1-2 sections of the California Academy

For a more comprehensive visit, 3-4 hours is a safer amount of time to leave. That gives you time to:

  • Linger in the rainforest exhibit and the aquarium
  • Catch a planetarium show
  • Visit the California exhibits, including the earthquake simulator
  • Get a quick lunch at the Academy Cafe

If you need tickets, I recommend purchasing them through a Citypass for around 45% off. You can also purchase discounted tickets just for the museum through Viatour, that let you skip the line outside the museum.

That can help you make the most of your time when visiting the California Academy of Sciences!

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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