Tuesday, January 05, 2010

California Academy of Sciences

Today my parents and I headed to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. This was one of my favorite places to come on day care field trips when I was little, and my father used to spend his childhood summers going there too, so we were excited to see the recently renovated Academy. The building is now a lot lighter and airier with floor to ceiling windows and many of the exhibits have been updated or changed. There is also an even greater focus on education and interactive displays.

We started with the albino alligator and then headed into the Steinhart Aquarium. Different focus areas included the marine and plant life along the Northern California Coast and in different coral reefs throughout the world. The tide pool where kids can touch things still exists, and there were many cries of "Nemo" heard at the main tank viewing area. The sea dragons and coral life were my favorites in the aquarium.

Next we wandered around the various exhibits of the Kimball Natural History Museum and into the African Hall. Besides the dioramas of mounted animals they now have a live colony of African penguins. The penguins were entertaining to watch and they jumped in and out of the water and swam around.

One of the fantastic brand new exhibits is the living 4-story Rainforest which is contained within a 90-foot diameter glass dome. Animals and plants from Borneo, Madagascar, Costa Rica and the Amazon are represented as you walk up a spiraling path from the forest floor to the canopy. The temperature and humidity levels in the dome also add authenticity to the experience.

Our last stop was The Living Roof on top of the Academy. The Living Roof´s 1.7 million native plants were specially chosen to flourish in the climate of Golden Gate Park. Since it's winter there is not much going on, but it would be cool to be up there in spring when things are blooming and there are more animals and insects around.

On our way back home we stopped for lunch at Marinitas on Sir Francis Drake Blvd in San Anselmo. This Mexican and Latin American food restaurant opened nearly a year ago and is owned by Heidi Krahling, who also runs Insalata's down the street. We had the chicken and vegetarian enchiladas and I thought the food was decent but not spectacular. The restaurant decor is nice and I would imagine probably draws a good crowd for dinner.

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