The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco
San Francisco is the most popular Californian destination for our US car hire clients and its location in roughly the centre point of California could well be the reason. With its wealth of iconic views like the Golden Gate Bridge and attractions like Alcatraz, San Francisco is the logical place to start or end a US road trip in California and in this post I am going to look specifically at just one of these: the stunning California Academy of Sciences.
Located at Golden Gate Park, the academy moved to its current site nearly 100 years ago, in 1916. However, recently a 10 year, $500 million refurbishment was completed and the results must be seen to be believed. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Renzo Piano, one can easily run out of superlatives to describe the two and a half-acre living roof, or four storey rainforest, or one of the deepest coral reef aquariums in the world…
The building itself is designed to be truly green and is billed as the ‘greenest museum in the world. There are 60,000 photovoltaic cells generating 10 percent of the museum’s energy. Insulation is provided by recycled blue jeans and the living roof with its 6 inches of soil and 1.7 million native plants.
The living rainforests exhibit features four storeys, each representing a different rainforest of the world – The Amazon, Borneo, Costa Rica and Madagascar, with plants and small creatures from each forest in a tropically warm, humid atmosphere.
The Morrison Planetarium is the largest digital planetarium in the world. Currently the planetarium is showing an earthquake exhibition, where you can journey down into the San Andreas Fault, or travel back in time to feel the impact of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, complete with Shake house experience!
The Aquarium is hugely popular, with many guests comparing it very favourably to the dedicated Aquarium of the Bay. The Steinhart Aquarium is a collection of aquariums focussing on different parts of the world. There is the Philippine Coral Reef gallery, at 25 feet deep and housing creatures from the reefs and mangroves of the Philippines. The Rainforest Gallery features a ‘flooded forest’ tank with freshwater fish swimming above you. There is a colony of African penguins in the African Hall and an albino alligator called Claude in the Swamp Gallery!
Entrance may look a little high at just under $30 for adults and $20 for young children, but if you purchase an Official San Francisco City Pass you can gain entrance to 5 different attractions (of which the Academy is one) together with unlimited trolley rides for 7 days. The City Pass costs $69 for adults (13+) and $39 for children.
The Academy is naturally an inspiring place for kids with lots of interactive exhibits and button pushing, just as they like – but it also makes a great adult destination on Thursday nights when it is open late. Over 21’s can drink cocktails, dine and even listen or dance to live music or DJ’s, and visit the regular attractions all lit up for the occasion.
San Francisco is best served for car hire by Alamo and National with depots at the airport, Union Square, O’Farrell Street and the Convention Centre. There is no one-way fee for rentals heading to Las Vegas or elsewhere in Nevada and of course one-way rentals within California are free too*. It is also worth noting that, thanks to Californian State Law, any car hire originating anywhere in California includes a free additional driver on the standard package, wherever your destination. So it doesn’t matter if you are heading up north, or across country to Florida or New York, you will have a free additional driver if you start your journey in California. If you are planning a long old trip, I would recommend you look at the National car hire rates as the blanket charge of $250 will be unbeatable.
*2013 update, there is a current charge of $350 for renting a Convertible from Alamo anywhere in San Francisco if you are taking it on a one-way hire. This applies to all collections before 31/08/13