Nerdy Nightlife at The California Academy of Sciences

As soon as I heard about the California Academy of Sciences’ Thursday night NightLife festivities, I knew I had to check it out.  After all, NightLife combines two of my favorite things–education and alcohol.  With the addition of one more ingredient–a childhood friend I’d not seen in years–and I was practically jumping up and down with anticipation, little-kid-on-Christmas-morning style.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a night club kind of gal.  But NightLife isn’t a night club–it’s a science center.  A science center, open in the evening, only for adults, serving drinks.  Additionally, each week is a theme week; as I visited the first week in May, I arrived on the semi-Cinqo de Mayo celebration, which featured spicy food selections at the various stands set up throughout the ground floor.

It was definitely a non-traditional visit to an educational facility.  The first thing I did was locate one of the many bars set up for the event to secure a glass of wine.  We then made our way up onto the roof while the sun was still up to check out the ‘living roof’, which was, admittedly, very cool.  But it was also very cold, so we didn’t hang out there for very long.

The living roof of Cal Academy of Sciences.

We then spent an insane amount of time in the aquarium area, staring–and taking photos of–the various sea creatures that call the aquarium their home.  As I’ve not been to the Cal Academy during the daytime, I don’t know what the lighting is like during regular hours–but either way, it was pretty awesome down there with the main lights off and the only illumination coming from the tanks themselves.  I’m sure the three glasses of wine didn’t hurt the awesomeness, either.

Rainforest biodome thing I didn’t have the chance to explore. Ah well.

Because we lingered in the watery depths for so long, we missed out on the biosphere-looking rain forest installation.  I was kind of bummed about that because, well, it looked pretty cool.  But I consoled myself with the idea that it was probably pretty hot in there.  And anyway, you weren’t allowed to go in with your drink..

Although the second–and last–planetarium show for the night was ‘sold out’ (they distribute tickets, though they are included in the price of admission) we stood in the standby line and were able to get seats anyway.  The show was…odd.  I’m not sure if I learned anything.  I know I was entertained.  I’m positive I walked out a bit confused and with only a little bit of vertigo.

So–did I learn anything on my quest for education and libation?  Not really.  But I had a good time.  And that’s all that really matters.

Tips for Enjoying Cal Academy’s NightLife

-Arrive as soon as it opens; the lines can get long.

-If you’ve pre-purchased a ticket online like I did, you have to go to the info desk–NOT the ticket box–to trade in your voucher for an actual ticket.  You then have to go through another line to have your ID checked.  This whole process may explain why the lines are so long.

-Take cash for the bars.

-If the rainforest or the planetarium are important to you, make sure to grab a planetarium ticket first and then go directly to the rainforest before it closes for the evening.

-Spend some time in the aquarium.

-Visit during regular hours, too.  I thought this would be the best way to visit Cal Academy of Sciences–after all, there wouldn’t be any hoards of school children roaming about.  Well, guess what else roams in hoards?  Drunk 20-somethings.  It definitely wasn’t a refined experience by any means.

-Bring your camera.  I was hesitant to bring my DSLR to what essentially was a nightclub environment.  But I got some great photos and, really, there were other people there with big cameras around their necks, too.  The only challenge is figuring out how to hold and focus with a drink in one hand.  But really, that’s a seriously important life skill.


The California Academy of Sciences is located on Music Concourse Drive in Golden Gate Park across from the deYoung Museum.  From downtown, I took the #5 bus and got off at 8th street, crossing over Fulton to enter Golden Gate Park.  I took a cab home, though the fact that one lone cab magically showed up at the exact moment I needed it–in the dark and in the rain–may have been a fluke.  


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