See the Best of San Francisco's Extraordinary Science Museum
55 Music Concourse Dr
San Francisco, CA 94118-4503
Phone: (415) 379-8000

Completely overhauled and reopened in 2008, the California Academy of Sciences has become a popular stop for visitors and a familiar favorite for locals. And for good reason. Step inside to discover a light-filled rainforest, fluttering with butterflies and home to reptiles and other jungle life—all on view as you spiral up a ramp, higher and higher toward the skylights. Then ride an elevator down to the academy’s Steinhart Aquarium, displaying some 38,000 fish. Your kids will love the touch pool, and they’ll freak out (in a good way) if you manage to arrive in time to watch feeding time for the aquarium’s tropical fish. Coming up the stairs from the aquarium, look for Claude, the albino American alligator in the exotic Swamp Exhibit.

Topping it all is the academy’s undulating living roof, soft and green with native plants. If you didn’t pack snacks, don’t worry: The café is great, with internationally influenced foods from the city’s noteworthy chefs, and plenty of kid-friendly options.

TIP: The academy can get crowded, so try to arrive on the early side and nab tickets to the planetarium show first—they tend to sell out fast. On Sundays, walk to nearby JFK Drive to rent bikes or surrey cabs; most roads in Golden Gate Park are closed all day to cars.