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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The California Academy of Sciences is for Weddings, Locals and Tourists

Believe it or not I've lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years and I'd never been to the California Academy of Sciences located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It's a fascinating museum truly suitable for old(er) and young alike. I found it absolutely fascinating and I only saw about a quarter of the exhibits!

This image is from the Academy Website

Did you know you can get married at the Academy of Sciences? I didn't until just recently when I was invited to attend a reception for wedding industry professionals showcasing both the venue and food that can be catered for your event from the Academy's restaurant "The Moss Room."

The entire museum is offered to couples for their event. This includes the Rainforest, African Hall, Aquarium, Planetarium (film optional service), the Living Roof for wedding party photos, Piazza, Swamp and more. Weddings and private events can be held when the museum is closed to the public which currently is 7:00 PM until 12:00 AM midnight, every night of the week except Thursdays (which is when they host their NightLife events).

They do not rent out individual spaces, you will have access to all areas of the museum.

After entering through the main entrance I was escorted up a flight of stairs to the "Hearst Forum" room. Just outside the door were these huge jaws. I'm not sure who or what they belonged to but I'm guessing it was big, hungry and most likely prehistoric.

In the Hearst Forum a slide show ran all evening featuring pictures of the venue set up for weddings and private events and there were dinner and dessert buffets in the center of the room.

If a church, hotel or more traditional venue aren't unique enough, this may be the venue for you. Not only can you have your ceremony and reception in an unusual setting, (according to their website) your guests can tour the academy while they're there.

This is the four story, Rainforests of the World glass dome exhibit that's like a giant atrium with a winding spiral ramp that circles the perimeter of the structure. Each floor has different displays and the atrium itself holds 1600 live animals and is filled with 250 free flying exotic birds like colorful Macaws and Blue Morpho butterflies. I will have to go back and go into the rainforest to bring you pictures of the Blue Morphos. I saw a few from outside the atrium and they were beautiful!

As you approach the Rainforest dome there's a long and large tide pool and tidal wave display to your left. It's complete with actual waves that rush in and out like a real tide. The water is filled with sea urchins, starfish, anemones and lots of fish including what looked like small sharks.

This huge whale skeleton is suspended from the ceiling and is so large that a photo can't really capture the true scale of it. You really have to stand under it in person to grasp its sheer size. BTW I think it's a Blue Whale. Confirmed by Tisha Hong (Special Events Coordinator) this is a Blue Whale skeleton and is 86 feet long!

And a crowd favorite I'm sure. This huge Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton gave me a whole new perspective of just how large they were. It made me think of that scene from Jurassic Park when the dinosaur ate the lawyer. Yeah, we'd be an hors d'oeuvre for a T Rex.

What are all of those people looking at and why won't I let you see?

This was the research lab. That evening there were two women who were taking bird specimens (a hawk and a long necked wading bird like an egret) down to the their skeletons for the museum's research collection. The sign said that all animals used in this manner were found deceased and brought to the museum. It was a little shocking at first but then when I thought about how many times I'd eaten poultry over the years I decided I shouldn't be so squeamish and got up front for a look. To see the unedited photo CLICK HERE.

Stepping inside of the Research Lab is part of the Academy's Platinum Behind the Scenes tour.

There was this neat food display that lets you know how large is your carbon "food" not "foot" print. It allows visitors to add up their own foodprint totals based on the meals they normally eat. They also suggest visitors consider practicing "Meat Out Mondays" due to the toll factory farming (aka industrial meat production) takes on our environment due to the methane farm animals produce, the pesticides used to grow their feed and the chemicals and antibiotics used to keep the animals healthy in the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions most are raised in.

Honestly, since choosing to become an accidental omnivore last year (I was going for vegetarian but have accidentally eaten a few meat products like broth and anchovy paste so I decided accidental omnivore is a better description and isn't as polarizing as vegetarian) I've found it incredibly easy to go meat free almost anywhere.

The buffet that evening was provided by the Moss Room restaurant and the Academy Cafe. I can't wait to go dine at The Moss Room the next time I visit the Academy. I loved the 40 foot high wall comprised of slate, moss and ferns to your right as you descend the staircase into the restaurant.

Their website says:

Both the Academy Cafe and Moss Room are committed to sustainability, organics and
proper farming – values which are harmonious with the California Academy of Sciences’
mission to explore, explain and protect the natural world.
  • The Moss Room is a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Restaurant Partner.
  • Both restaurants operate aggressive recycling and composting programs.
  • Ingredients are sourced from suppliers which are local, certified, and/or organic whenever possible.
  • Menus emphasize the seasonality of ingredients.
Executive Chef Michael Morrison and Executive Pastry Chef Angela Gong from The Moss Room and Executive Chef Kelly Degala from the Academy Cafe put together a fantastic menu for us that evening...

This is the Academy Cafe. It's a very upscale cafeteria that has a fish tank as long as the dining area! So cool It's like watching a huge screen of fish TV. They also have excellent food! Turns out my favorite dishes that night were from the Academy Cafe. I'll have to go back and have them again.

There were two vegetarian options that night and I loved both of them :)  These steamed Shitake Humbow with a sweet chili paste sauce were so delicious, that even though I don't really like mushrooms, I thought they were to die for! They were so good I had two. I wanted to stuff my pockets with more but that would have been tacky, and messy LOL. There were also beef and chicken humbow that evening so there was something for everyone.

And I have to say that for years the steamed chicken buns at Out the Door, the to go restaurant from The Slanted Door, were my favorite steamed buns. But The Moss Room humbow has displaced Out the Door's as my new favorite humbow. But not so fast... Not all is as it appears. Turns out The Moss Room is another restaurant, like Out the Door, owned by The Slanted Door. So my new favorite steamed bun is really a lateral move, not an upset. LOL. And the reason I liked the same bun better at The Academy was because of the sweet chili paste sauce. When I get them at Out the Door I've always eaten them plain.

You'll find the buns at the Academy Cafe.

Another option, and what seemed to be the crowd favorite, were these Daikon Rice Cakes with shitake mushroom in a bit of broth with slices of fresh scallions. OK, I'll admit it here. By the end of the night I think I ate 7 of them. They were so good I couldn't stop myself.

There were also seafood fresh spring rolls: Slanted Door Spring Rolls, mint, lettuce, shrimp, and pork wrapped in rice paper, finished with peanut sauce.

Spoons of Hawaiian Ahi Tartare, blended with kuki nuts, meyer lemon zest, sesame oil, soy, wasabi tobiko.  The Ahi Tartare, Spring Rolls, Daikon Rice Cakes were also provided by the Academy Cafe.

The Marinated Local Sardines with parsley pesto were provided by The Moss Room.

The typically humble deviled egg was elevated to whole new level of gourmet: Crab Stuffed Farm Egg, fennel, andouille sausage, paprika oil and were also provided by the Moss Room along with the Dayboat Sea Scallops, yuzu wasabi, furikake and Beef Tartare, lavash toast which are not pictured.

The Dessert Bar

A Classic Wedding Cake with layers of Devils Chocolate and Vanilla Cake

Chocolate Layer Cake

Lemon Meringue Tarts and Lavender Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

And quite possibly the most famous resident of the Academy, Claude the albino American alligator who celebrated his 15th birthday in 2010.

Claude lives in a large swimming grotto complete with fish and turtle friends and an island in the center with a large heated rock to bask on. Visitors can view him at water level or from above. He's obviously a crowd favorite and I think lucky to have been born in captivity as he most certainly would not have survived in the wild standing out the way he does.

There are the typical stuffed animals you would expect to see in a natural history museum including this giraffe that overlooks the gift shop.

And this is a Foucault Pendulum

When I spotted these tortoises I had to take a picture. They were so cute chowing down on their fresh greens and I loved how the little one was kind of falling into the sunken food dish area.

African Cichlids

That evening the African Hall was the place to be. The Academy hosts a series of "Night Life" events that are described on the Academy's website as:

"NightLife is a weekly event where visitors ages 21 and older can enjoy music, science, entertainment and cocktails, while experiencing the Academy’s world-class exhibits with friends. Each weekly installment features something new and different."

This image is from the Academy Website

But check it out. Here's the same room set up for a wedding reception. If you're working on an African Safari theme for your wedding and can't go to Africa, this may very well be your next best option here in the SF Bay Area.


So here's the thing. I just showed you the tip of the iceberg. There's still the Steinhart Aquarium, the Planitarium and the 2.5 acre, planted Living Roof I have yet to explore. I'll have to go back for sure. And not to worry, I'll bring my camera so you can come along when I do :)

What you need to know: Pricing as listed March 22, 2011:

Ticket Prices
Adult $29.95
Senior (ages 65 and over) $24.95
Student $24.95
Youth (ages 12-17) $24.95
Child (ages 4-11) $19.95
Ages 3 and under FREE

Please note: During peak periods, including some holiday weekends, an admission surcharge may be added to ticket purchases at the door. The admission surcharge will not apply to visitors who plan ahead and purchase tickets online.

(Click Here for upcoming peak period days)

Museum Free Days for San Francisco Residents:

Visit San Francisco's greenest museum for free, every Third Wednesday of the month.
Brought to you by The Bernard Osher Foundation.

Free museum admission is available for San Francisco residents, and is dependent on your ZIP code. Click Here for the details.

More San Francisco Tourism Suggestions:

My First Trip to Alcatraz Island
Walking Across the Golden Gate Bridge


  1. Thanks, Stacie, for such a colorful visit to one of San Francisco's most spectacular destinations. I played in the old place many times, and this new one is just unbelievable.

    One way of another, you've been compiling a stunning record of places and events in and around the Bay Area. It's interesting to wonder about how many ways your blog will become useful — maybe even indispensible — in years to come.

    Are you planning to make your coverage comprehensive in some way, or just let it be "whatever happens, happens"?

  2. Thank you Robbie for the kind comment!

    You've noticed that my blog posts have been expanding to feature the Greater Bay Area and not just weddings.

    I plan to continue to blog about my day to day experiences. I am, however, becoming much more adventurous than I used to be so that's a bonus for the blog to become more interesting by association :)

    Entering its fifth year of being, The Flirty Blog is finally beginning to really define itself. I hope, by sharing my own experiences, it is inspiring people to try new things and to go out and explore their own city and the cities around them. It's also becoming a bit of a tourist's guide to help visitors spot points of interest, what and where to eat and special events they may want to check out when they come to the Bay Area.

  3. Oh my gosh this museum is beautiful! Would love to add this to my 'places to visit' list when I stop by SF but only having 2 days so I don't know if that will be possible. That is such an awesome thing to be able to have your wedding in a museum surrounded by animals.

  4. Mumuji you will have to prioritize. There are easily two weeks worth of things to do in the Bay Area! You will have to make some tough choices.

    It would be very cool to be married here. Certainly memorable, fun and even educational!

  5. Thank you so much for this great post! The pictures are wonderful, and it sounds like you learned quite a bit too! :) We loved having you all-- such a fun night.

    -Meg, from the California Academy of Sciences

  6. Hi Meg,

    Thanks so much for the comment. Now realizing just how much I didn't understand what the Academy of Sciences offered has me wondering what else in the Bay Area am I missing out on? I'm very much looking forward to coming back and sharing more insights to help pique the curiosity of more of my readers to come visit the Academy or get married there!


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