Friday, September 6, 2013

2013 Road Trip Adventure: Three Museums in Three Days

As promised in my last road trip post, we tackled three museums in three days. We had bought a San Francisco CityPASS, so we felt compelled to use everything in it! That meant a week packed with activities, sometimes too many! But it was fun, and we exposed our kids to a lot of interesting things.

Located in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest museums of natural history in the world (covering 400,000 square feet) and was completely renovated in 2008. The museum contains an aquarium, a huge, dynamic rainforest exhibit, and a planetarium, and the academy conducts research in 11 different fields. 
Posing like a gorilla
Seeing a diver in the aquarium and learning about California marine life

We saw an outstanding movie about earthquakes in the planetarium. I thought it might freak the kids out a bit about being in the Bay Area, but they seemed to take it well enough. :)
Our six boys posing on a Galapagos turtle statue after the planetarium movie

The museum's albino alligator, named Claude
The rainforest exhibit was fascinating...they let in a limited number of people at a time, and then you walk up a revolving pathway all the way to the top, where the butterflies hang out. So fascinating!

Beautiful butterflies!

Then we went into a simulated earthquake exhibit, which took a fair bit of standing in line.
Waiting in line
Museum 2: Monterey Bay Aquarium
The City Pass gave us an option between the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 in San Francisco. Although Monterey was a trek from San Carlos (where we were staying), the reviews convinced us it was worth it...and boy was it ever. We have an outstanding aquarium in Oregon, but Monterey Bay topped that's the best aquarium I've ever visited.

I had heard of the aquarium for years because I'm familiar with its Seafood Watch, which explains which seafood and fish are best to avoid because of toxicity or overfishing. The aquarium is on the site of a former sardine cannery and holds thousands of plants and animals representing more than 600 species. It has enormous open sea tanks and was the first aquarium in the world to grow live California Giant Kelp.

Nicholas was fascinated with the various sharks

My little barnacle boy!
I loved this ceiling full of fish!
The aquarium has wonderful interpretive presentations in its theater. We saw a few of them, but everyone's favorite was about Luna, a sea otter that lost her mother and was rehabilitated, fostered by another sea otter (Toola), and released back into the wild. (It had both me and my sister in tears!) I've always had a soft spot for sea otters. The aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program is the only group that rescues and releases California sea otters. Since 1984, the team has rescued every sea otter in distress along the California coast (more than 600).

This undated image provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation shows Toola, a sea otter who died at the aquarium, Saturday March 3, 2012, in Monterey, Calif. Believed to be 15 or 16, Toola succumbed to natural causes and to the infirmities of age, an aquarium spokesman said. (AP Photo/Monterey Bay Aquarium) Photo: Randy Wilder, Associated Press
Two of my other favorite features were the amazing jellyfish exhibit (way more jellyfish than in the Oregon Coast Aquarium--so fascinating!) and the (temporary) seahorse exhibit.
Jellies everywhere!

And fascinating, beautiful sardines!

My little seahorse
The boys had fun!
This was an interactive exhibit where you could draw a jellyfish (or anything else)
 electronically, and when you press "done,"
 it was projected up on the wall with the other sealife

Nicholas photobombing again, trying to do a wrestler pose!
We had lunch outside with this gorgeous view of the bay!

Enjoying Monterey!
Museum 3: Exploratorium

View from the entrance (with Coit Tower in the distance)
What an amazing museum! I remember visiting the old Exploratorium in Golden Gate Park when I was a kid. Well, the Exploratorium has been completely rebuilt and moved to Pier 15 on the waterfront, and it is phenomenal! Its mission is to change the way the world learns and has been described by the New York Times as the most important science museum to have opened since the mid-20th century. And even more compelling, my friend Catherine told me it was a not-to-be-missed place!

The museum now covers 330,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibit space. I just read that it has a net-zero energy goal as part of its overall sustainability efforts. If it succeeds, it will be the largest net-zero museum in the country and possibly in the world. We spent several hours there but felt like we just skimmed the surface. If you visit San Francisco, you must go--all ages, from small children to adults, will be fascinated for hours.

View from the outside--that bridge has a fog-producing feature every 30 minutes

View of the inside
Nicholas in the tornado machine

Making funny faces
Chris and Kieran in a sketch mirror
I thought this was a fascinating feature, especially as I've done some technical editing of research papers about water reuse. Water reuse critics use the term "toilet to tap" to put people off.

Nicholas bravely drinking out of the "toilet"

Even the teenager enjoyed the museum!

Amazing toothpick sculpture by Scott Weaver
Kieran and I made it all the way to the biology section of the museum, where we saw a cow eyeball being dissected, but most of our crew didn't make it all the way down there. At the end was this amazing view of the Bay Bridge out of the window.

Up next: viewing the Bay Area by water

No comments:

Post a Comment