Earthquake! And More… California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

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For months, my son has been asking when the new Earthquake exhibit will be opening at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Well, it finally opened last weekend, so I took him on Tuesday.

How was the exhibit? I thought it was great! First, visitors are shown a short movie about plate tectonics. Then we were moved into a room made to feel like a dining room, called the “Shake House”, with a cupboard of hanging glasses, a painting hung on another wall, and a bookshelf on the third wall. Railings lined the walls and stood in the middle of the room. We were instructed to hang onto one. Then we were told we’d experience two simulated earthquakes. The first, made to be similar to the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, was shorter than the second, which was more like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In each shake session, glasses rattled, the chandelier swayed back and forth, the painting banged against the wall, and books were jostled back and forth on their shelf. And of course, we, too, we’re shaken around. Great experience!

Unless you’re my son. As we walked out of the exhibit, he quietly stated, “I NEVER want to do that again.” Yeah, guess that could be scary for a little guy. But we had a great discussion about it, and he admitted it was actually kind of fun being shaken around like that. I think it’s good for him to have an idea about what an earthquake will feel like before he has to experience the real thing. Which will happen one day.

From there, we headed to what is usually our favorite exhibit… the four-story Rainforests of the World exhibit. The butterflies are absolutely enchanting in here, fluttering around everywhere. One of the large Blue Morpho butterflies even landed on my son’s head! We walked through quicker than normal today, though, as my son was in the mood to spend the rest of our visit in the aquarium.

Ah, the Steinhart Aquarium, located in the lower level of the museum. I could spend all day down there. Usually, my boy rushes us through. But not today!

He fell in love with the anaconda exhibit, located in the Amazon rainforest section, which you pass through right after exiting the elevators from the Rainforests of the World, and before entering the Steinhart Aquarium. First, the snake itself was impressive. But next to the snake enclosure was a little interactive exhibit to give you a feeling of what it’s like to be squeezed by an anaconda. You put your arm in a dark hole in the wall and, wow, the squeezing begins. Don’t even think about pulling your arm out. You can’t. At least not for the next eleven seconds, when the squeeze releases. My son returned to this exhibit over and over for the rest of our time at the museum.

Next, my son wanted to go to the touch tank, where kids get to stick their hands in the cold water and pet sea stars and sea urchins. This is usually swarmed with kids on school field trips. Kids who have no problem pushing a little preschool aged kid out of the way to get at what they want. But it was blessedly free of them today! My son lingered here for twenty minutes, chatting with the man working the tank, feeling … really feeling… the textures of the sea stars, urchins, and abalone shells, and simply swishing his fingers in the water. Bliss.

After looking around at the rest of the ocean life, several more anaconda squeezes, and a quick visit to say “hello” to the albino alligator, we headed to the roof. We always have to check out the living roof when we visit. This week, we were in for a treat…. it was covered with wildflowers! Why didn’t I bring my camera?? Oh well , my iPhone pics will have to do.



Interested in going?  For visitor information, check out the website…


    1. Inspiring, isn’t it? Yes, all cities should be covered with living roofs, so the native plants and animals could have homes to thrive. And the energy savings are exceptional, too.


    1. I have fond memories of visiting the California Academy of Sciences as a child, when we’d visit San Francisco. Now it’s been remodeled and is so much nicer than it was back in the 70’s. I hope my son also remembers these times fondly!


        1. Lots of pictures! No, I get what you’re saying. If only children could maintain their earlier enthusiasm and excitement for life through the teen years and into adulthood. That’s the challenge!


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