California Academy of Sciences | SF 2017

After working very hard, Ben had the opportunity to present a talk at a tech conference in San Francisco last month. We were all so proud of him for reaching this great career milestone, but I got even more excited when he extended the invite to stay in his company-expensed hotel room with him! I had a lot of fun the last time I visited and didn’t want it to be another dozen years before I got to return, and there were things I had been mentally adding to a to-do list since leaving San Francisco in September, so I was all too happy to take a few days to unwind and enjoy the city by the bay.


Wednesday evening, I flew out west, my first time flying with Virgin/Alaskan, ready to feel the effects of the time change during my stay but determined to be chill and relaxed in an attempt to get over my burnout. (Spoiler alert: I remain not great at chill and relaxed.)

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I landed later than expected land got to the hotel… completely starving out of my mind? I was really hangry because I had a large, late lunch and had zero interest in eating before my flight, despite the fact that my flight departed at 6pm. (You ever try working up an appetite looking at a Chipotle while a giant burger sits in your belly?) So, unfortunately for Ben, I landed really cranky from hunger, and by the time I got to the hotel, I had no interest in doing anything but curling up to hangrily sleep. (Fun fact: We were back at the SF Marriott Marquis, the same hotel we stayed in over Labor Day weekend! It was nice to be back among familiar surroundings.)

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Thursday morning rolled around, and Ben, in a noble attempt to placate my by-now really unreasonable hunger and crankiness, took me to the hotel breakfast buffet so that I could fill up on as much food as I could muster. I felt a lot better after stuffing my face for a while, and Ben was able to fully relax knowing that his talk was done and his girlfriend was not glowering while struggling to stay upright.

Since Ben still had work obligations, we planned to not really see each other until the weekend, so I had planned full days for myself to enjoy solo during the weekdays in SF. He went off to work and I took myself to the California Academy of Sciences.

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The California Academy of Sciences is a pretty spectacular institution. You can visit a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum all under one roof!

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I spent some time walking around and getting my bearings before being drawn into the Osher Rainforest, a 90-foot-high rainforest housed in a stunning glass dome. From there, you can experience three levels of rainforest life while butterflies fluttery by around you.

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As of about a week before I visited, they just installed a little cocoon box so you could see moths and butterflies emerging from their chrysalises. It was literally a brand-new addition to the rainforest exhibit here, so it was exciting to see! Also, I really love butterflies and how at peace I feel with them fluttering around. When I was growing up, one of my favorite place to visit was the Bronx Zoo, which I called the “Butterfly Zoo” because I only have memories of being in the butterfly house there and spending all of my zoo time in there.

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A blurry shot of a bird we saw eating a butterfly. It was a messy eater and bits of butterfly wing almost landed in my hair…

After you get to the top of the dome, you take an elevator down, down, to see the flooded rainforest and the flora + fauna that live there. This is also where you can get a closer look at Claude, the famous albino alligator.

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From there, you can proceed further to the aquarium portion of this museum. I have loved loved loved aquariums since I first watched The Little Mermaid and the one at the California Academy of Sciences is no exception! There’s just something really magical about being eye-level with the wonders of the water, lit by blue and violet lights that just make everything seem calm and peaceful, if only for a moment.

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When I finally emerged from under the sea, there was still so much more of the museum to explore! I appreciated that there was a whole section dedicated to earthquakes and San Francisco + California earthquake history in particular. There is an earthquake simulator that you can stand in to experience magnitudes of the two big earthquakes to hit the city in 1906 and 1989.

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I liked that this emergency kit included Chinese canned goods!
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I loved these notes because you really can’t trust the public to submit notes like this. Especially when the bulk of your visitors are field trip students.
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We had an illuminati squad here…
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“I play Pokemon Go every day”

The Tusher African Hall is one of the first things you’ll see upon entering, and it’s a quieter area where you can learn about African wildlife and the history of human evolution. At the end of the hall is a penguin tank, where you can watch an African penguin colony in a man-made habitat that was built to closely resemble their natural habitat off the coast of South Africa. I was able to catch the 3pm feeding session which I’d recommend if you want to see the penguins in action and ask questions.

As I went up through the museum, I visited the gems and minerals exhibit (where I learned a lot about the different ways that minerals manifest in our world), the naturalist center (which is a really awesome hands-on activity center that I highly highly recommend bringing kids to for an interactive way to learn a lot about a lot of different things housed in the museum), and, at the very top, the living roof, which powers the entire Academy and more.

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If I was fueled a bit better, I could’ve spent more time here, especially if I had someone to share all these amazing exhibits with. Alas, my hangriness started to kick in and even I had had my fill of exploring this awesome museum by myself, so it was time to head out and fill my belly once again. On Thursday evenings, the Academy actually hosts Nightlife, a weekly adult program for grown-ups to drink and explore the museum without kids running about and with a different theme each week. However, I had made plans to do a similar activity on the other side of town over at the Exploratorium, but I’ll tell you about that next time…

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Fun fact: These seahorses were a part of the original Academy building

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Admission: $34.95 for non-member adults, different pricing options for seniors, students, youths, and children. Tickets for the planetariums sold separately.

California Academy of Science
Golden Gate Park
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA, 94118
(415) 379-8000
http://www.calacademy.org


Do you like visiting museums when you visit other cities? I used to think it wasn’t a great use of my time, but especially for this trip, I really relished the opportunity to walk at my own pace, read every single placard like I love doing, and learn new things! My favorite thing to do is to sit and soak it all in. Museums are one of my favorite things about humanity, so to take in these monuments to history and achievement and science is really moving for me. In aquariums, especially, I like being able to sit in front of the largest tank in the joint and people-watch and fish-watch.

What are you favorite thing to see in science museums, natural history museums, and aquariums? I can’t really pick, but aquariums have a special place in my heart because I’ve loved the ocean since The Little Mermaid, and I do love watching jellyfish. I swear I can feel my blood pressure lower and my heart rate slow when I watch jellyfish pulsing through the water.

Busy Chanukah?

I’ve had a very eventful Chanukah, actually! Although I’m not Jewish, I figured this would be a good way to mark the time period and also its a fun holiday where you get to eat fried food (hit me up with some latke and sufganiyot) and play with dreidels and chocolate gelt. (In another life, I was destined to marry a nice Jewish boy.)

Let us begin!

On the first day of Chanukah, I spent the day ambling about the National Aquarium. I’ve been 2 times before, but I have this apparently unique habit of wanting to read every single sign. All of them. After all, someone worked very hard to make the signs and I want to learn and know what I’m looking at when I’m in an aquarium/museum/art gallery! It was nice to spend the day there without having someone rush me through the exhibits.

This is Calypso, their sea turtle. She is missing a fin/foot but is still the star of the aquarium.

I got to see the beautiful little golden lion tamarins, looking at me with their giant eyes and hugging each other.
(They later started humping each other about arm’s-length away from me and I will just assure myself that doesn’t mean anything.)

I had a lovely dinner and a lovely birthday cake. (But srsly, can a girl get some Carvel ice cream cake with those delectable chocolate crunchies?)

Chocolate cake!!! With a snowman and a tree on it. (They weren't edible...)
Chocolate cake!!! With a snowman and a tree on it. (They weren’t edible…)

I took my dad to the airport on Thursday (before seeing the last Hobbit film again) because my grandfather is unwell and he wants to look after him. This would begin a long weekend of me chauffeuring my family around.

On Friday, I was able to crash attend my old company’s holiday party at – wait for it – the Newseum! For those unfamiliar, the Newseum is a really cool museum that looks at our history and relationship with news. News is intensely important in informing us what is going on, whether in our own background or across the world, and it’s really amazing to see how far the news has come as well as how far we have come in parallel with the news.

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Bartending in an elevator
Bartending in an elevator
I was craving doughnuts and LO AND BEHOLD! Doughnuts, macarons, and tiny pies
I was craving doughnuts and LO AND BEHOLD! Doughnuts, macarons, and tiny pies

Also it was fun scaring the bejeezus out of people who thought they would never see me again.

Even though it’s not free admission (SADNESS) (in a town with all the free Smithsonian institutions, it’s difficult to get me to pay for a museum or art gallery or zoo), I would really like to come back to the Newseum for a proper visit. While it’s a really cool venue, I don’t think it’s a great place for a celebratory party, given that a lot of news is, well, bad news. The coat check line hugged the wall with all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photos and people were stumbling around drunkenly through the 9/11 exhibit. It felt distasteful, in my opinion, but that’s no fault of the museum’s.

A tissue box provided by the museum in the 9/11 exhibit
A tissue box provided by the museum in the 9/11 exhibit
One of the antennae from the Twin Towers

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In any case, I had a lot of fun with my old coworkers and I’m glad I was able to see so many old familiar faces.
(ALSO WE HAVE A SLOW-MO VIDEO)

I came back from DC really late that evening, and was supposed to go to an alumni meeting Saturday morning but I totally slept in and missed it, whoops. Luckily, they very kindly invited me out to lunch and we had dumpling at “Mama’s Dumplings” (aka China Bistro) and tried the famous new bubble tea place SnowBots for some snow cream! I don’t really have many photos from Saturday but it was nice to catch up with this group from college that I really had fallen out of touch with. I also picked up my brother from school after picking up an extra boba for him as a post-finals treat.

On Sunday, my Yelp region had our annual holiday party! I went dressed as Santa (kinda) and a fun time was had by all. There was White Elephant, a gingerbread house contest, a mimosa bar, Italian food catered by Venti Tre, bagels galore, eggnog, a photo gbooth, etc. etc. Again, not many photos since I was working the event, but it was a lot of fun.

Afterwards, I went to a belated birthday dinner with my closest friends and my boyfriend and then we went back to my room to just chill for a bit and so that I could give everyone their Christmas gifts. (I’m so glad I cleaned my room!)

Yesterday, I mostly chilled before picking up my mom from the airport, thus having chauffeured every member of my immediate family and making a second trip to the airport.

And that’s been Hanukkah for me! If only I could get my hands on some potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts…