The California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Posted on
Jul 31, 2012

There’s an old Cary Grant movie called People Will Talk. If you haven’t seen it, go do so now. I’ll wait.

Wasn’t it amazing? I know. I love it, too. I have a weak spot for Cary Grant. Actually, I have several weak spots for Cary Grant, and they’re all located around my knees, or thereabouts.

And in that movie, he kind of reminds me of Rand.

Oh, STOP rolling your eyes. I need none of that nonsense. A girl in love is entitled to see things how she wants. If I want to think that cake is reasonable breakfast food and that I can pull off skinny jeans and that my husband is Cary Grant-like, I can. A little self-delusion never hurt anyone. Without it, Madonna would have never tried acting and JLo would have never tried singing. THINK ABOUT THOSE GEMS OF ARTISTIC MERIT, why don’t you, before you knock it.

There’s one line in particular that Cary Grant’s wife’s character says to him that really gets me. (It’s around minute 14 of this video if you want to watch it.)

“It’s just that I love you so much, and I put all those candles on your cake, when you’re really only nine years old.”

I say that line – or some approximation of it – to Rand all the damn time. They are less romantic, usually.

“I know you run a company,” I’ll tell him, “but I don’t think you should be left alone around an open flame.”

“For the love of all that is holy, USE A FORK,” I’ve shouted, plenty of times.

Or, “Tell me on what planet that would be a good idea.”

He is my beloved. But sometimes, he is nine years old.

Like when I took him to the California Academy of Sciences. He was a little kid. If you haven’t been, I recommend the place. It’s a bit out of the way, but worth it (plus, you can get lost on the MUNI, and that’s always fun). It’s adjacent to the de Young Museum, so if you are really ambitious, you can try visiting both. If you do endeavor to do that, start early and snack often (Did we try this? Yes. Because we are insane and childless).

The ticket for the Academy of Sciences is expensive – around $30 or so, but I argue that it’s worth it. You get a ticket to a science museum, an aquarium, and a planetarium all at once.

It’s not unlike going to the movies and also getting to visit an aquarium and a science museum for the price of your ticket. (Have I mentioned I suck at analogies? I do. Also, movie tickets are too expensive).

Plus, the look on Rand’s face was delightful. We started with reptiles. The kid loves reptiles.

And he marveled at the geckos, because that’s what 9-year-old boys do. (You know, I realize that at some point I’m going to make out with him, and this analogy is going to get really pervy and gross. My apologies.)

More snakes. This one was friggin adorable. It has puppy-dog eyes. (Can snakes have puppy-dog eyes? Because this one did.)

“Who’s a good boy? YOU ARE. You’re a good boy!”

And lizards! Yay, lizards!

We moved on to amphibians, where we found the pièce de résistance. The thing Rand loves more than anything. Including brownies and possibly me.


That’s right: the guy loves frogs. From Kermit to … well, I can’t think of another famous frog. Huh. From Kermit and back again to Kermit, he absolutely adores them.

And not just the poisonous ones. He also thought this trio of tree frogs was terrific.

The first one croaked “Bud”, the second one croaked “Weis” and the third one croaked “SCREW YOU I’M NOT A CORPORATE SHILL.” Which, I admit, was surprising.

Then it was time for some enchantment under the sea, and I’m not talking about the dance where Marty McFly’s parents fell in love

The kid was pretty blown away.

We saw anemones (or as I like to call them, sea tribbles)!

Sadly, they’ve been hunted to near extinction for use as toupees by bald Andy Warhol impersonators.

And jellyfish!

Apparently pee doesn’t actually neutralize their sting. That was just a rumor made up by drunk crayfish.

These fish are known as “the zebras of the sea.” (Okay, fine. I just made that up. But don’t they look like they’re on the prairie?)

Glow-in-the-dark shrimp!

These little guys were so cute, I named them (they are all named Herb. What? I can’t be bothered to give each of them a different name – it’s not like you can tell them apart).

And my husband found the one animal he loves almost as much as frogs:

No, wait. That’s not it. He doesn’t love me nearly as much as frogs. Let’s try again.

Yup! Turtles! The list of things Rand loves goes frogs, turtles, the Green Bay Packers, and, finally, me. I’m cool with that, because I am well aware of how much he likes those other things.

When I finally managed to tear him away from all the new little friends he had made, we walked up the ramp to the rain forest exhibit.

We did not realize it was full of butterflies.

Butterflies, I won’t hesitate to remind you, are basically moths with brighter colors. And you all know how much I hate moths.

After a while, though, I started to think they were sort of pretty, and that’s when I knew we had to go. Butterflies wait until you are distracted by their beauty, and then they strike (along with a few hundred thousand of their brethren). The swarm on you and eat your eyes. It’s horrifying. There aren’t any records of these attacks because the pro-butterfly lobby is incredibly powerful and has a deal with the liberal media. But I swear, it happens.

Rand watches some tourists get eaten alive by a hoard of butterflies. I can still hear their screams.

From there, we headed back down to the natural history (a.k.a., “dead things”) section of the museum.

There were dinosaurs …

And the remains of a pair of actual zebras (the non-sea variety) …

There were lions …

And whatever these guys are.

I call them supermodel deer, because they are skinnier and fancier than regular deer.

Obviously none of these animals were living (well, I’m guessing. I didn’t check the T-Rex’s pulse), so we assumed that this guy wasn’t either:

But apparently the albino alligator, named Claude, is alive and well. He’s a popular attraction at the Academy, and he’s been there for 17 years. Since alligators can be very sedentary, it’s hard to tell that he’s not a sculpture (it’s fun to listen to people ridiculing other folks for thinking he’s real – this happened several times during our visit).

There were loads more exhibits, and an earthquake simulator that we had to skip, because although my husband may be a kid at heart, he has the back of an old and broken man.

We had a blast. It turns out I don’t mind being married to a guy who’s secretly nine-years-old at heart. He’s adventurous and curious, and really excited about the world around him.

Besides, it’s not like I’m the pinnacle of maturity. For those of you needing proof, look no further than the touristy photo we took in front of a blue screen:

Yup. I’m being attacked by butterflies. Someone working the photo booth knows what’s up.

I told Rand to look horrified. He refused to comply. I guess he’s too old for that sort of thing.


The Essentials on the California Academy of Sciences:

  • Verdict: Yes. This place is pricey, but well worth it. You basically get three tickets in one: an aquarium, a natural history museum, and a planetarium.
  • How to get there: You’ll either need to drive or take public transportation (be warned: I’ve had a doozy of a time getting here in the past.) It’s a good ways away from downtown, in the Presidio Golden Gate Park.
  •  Ideal for: Science nerds, reptile/fish/amphibian lovers, and families.
  • Insider tips: Give yourself plenty of time to check out everything – this place is HUGE. If you want to seen a planetarium show, be sure to get the tickets as soon as you arrive (they are included in your price of admission, but tickets for individual showtimes go fast). You can try visiting the de Young Museum, too, if you are feeling ambitious (it’s well within walking distance, but a lot to take on in one day). If the weather is nice, give yourself time to walk around the gardens out front. They are lovely.
  • Nearby food: We ate at the cafeteria at the de Young, just across the street, and it was completely fantastic. Note: it gets incredibly crowded during lunchtime.
  • Good for kids: Yup. And kids at heart, too.

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