NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences

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NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Sunset district is an awesome adults-only museum night! Come geek out with Party Earth in SF! San Francisco United States 37.769736 -122.466138
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NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences - Culture | Drinking Activity | Event Space | Museum in San Francisco.
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Party Earth Review Anyone yearning to geek out inside a multimillion-dollar science museum with the added bonus of booze should head to Golden Gate Park on Thursdays for NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences. Since 2009, the Academy... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    MUNI N Line: 9th & Irving Avenue

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  • Hours:

    Th 6–10pm

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences Review

The Scene

NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Sunset district is an awesome adults-only museum night! Come geek out with Party Earth in SF!

Anyone yearning to geek out inside a multimillion-dollar science museum with the added bonus of booze should head to Golden Gate Park on Thursdays for NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences.

Since 2009, the Academy has stayed open late once a week to give the 21+ crowd full run of the place, with an ever-changing series of themed events and several temporary bars spread throughout the gigantic building.

Groups of friends and inebriated naturalists make a beeline for the Steinhart Aquarium, which takes up most of the basement area and includes an incredible four-story dome that emulates all the levels of a real rainforest.

Multi-tasking dudes with beers in hand nonchalantly place a free arm around their dates as they ogle the other jellyfish in the room, while established couples get frisky along the darkened blue-hued corners where some thirty-eight thousand ocean creatures reside inches behind the glass.

Back on the main ground floor, live bands or DJs set up based on the night’s theme – salsa one week, sustainable seafood the next, even a zombie theme for Halloween – as space nuts pound their cocktails before entering the Morrison Planetarium, a massive all-digital dome with a seventy-five-foot diameter projection screen.

For four hours, singles mingle among the dinosaur bones, gasp at the albino alligator, or eye that special someone at the other end of a tunnel set beneath a gigantic tank brimming with arapaima, arowana, and giant catfish.

Fitting, perhaps, that something as natural as love could bloom at NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences.

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Tip from Jonah:

It’s a good deal pricier, but why not splurge on the VIP Tour? For $59, you get admission and express entry to NightLife, an hour-long behind-the-scenes tour, an open bar in a reserved cocktail area before the tour, VIP access to the rainforest, and a reserved pass for the 8:30pm planetarium show.

  • Crowd

    Young couples, singles, large groups of curious friends, first dates, birthday groups, closeted geeks, and anyone looking for a different spin on their nightlife, 21 to mid-30s+.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Multiple DJs and/or live bands performing in a variety of styles tied to the night’s theme, from house to swing to everything else under the sun.

    One hundred thousand square-foot museum packed with incredible exhibits, aquariums, a replica of a rain forest, and the largest all-digital projection screen on the planet in the planetarium.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Food stands offer a handful of snacks and entrées that can change weekly but usually include items like pork buns, chicken with fries, and vegetarian dishes. Private lounge available for rental.

  • Prices

    Admission $12. Grub $5–$15. Beer $6–$8, wine $10, cocktails $7–$12.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Casual to trendy: everything from white t-shirts and jeans to dolled up duds.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Only open on Thursdays, but patrons should arrive early to avoid the lines and to check out the rainforest, which closes at 8pm.

  • Close By

    The wonderful three-mile expanse of Golden Gate Park is right outside and just begging for some tipsy outdoor fun. NOTE: Party Earth does not condone in any way attempting to ride the bison in the park’s Buffalo Paddock, regardless of how many cocktails have been consumed.

NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences User Reviews

Average rating:
I'm never dissapointed by NightLife
Tearsa H. Aug 21, 2013
I've been to a couple of these Thursday night events and I love the themes. Learning about everything from sound waves to snakes and lizards, the Academy of Sciences never disappoints! I love the casual atmosphere mixed with the intellectual flair. At least we know we can meet smart people or at least other people who like to learn about nerdy things like us! The drinks are a little expensive but the exhibits and crowd is fun. The music can be pretty good too.
Different... and That's a Good Thing
Stephen C. Apr 8, 2013
If you’re bored with the usual, this is a great place to check out. The surroundings are very cool, the aquarium is spectacular, and the crowd is generally well-dressed, hip, and attractive. The one downside here is that the drinks are somewhat overpriced given their low alcohol content. As such, if maintaining a buzz is important to you, I’d recommend pre-gaming or carrying a flask, depending on your level of sophistication (or lack thereof). This is also undoubtedly a great place for a first date. I mean, if you can’t find something to say about an albino alligator, you might as well throw in the towel immediately. As such, you’ll see plenty of vaguely awkward-looking couples making small talk about crustaceans. I once overheard the following exchange: He: So you’ve always been interested in mollusks too? She: I hadn’t really thought about it before, but they seem okay. This seemed to loosely translate to: He: So am I getting laid tonight? She: The jury’s still out, but don’t throw out that condom just yet. As you may be gathering, the people are almost as fun to watch here as the animals. Overall, a very fun and different experience!
Intermittently Enjoyable
Danielle C. Apr 4, 2013
It's definitely a fun treat every now and then to combine science and cocktails. The exhibits will blow your mind, and once you have a little bit of liquor in you it's easy to be easily amused by all the fun facts you'll learn. However, it is a novelty that wears out, because making funny narratives about the fish in the aquarium and freaking out over the albino alligator (or is it a crocodile?) gets old. But a revisit to this spot every few months is sure to please your inner Bill Nye and lush simultaneously.
It didn't live up to expectations.
Sophie S. Apr 4, 2013
I had heard about NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences years before I actually went. My first time was last year on a first date. I imagined interactive exhibits, cool places to explore and fun facts I would never forget. Unfortunately, this was not the case. While the cavernous fish tanks created an eerie glow fit for intimate conversation and we did indeed learn odd factoids about whale penises, NightLife was little more than a big bar. I would recommend NightLife if you are sick of the regular bar scene and would rather sip your drink while watching fish. But if you're looking for a unique, scientific adventure, save it for the Exploratorium.
Best. Date. Ever.
Logan H. Mar 24, 2013
Nightlife has probably gotten me laid more than anywhere else in the City. If you need something to do with someone exciting, there is no better call than Cal Acad on a Thursday night. Where else can you stroll through an Amazon rainforest, check out an underwater reef and explore the African savannah, all without getting on a plane or spilling your drink? There are plenty of dark corners for flirting and the undulating, plant covered roof is a great spot to get some air and check out the stars. Plus, they have an albino alligator and anyone who isn't turned on by freakin' dinosaurs is not worth a second date.
Cocktails in an Amazonian Rainforest
Aleksandra B. Feb 20, 2013
San Francisco has no shortage of is trendy bars but Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences tops them all with the sheer cool factor of sipping cocktails while checking out luminescent jellyfish or exploring the galaxy at the Planetarium. Walk three levels of a live Amazonian rainforest that features tropical butterflies, exotic flowers and even poisonous spiders. Don’t worry, the spiders are safely tucked behind glass terrariums. Local artisans set up booths and niche activities are held throughout the museum. Visitors can try being a deejay, join a knitting class or taste a local scotch. A popular destination for first dates and singles, Nightlife is will keep you coming back with its eclectic mix of great cocktails and science.
The Coming-Together of Cocktails and Science
Pia B. Feb 20, 2013
And even cocktails can be considered a science (mixology), so really, it can be considered just science spiced with ethanol. When I initially found out about NightLife, I was thrilled. Germany’s Arts & Cultural Center in the East, Weimar, has held events like NightLife for years involving the whole downtown area (“Museum Nacht”—literally, “night of the museums”). As a sidenote, should you happen to be travelling through Germany at any point in time, Weimar is a great stop. The California Academy of Sciences’ NightLife is the perfect place to go if you’re not quite into the club scene in San Francisco or are just getting started for the night. Admission itself isn’t too steep ($10 for members, $12 for non-members), but be prepared to bring some cash money—unless you’ve made prepaid reservations for a group (which can be expensive if you can’t pool a large enough group together), as most cocktails and snacks cost money. Finding a good deal on websites like Groupon is rare so it’s worth keeping tabs on the Academy’s Schedule, as from time to time, there will be special offers and discounts. Additionally, every month or so, the Academy implements a new theme or topic for NightLife, usually related to other upcoming or ongoing holidays there will be special exhibits related to the theme. The best way to stay informed on this is to check the NightLife Facebook page. Usually one NightLife theme will last more than a week and inevitably some will seem more appealing than others. It can be a good idea to wait an extra week for the next Thursday evening to see if others have reviewed the event well. One downside to the Academy in general is that it’s not easy to access with public transportation; doable, but complicated. When driving there (obviously making sure you have a designated driver), a more practical route is to come from the East on Lincoln Way, rather than Highway 1, as many others do. Lincoln Way makes it easier to access free street parking, rather than use the garage on the grounds which costs additional money. Regardless of the downsides, should you be looking for something interesting to do on a Thursday evening, NightLife never fails to be entertaining-- whether you’re more interested in the Academy exhibits or the social aspects.
A Great Combination...
Allen N. Feb 19, 2013
Art, science, animals and cocktails? If you're in San Francisco on a Thursday night, this is one opportunity you don't want to miss! Where else can you be sipping on a bloody mary or some specially-concocted delicious mixed drink looking at sharks in a floor to ceiling exhibit? Take a break from the typical, wild party scene and have a buzzed, atypical relaxing evening strolling the Academy of Sciences museum. Don't forget to check out some of the local artists' exhibits and the stars and planets from the museum's roof observation deck. Bars at the Thursday night museum accept cash only- but there is one ATM inside by the main entrance.
Rachel G. Nov 13, 2012
This is the coolest thing ever. What is better than cool exhibits, funky drinks, and to see the science museum at night? Count me in! I went on SHARK NIGHT and enjoyed shark themed cocktails while I walked around the museum and even saw real sharks! What is cool about this idea is that you get to go to the museum and drink your drinks, but also see the exhibit without having to go during the day with a bunch of kids running around screaming. That to me is one of the best things about this. Plus it is so much fun! At first it can sound a bit lame, but I have to admit I had such a good time there and I actually go quite often now!
Can't Wait To Go!!
Gabe L. Aug 15, 2012
I have yet to go to the Academy of Sciences at nighttime since I only turned 21 recently. DUring the day it is still awesome - you can see crocodiles, get a cool 3D space show, check out the aquarium or bug sanctuary, and much more. Therefore, I can only imagine how much more fun that could be after a few drinks and with a dance floor. My sister went a while back and said it was one of the coolest places she had ever been to. I definitely plan on going to the nightclub next time I'm in SF, and you should too!
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