A Golden Gate Park tenant for over 150 years and treated to a stunning $500-million renovation completed in 2008, this fantastic family-friendly museum is a spectacular mélange of aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and more, with plenty of cool hands-on things for kids to do and see. The planetarium, access to which is included in admission, is the largest digital planetarium in the world. In the nature section, by the entrance, the main attraction is Claude, a formidable albino alligator. Up a circular ramp, four stories high, is a rainforest where brightly colored frogs play peek-a-boo while butterflies flit around your head. Below, an impressive collection of jellyfish glides its way around large, circular tanks. Topping it all off, literally, is a 2 1/2-acre rooftop garden with 1.7 million plants and flowers. The only thing to complain about at the Academy of Science is the painfully steep entrance fee.
- Erika Lennert