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Skip the long admission lines and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. This natural history museum includes a 4-story rainforest, a living roof, a planetarium and an aquarium. Choose to learn about the facility's animal life on the Aquarium Tour or its research focus on the Academy Tour, both with small groups. Both options come with express entry to the Rainforest exhibit and a reserved ticket to a show at Morrison Planetarium.


  • Skip-the-line admission to the California Academy of Sciences, the largest public ‘green’ building in the United States
  • Choose between two 1-hour, behind-the-scenes tours
  • On the Academy Tour, learn about the museum’s science research and visit a working lab
  • On the Aquarium Tour, learn about the museum’s 38,000 animals and visit the food-prep kitchen
  • Receive a reserved seat at Morrison Planetarium, the largest digital planetarium in the world
  • Receive an express entry to Rainforests of the World
  • Small-group tour limited to 14 people ensures an intimate experience

Why Our Insiders Chose This Tour

A cool treat for science and animal lovers of all ages! Learn more about this impressive museum from the scientists and staff that are its lifeblood. See the museum exhibits on your own before or after the tour -- it's pretty awesome skipping the lines at each attraction with your VIP ticket!

Recent Photos of This Tour

What You Can Expect

Skip the Line: California Academy of Sciences Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Coral Reef at the California Academy of Sciences

Make your way to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, where the California Academy of Sciences is located. Breeze right past the long entry lines and enjoy quick access to this world-class museum that includes a planetarium, an aquarium, a 4-story rainforest and a living roof. Regardless of which tour you choose, enjoy express entry to the rainforest and a reserved seat at a Morrison Planetarium show. Feel free to explore all the exhibits the museum has to offer before or after your scheduled tour. 

Aquarium Tour
With this option, learn about the history of Steinhart Aquarium and how biologists care for the 38,000 animals – including butterflies, fish, penguins and even an albino alligator named Claude – that live in the building. Visit the food-prep kitchen and see the complex water filtration system. 

Academy Tour
On this insider-access tour, explore the museum from a science and research perspective. With your museum guide, learn about the institution's 159-year history and how its scientists are tackling critical questions about life on Earth. Visit the research collections and a working laboratory, get closer to the living roof, and see breathtaking geology specimens in the vault.

Customer Reviews

Deborah B

5 star rating: Highly Recommended January 2017

We really enjoyed the behind the scenes tour. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and energetic. It was obvious that she enjoyed talking about her subject! We enjoyed seeing the living roof and hearing how the building is environmentally friendly. All in all, a most enjoyable time. While we did not have children with us, I believe it would be a great adventure for the entire family. It is very kid-friendly. The museum is definitely a recommendation we would make to others.

Joguar3 United States of ... 

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2016

The general public are is very well done and suitable for both adults and children. Plenty of interesting things to see and well laid out. There were several individuals giving presentations to children that captured their attention and mine too!.
And then there was the Behind the Scenes tour. That was the absolutely positively and actually awesome thing to do. You will see the green roof, the research area and where specimens from their research are stored. Actually saw a botanical specimen from Captain Cook's exploration! This portion of the tour I would not recommend for children.


5 star rating: Highly Recommended January 2016

I felt like a kid again! Getting to go behind the scenes was the way to go. You learn so much about what it actually takes to run this place. Hats off to all the employees that keep this place going from day to day! They are the real unsung heroes. My favorite for the day was the planetarium. Second, was the rain forest exhibit. It's definitely a must see if your visiting San Francisco.

Amberley P

5 star rating: Highly Recommended November 2015

This was great value for money. No queuing and a very interesting and informative tour behind the scenes! The only way to do it with a Skip the line, behind the scenes tour ticket! Thank you

Karen B

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2015

Enjoyed the day!! Was delayed from getting the appropriate tickets which required us waiting for approx. 15 minutes because our name was not on their list! Once that was cleared up they requested we wait to speak with a Manager. Were told this happens with Viator your system not communicating with theirs in a timely manner After another 15 minutes, when he arrived, he had no clue as to why they asked us to wait for him! A real time waste not only once but twice. He ended up being our tour guide and did an excellent job! The rest of the day was awesome!!


5 star rating: Highly Recommended July 2015

Very interesting and my son enjoyed it immensely.


5 star rating: Highly Recommended May 2015


James W USA

5 star rating: Highly Recommended April 2015

The behind the scenes tour of the aquarium was interesting, informative, and delightful. The tour guide was full of information and the details included in the tour added to the overall experience. What really made the difference was the skip the line feature! We were whisked into the main attractions immediately by the skip the line feature easily savings us hours of waiting for an attraction. We visited on a very busy day, but even on slow days, this feature was worth every penny! BRAVO!!

Brian B

5 star rating: Highly Recommended June 2014

A hidden gem. A great museum and experience


5 star rating: Highly Recommended January 2014

The tour itself was fabulous, however somehow I was not signed up for the tour and had to rebook in person when I got there. The staff at the Academy were able to overcome this problem.

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