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Academy of Sciences replaces reindeer with ice rink

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Left: Reindeer are seen at the California Academy of Sciences on Dec. 5, 2013.Right: Children skate around the new ice rink at the academy on Nov. 21. (Courtesy Kathryn Whitney/California Academy of Sciences)
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Santa’s reindeer may be too busy flying the globe this year to attend the California Academy of Sciences.

That’s one possible takeaway, since it opted not to feature reindeer for its holiday festivities for the first time since 2010, according to the museum.

In past years, the reindeer on the academy’s grassy “living roof” were accompanied by a costumed Santa. Kelly Mendez, an academy spokesperson, said though the furry winter companions were much loved, it was time for a change.

“After several years of highlighting reindeer biology and adaptations in this exhibit, we decided it was time for a fresh new spin since we like to continually refresh exhibit experiences for our guests,” Mendez said.

This year, the academy has opted to offer a skating rink instead of the holiday-themed animals, which opened the day before Thanksgiving.

Though Golden Gate Park oft-plays host to roller-skating dancers on its car-free Sundays, this will see the only ice rink amid the 3-mile stretch of green, according to the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, and perhaps the only ice rink on The City’s west side.

The academy spent $350,000 on the rink’s installation and daily operating staff, out of its general operations and exhibits budget, though it expects ticket sales to cover those costs.

The academy’s new exhibit,“’Tis the Season for Science: Life on Ice,” highlights the Earth’s polar regions and the animals that call the poles home.

The exhibit still features “indoor snow flurries” twice an hour, as well as a digital dome shaped like a giant snowman playing a short documentary about snowflakes, puppet shows, life-size models of polar bears and penguins and the ice rink, which is open for 55-minute skate sessions at $12 per person.

“[The reindeer] were always popular with guests and served as wonderful ambassadors for their species during their time here,” Mendez said.

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