California Academy of Science staffer Shannon Bennett, an expert in infectious diseases, has been busy during the pandemic. (Courtesy California Academy of Sciences)

Academy of Sciences has ‘the right stuff’ for reopening

Golden Gate Park attraction welcomes public back on Oct. 23

The California Academy of Sciences is joining museums reopening after seven months of pandemic closure. The great effort needed to reactivate safely the 400,000-square foot Golden Gate Park behemoth is supported by such key internal science advisors as Shannon Bennett.

She is not only the Academy’s chief of science and associate curator of microbiology, her expertise is in emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 that are of everybody’s concern.

“Throughout this pandemic, there has been a constant avalanche of new information, from many kinds of sources with different levels of peer review and scientific rigor,” says Bennett, who adds, “One example is the risk of virus transmission by aerosols, which we assessed early on and led us to focus on protocols and communication for guests and staff to sport well-fitting two-ply masks, and revisit how we manage enclosed spaces — limiting them to family groups, spreading groups out using timed entry, and installing hepa filtration to cleanse the air within the space.”

The Academy will be open at 25% capacity per local and state guidelines, to members and donors only Oct. 13-22, planning reopening to the public on Oct. 23. Attendance requirements include advance reservations, timed-entry tickets, responding to confidential health self-screening, strict social distancing, and wearing a mask.

Bennett says masks will be sold to those who don’t have them or to those with “unsafe ones, such as ones that gape or otherwise have holes, exhale valves, etc.”

In its reopening announcement, the Academy said it has been “part of the San Francisco community for 167 world-changing years and deeply values its local supporters and is working around the clock to prioritize the health and safety of its staff, visitors, and Bay Area neighbors.”

“It’s a joy to safely open our Academy doors,” says Academy Executive Director Scott Sampson, “People from around the world are staying connected with science through our exciting Academy @ Home programming and vibrant social media channels, but nothing replaces those jaw-dropping moments with our animals and exhibits.”

Members and donors can make reservations to visit from Oct. 13 and beyond by visiting the Academy’s website; starting Oct. 14, the general public can purchase tickets and reserve entry times for October 23, and beyond.

New exhibits include nature photography from around the world in “The Big Picture,” featuring winning images from the annual competition; and an aquarium exhibit “Venom: Fangs, Stingers, and Spines.”

The Morrison Planetarium remains temporarily closed, but a new planetarium show, “Big Astronomy,” is available on YouTube.

Also, certain hands-on exhibit elements will be modified or disabled for safety, and entrance into the Osher Rainforest and Shake House will be by reservation only; visitors may reserve upon arrival.


California Academy of Sciences

Where: 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, S.F.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays; opens one hour earlier for members

Tickets: General admission range starts during reopening at $26-$32; prices vary by time

Contact: (415) 379-8000,

Note: Advance tickets with timed entry are required; members opening runs Oct. 13-22; public opening is Oct. 23.

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