Interplanetary Playground: Nightlife at The Cal Academy

School of Dentistry

Where can you go dancing to a funk-soul DJ under a giant glass aquarium of a Philippine coral reef? Where can you stroll through a jungle and travel through the cosmos in the same night, all while sipping a cool cocktail? Where can you have the greatest adventure on a midweek night in the Inner Sunset?  The answer: Nightlife at The California Academy of Science, every Thursday.

The event runs from 6-10 p.m., with drinks for sale at bars throughout the impressive facility and food options ranging from steamed pork buns at the food truck to the very classy and earthy Moss Room restaurant. All of the regular attractions of the museum are open with the addition of the many themed booths and activities.  With two dance floors rocking all night, three showings in the planetarium and a live crocodile, attendees are always enchanted and engaged. For the reasonable $12 entrance fee, it’s considerably cheaper than the regular cost to visit the museum and comparable to other dance venues.

Last week on the day before Valentine’s Day the theme was Crave, featuring the science of desire. Excited couples queued at a table where they could build their own custom vibrators. Having no unmet vibrator needs, I started my experience on the otherworldly plant-covered rooftop patio, where the security guys joked about times when drunk attendees climbed valiantly, but briefly, to the top of the green dome.  Then I plunged down to the sub-aquatic dance floor to boogie with tropical fish – I felt like Sebastian in The Little Mermaid.  Returning to the terrestrial realm, I strolled, with an IPA in one hand and soft-serve ice cream in the other, through the well-dressed crowd in the Piazza-turned-dance-club.  

One of the exhibits right now is Earthquake, featuring a re-created Victorian apartment which shakes first in a simulation of the 1989 quake and then shakes harder and longer in a 1906 simulation—an experience was intensified by my IPA. I had hoped to watch a planetarium showing, but I discovered that early arrivers quickly grab the free passes to the showings. (Inside tip: get through the door before 6:30 if you hope to get a spot on the interstellar journey.)

The night didn’t wind down, but just got more energized and loose as the diverse crowd on the dance floor kept the Piazza hot right until the 10 p.m. closing.  To make the deal even more irresistible, the UCSF Campus Life Services offers discounted tickets to students for the price of $9.60.  To purchase the discounted tickets follow these instructions:

1.     Visit

2.     Create a personal profile (you must create a personal profile to purchase tickets)

3.     Sales Code is “UCSF” (all caps)

A great place to take out-of-town visitors, an ideal first date activity and a fantastic local event to put on your regular calendar—don’t miss out on Nightlife at the California Academy of Science.