Archive for September, 2011

Calif. Academy of Sciences: Everybody Line Up

September 14, 2011

I visited the California Academy of Sciences earlier this year for only the second time since the old complex of buildings was torn down and replaced with a new edifice designed by Renzo Piano, which opened in 2008. This visit confirmed my earlier first impression: the new Academy is long on crowds and, unlike the old Academy, short on absorbing exhibits.

It’s also a place of lines. Lines to get in the building…


Lines to get into the famous Rainforest exhibition…

Lines to get into the planetarium…

lines in the aquarium…

and lines to eat in the overpriced cafeteria…

It’s a huge building, but relatively little of it is given over to exhibit space. There’s a lot of open floor with high ceilings where visitors wander semi-aimlessly.

On the other hand, the new Academy is very popular – the lines are there not just because of poor design but because there are lots of visitors. Most of them, I suspect, are from out of town or moved to SF after the old Academy was torn down, so they have no basis of comparison. In any case, they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

For contrast, here is a Peter Hartlaub SF Gate blog entry, with photos, on the old Academy.



Pinnacles National Monument: Nature made accessible

September 6, 2011

After a hiatus of several months, I’ve returned to this blog for more discussions of visitor comfort and accessibility in public spaces. Thanks to everyone for your patience while I’ve been away.

One of our recent trips that helped refresh and inspire me was a trip to Pinnacles National Monument, about 150 miles south of San Francisco off US Highway 101. It’s a little-known national park that feels as if it’s a million miles from the nearest city.

There are some excellent hikes for those who are so inclined – with wildflowers and California Condors in spring, or so I am told – but there’s a lot to see without going too far from your car. Acorn woodpeckers, for example, are everywhere.


In fact, you don’t even have to¬† leave your car to view wildlife such as wild turkeys, browsing in the woods:

There are a number of trails that are specifically designed to be accessible to visitors with disabilities. There’s camping, and motels and restaurants are about 40 miles away in King City, CA. Altogether, an easy place to refresh the body, mind, and spirit without leaving civilization too far behind.