For Day Five we got up early and jumped on the Big Bus hop on/hop off tour to go to Golden Gate Park.
The bus dropped us off at the entry to California Academy of Sciences which is located in the park, and after paying the rather steep admission fees we headed in.
With 3 floors and a living roof you can walk along, it's a huge facility with tons to see and do.
As you enter, you first view a Philippine reef site exhbiit, complete with black tip sharks:
Going down the stairs, you can see more of the reef in a viewing area, complete with a diver giving a lecture on the reef's ecosystem:
It's a very neat exhibit, and the Water Planet area comes complete with a touching pool where the kids (and adults) can pet starfish and sea urchins and you can see lots of different fish and marine life, including a tunnel you could walk through with fish swimming all around:
The living roof was interesting if you're into that sort of thing. Here's a view of the solar panels on the roof, surrounded by the grasses covering the rooftop, that they proudly proclaim as 18% efficient!:
Earthquakes are obviously an area of special scientific concern in California. We saw a very cool planetarium show on earthquakes and went on the earthquake simulator which was very cool as it replicated the feel of being in a house in both the 1906 and 1989 Earthquakes. Interestingly enough, after the simulator we got to talking with a lady near the exit and it turns out not only was she living there during the 1989 Loma-Prieta earthquake and he r house was damaged in the quake, but she had moved to California from West Bloomfield and had lived only a few blocks from where we are now - quite a small world.
Of course, there had to be snakes:
From this Anaconda:
To these very large Timber Rattlers. The one nearest the glass followed anyone who approached very intently and pretty clearly indicated that if that glass wasn't there he'd be merrily biting the hell out of the visitors to the center.
There was also a multi-tiered rainforest exhibit with yes, more snakes, including the flying snake that was kept behind glass.
We also got a chance to meet the star of the Center, Claude the Albino American Alligator.
Rumor has it they let him roam around the center at night to keep out trespassers.
We spent a very full day at the Academy with tons to see and do and I'd highly recommend it if you're visiting San Francisco. The kids learned a lot and had a great time doing it.
After the Academy of Sciences, we took a Big Bus night tour, which was part of the 48 hour Big Bus pass and the only let down of the trip. Even as the day Big Bus tour pass got us to the pickup point for the tour 30 minutes before it left, it was already packed and we were crammed into the lower area at the back of the bus. Not only did we miss the views available to those on top, which was the point of the trip as you couldn't see what the tour guide was talking about most of the time, but we also got to sit right against the engine and it was pouring out heat the whole trip - and no window could be opened either to relieve the heat. In short, it sucked.
The only upside to the night trip was we got out of the darn bus at Treasure Island and got a great view of the Bay Bridge at night:
In short, we could have easily passed on the night trip with no great loss and a lot less sweat.
On Day 6 we rose, after a night interrupted by drunks or lunatics yelling outside the hotel, had a quick bite and headed to the airport, and that was the end of our travels in San Francisco.
Some Quick thoughts on San Francisco:
1. It's a very walkable, vibrant city with tons to see and do and excellent restaurants.
2. It's absolutely overrun with the homeless, including drunks, beggars, and mental types screaming at all hours of the night, including right outside the hotel. I haven't seen this many vagabonds in so many places, just about every street corner had at least one or two.
3. Probably due to number 2, The city has got quite a smell about it, with many bus stops having quite a urine-like aroma and on the streets as well.
4. Mass transit is not bad there given the small size of the city and the bus lines made sense once you puzzled them out. But, whoever thought having two cars on a subway train at a time made sense needs to get their head examined - each subway was packed to the gills. They should look to Toronto where the subways have multiple cars and actually move enough people around so there's not crowds waiting as full subways keep passing them by. The transit system seems to work reasonably well otherwise, and the transfer system was very useful.
5. For all their claims about tolerance and respect for civil rights, the San Francisco municipal government certainly needs to learn to respect some essential civil rights a lot more there.
Basically, San Fran is SWPL heaven writ large. The city really appears to be its own bubble powered by the tech industry and isolated from the rest of the country's economic reality. A very nice place to visit for the most part, but you can't afford to live there with a family.