Snow in San Francisco

Tis the Season for Science at the California Academy of Sciences, as the popular exhibit celebrating the science behind holiday traditions returns for a second year.  It’s a festive must-see for children and adults alike.

Enjoy indoor snow flurries twice an hour in the Piazza. View taxidermy specimens of the real birds mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” including swans, geese, “colly” birds, hens, doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Get into the holiday spirit with art and music from the Bay Area’s greatest talents, including carolers, musicians, dancers, theater troupes, and more.

Enter an immersive digital dome, shaped like a giant snowman, and see two new shows about the science of snow on Earth and on other worlds.

Visit a pair of live reindeer that have taken residence in the East Garden, and learn about their amazing adaptations during a daily presentation, Reindeer Rendezvous.

Walk through the “Spice Forest,” a life-size sculptural representation of trees, featuring an aromatic display of the raw botanical specimens from which we get cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and other familiar holiday ingredients. Push buttons on each “tree” for a whiff of the spices.

Lichens and mosses are the reindeer’s favorite food. One species of lichen is so commonly eaten by Santa’s sleigh-pullers that it’s called “reindeer lichen.”


Exhibit ends January 16, 2012.

Programs and Activities


    Daily at 12:30 pm
    Gather ’round for an up close and personal experience with live reindeer. Learn about their fascinating adaptations, including an annual migration of up to 3,000 miles per year, and why they are so important for the ecosystems of the far north.


    Daily at 1:30 pm
    In this fun and interactive game show-style program, explore the globe, gain a new perspective on holiday plants and animals and the places they come from, and perhaps even win a prize.


    Daily at 12:00 pm from November 28 – December 16 and January 3 – 16
    Daily at 2:30 pm from November 25 – 27 and December 17 – January 2
    Using Google Earth, we take a close look at how seasonal phenomena like the winter solstice affect life. Explore how life has adapted to Earth’s quirks, and investigate the possibility of life on other worlds!


    Saturdays & Sundays at 2:30 pm from November 23 – December 16 and January 3 – 16
    In this 15-minute program, we will crush up cranberries and extract their DNA for all to see up close, without the aid of a microscope. Join in the investigation, and discover why some scientists call DNA the most extraordinary molecule on Earth.


    Throughout December
    Enrich your family’s visit with art and music from some of the Bay Area’s greatest talents, including Dance Along Nutcracker, Un-Scripted Improv Group, Yuletide Carolers, and more.


    Daily at 11:30 am from December 17 – January 2
    Discover how Californians of yesteryear viewed conservation and their natural surroundings in a colorful, interactive historical program.

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