Where the gators go: NightLife at the Academy


Catherine Stites

Jelly fish float in the aquarium exhibit at the Academy of Science on Feb. 6, 2020. (Catherine Stites / Golden Gate Xpress)

Catherine Stites

Stepping into a NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences feels like stepping into “Night at the Museum”. Ben Stiller and a dinosaur skeleton might not be waiting for you around the corner to play fetch, but the museum takes on an air of excitement once the day turns to night.

Bars aren’t the only things that open up when you turn that magical age of 21. Museums, free of kids, open up at night just for you. NightLife, a 21 and up event, caters to adults who want to learn something new with style and maybe a specially made cocktail or two. 

The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, usually full of curious children, is replaced with a bar in every room and blaring music on Thursday nights for its NightLife event.

Docents let museum goers examine star fish and other creatures at the discovery tidepool. (Catherine Stites / Golden Gate Xpress)

Docents in bright orange lab coats lead you into informative activities about sustainability. The giant sphere that hosts a rain forest like environment is open for you to walk around and see spiders, snakes, and birds that are tweeting. Three levels up, and you jump onto an elevator, to go all the way to the bottom to see the aquarium. Before you can enter, you have to be mindful of butterflies who may be using you as the means to escape, so into an airlock you go. Stingrays, jellyfish, snapping turtles and an albino alligator named Claude are just a few animals you may observe as you wander through the dimly lit aquarium floor. 

The animals don’t seem as perturbed by the people or the music as one would think. “There are biologists here 24 hours a day and especially here during NightLife. They are actually monitoring the whole event diligently with decibel meters to make sure that you know the animals are comfortable and not disturbed  or potentially disturbed by the activity of NightLife, said Richie Lipton, NightLife Program Logistics Specialist. The lights get dimmed over certain exhibits as the night goes on as to not bother some of the animals. 

The California Academy of Sciences has been doing NightLife events for over a decade.

Claude , the albino alligator, sits in the water at the swamp exhibit in the California Academy of Sciences on Feb. 6, 2020. (Catherine Stites / Golden Gate Xpress)

“Nightlife is a really special arm of the academy because of the different things that we get to try and the new audiences that we get to pull into the academy [and] just hopefully connect  them with the greater purpose of the institution,” said Lipton.

 Be ready to flash your ID at the door and enter into a whole new world at these nights at museums.