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Golden Gate Park: Academy of Sciences, Botanical Garden, Twirl & Dip, plus the Mission

Since well before we moved to California, I'd been looking forward to visiting the Academy of Sciences. It's a fantastic natural history museum that goes pretty in depth in a few exhibits.

What I liked about it: it took a few exhibits and really went all out. I'm especially thinking of the three-story rainforest exhibit. It really is just spectacular and there's no way to catch it on camera. You start at the bottom and work your way up through different sections of rainforest modeled after different locations around the world. Butterflies are free to fly around; my favorites are the ones with the electric blue backs.

The kids loved exploring the reptiles and amphibians in tanks throughout, and we all loved gazing down at the pond far below. There were good explanations of falling trees and how the nutrients are put back into other growing plants, and of various animals and insects.

Mostly, it was just BEAUTIFUL to see.

We also loved the earthquake exhibit, and the hands-on activities there to teach earthquake safety, retrofitting, and history. There's even an earthquake simulator!

The aquarium is also quite nice. Not quite Monterey, but there's a good diversity of sea life as well as a touch pool, which is always fun. There's one room with low windows to see different creatures, so toone especially loved that. The crown jewel is the glass archway where you can view several of the larger animals - super fun.

After leaving the Academy of Sciences (where we'd eaten lunch in the courtyard), we were ready for a treat, so we decided to share some Twirl & Dip ice cream. I'm not generally a huge soft serve fan, but this was super tasty coated with chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt. The kids were all covered in goo after but that's why we have baby wipes.

Finally, we stopped into the Botanical Garden, which was more vast than I anticipated. We walked around a bit and enjoyed the pond, but didn't spend too long since rain was threatening. Our favorite spot, though, was the California native plants section, especially the redwood grove. Beautiful and peaceful and felt like we were really out in a redwood forest.

After all our activities, we had zero desire to go home and cook dinner, so we popped over to the Mission to try out La Taqueria. Lived up to hype. Delish tacos (even as vegetarians!). The tortillas were soft but structured and flavorful, the beans were perfect, and guac is always a must. Mmm.

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