• Academy staff member holding jar from herpetology collection
    Your helpful tour guide will show you behind-the-scenes.
  • A peek at our etymology collections
    Get an up-close look at our collections.
  • Guests with tour guide walking on the Living Roof
    Venture on to the Living Roof.
  • Guest taking a photo of bones
    Get ready for an eye-opening experience.

About the tour

Rolling hills and skylights of the Academy's Living Roof

Explore the secrets of the Academy as you spend 1-hour behind the scenes learning more about how the museum works—and what it takes to house nearly 46 million specimens.

On your tour, you'll visit our scientific research collections, step into our dazzling gem and mineral vault—not on view to the public!—and make your way up to our Living Roof, where you’ll learn how Academy science is changing the world. Tours are limited to 12 total guests. (Please note: Tour includes stairs and unpaved paths.*) Members, your discount will be applied after login.

What’s included:

  • 1-hour guided behind-the-scenes tour 
  • VIP express entrance to Osher Rainforest and The Shake House earthquake simulator
  • Reserved space for a planetarium show
  • 10% off shopping and dining

*We can shift the tour route to avoid stairs if needed, no advance notice required.


Book a VIP Tour

Public guests, please note that you'll need to purchase a timed-entry Daytime Admission ticket as well as a VIP Tour ticket. Visit our Buy Tickets page to purchase your admission ticket, then add VIP Tour tickets to your order after selecting a visit date and time. (If you already have a Daytime Admission ticket, you can purchase a standalone VIP Tour ticket here.)

Members and donors, click here to reserve your VIP Tour tickets. Please note that you will need to log in to receive your member discount.


Tour FAQ

How do I check in?

When you get to the Academy, please check in and let the ticketing agent know that you have a ticket for a VIP Tour. You'll then collect your lanyard and get ready to enjoy your perks! Please meet your guide five minutes before your scheduled tour time at the VIP Tour cart in the front lobby next to the T-Rex skeleton.


What if I'm running late?

Tours run on schedule, so please arrive early to check in and meet your guide at the tour cart. Refunds will not be given to no-shows or guests who arrive after the tour has departed.

Are VIP Tours accessible?

We can shift the tour route to avoid stairs if needed, no advance notice is required. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email us at experiences@calacademy.org or call us at 415-379-5854 to inquire about accessible tour options.

Service dogs are welcome at the Academy if providing assistance to individuals with disabilities, but a small number of areas, including the rainforest, research collections, and back-of-house, do remain off-limits. If you plan on bringing your service dog to the Academy or would like additional information, please call our Contact Center at 415-379-8000 and press 0 to speak with a representative.

What else should I know about VIP Tours?

Comfortable shoes and clothing appropriate for indoor and outdoor environments are strongly recommended. Please note that open food and beverages, including gum and candy, are prohibited on the tour, as is flash photography and video.

How can I make my tour private?

Our team would be happy to assist you in booking a private VIP Tour. Please email us at experiences@calacademy.org or call us at 415-379-5854 to learn more.

Can I bring a large group on a tour?

If you are interested in arranging a large group (more than 12 people) for a VIP Tour please contact us at experiences@calacdemy.org.

Interested in a tour for your group?

Please complete this form if you're interested in booking a tour for a large group and we'll follow up with you.