Hard to give a nutshell review because the place is so uneven. They say they have the biggest digital planetarium, but it's more like a small IMAX theater with a very basic planetarium function. The movie they showed was a Young Adult level "how the Universe came to be" narrated by that distinguished astrophysicist Whoopi Goldberg, putting out controversial theories right and left as if they were established fact.
The aquarium is a poor man's Monterey Bay, sans sharks or anything large or predatory. The "Philippine Coral Reef" tank was an education - I did not know previously that coral reefs in the Philippines were made of sculpted concrete. There is a lagoon which one can look at from above or below, but the "below" tunnel is only about 15 feet long.
I was surprised at how much of the exhibits were photographable, but there could have been more. The penguin tank was obviously not planned as a public feeding event venue, nor was the lagoon. The mesh they use in the raptor pen makes photos impossible.
The tropical rain forest exhibit is a lot of fun, there are butterflies and birds sharing the space with the spectators. The collection is very limited, but the spiral boardwalk which traverses 4 levels is a neat idea.
A huge amount of space is given to climate change, without much actual content. Ditto the exhibit on bugs. Almost no space is given to the traditional natural history dinosaur exhibit. I counted one (1) skeleton. Lame. There is lots of fine taxidermy, and some of it can be seen being done in the glass-walled lab.
The much-publicized Living Roof is mostly not living. There is a lot of glass, a lot of metal, and sad but true much of what could have been done in solar panels was done in frosted glass. There is a carpet of ground cover plants, some of which are flowering, but I'd guess this only covers about 1/3 of the roof.
An interesting piece of trivia is the new planetarium is still called the Morrison, and the new aquarium is still the Steinhart.
The food service is a mixed bag. There is a very limited offering in a large open space just past the main entry. Three or four kinds of sandwiches, two kinds of steamed buns, fruit, salad. Down the hall is a multi-station cafeteria with a lot of choices, including everything offered in the first location. And apparently there is also a restaurant upstairs, but I didn't check it out.
I was done making the rounds by 2, but stayed till 4 for a couple of demos and feedings.
Walked about 5 minutes to Irving street and caught the N trolley to CalTrain, arriving in time for the 5:14 baby bullet home.
Photo set on flickr clicky