1.) California Academy of Sciences
I came here not too long after it opened. Not sure how ticket sales are now, but I would recommend buying online. I would also suggest going early so you can get the best view of everything and see all of the shows. Your first stop should be the planetarium to pick up your tickets for the show. After that, go to the indoor rain forest. This is such a cool experience. You feel like you got on a plane and were dropped off in the Amazon.....with some additional tourist there with you. Trees, butterflies, fish, birds. They've got it all. Their aquarium isn't as good as Monterey, but it did have some cool stuff that I've never seen before. One of the most memorable things was the leafy sea dragon. We didn't get to see the planetarium or bug show or the white alligator, but I thought we did a pretty good job. I wasn't really wowed by the "Living Roof", but I guess the idea is cool. I think it would be cooler if they had grass and made it feel like a park so you could have a snack, picnic or just relax and read a book....make it feel more like Golden Gate Park. This is a great place for young or old. I think this is one everyone can enjoy!
2.) Monterey Aquarium
Another Bay Area place I love is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There's not much to see in Monterey but the aquarium alone warrants a day trip. This is another great place for people of all ages. I love that they have lots of hands on stuff mixed in with the regular tanks.
My favorite thing at the aquarium is the jelly fish. This is not to be missed. I love that they have framed them and it feels like moving art. The jelly fish are so graceful. My second favorite thing, a recent addition to the aquarium, is a baby sea otter. Man, those things are cute (and dangerous, the staff decided to shell the sea otters food for them, after the otters were banging the shell fish against the glass to get their food open)!! Salt water, fresh water. They have it all!
I have never been patient enough to watch any of the (video) shows they have but watching the feeding is pretty cool. You may want to look into feeding times when you first arrive, then plan your day accordingly. All of the feedings are pretty cool.