Sustainable Catch: NightLife at the Academy Hooks Many

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(Reporting contributed by Maia Wolins, Fine Arts Correspondent)

As we entered the California Academy of Sciences' NightLife event, we were greeted by techno music, crowds of content adults with drinks in hand, and an albino alligator calmly surveying the surroundings. 

By day, the Academy is a family-friendly destination filled with the wonders of nature, tips for sustainable living, and learning opportunities around every corner. By night, each Thursday, the scene transforms into a 21+ cocktail party combined with a visit to the museum.

The lights were dimmed and guests wore semi-formal/casual evening attire, creating a pleasant atmosphere in which to drink and converse. It was easy to strike up casual conversation with neighbors as we moved through the exhibits. DJ-ed music in the entrance hall gave the feeling that there could have been dancing, but the only dancing we witnessed was by the jellyfish, and three patrons reluctantly leaving at the end of the night.

The museum's content ranged from sea horses and sharks in the aquarium section downstairs, to live penguins and preserved cheetahs on the first floor, and access to a "living roof" upstairs. An interesting section on stuffed birds native to California caught our eyes, as well as an exhibit with information on the environmental impact of various dishes such as pancakes with butter, locally grown veggies, and mac 'n' cheese.

Each Nightlife has a theme - the week we attended focused on sustainable fishing. There were guest speakers on solar innovations, and interactive activities teaching about the importance of fishing quotas and cap limits for commercial fishing. One of the games, led by the Environmental Defense Fund, involved an exciting array of plastic fish which participants were instructed to catch with chopsticks and shovels, to demonstrate the perils of overfishing.

The drinks that made the night a cocktail party were created by mixologist Shane McKnight. Each of the 5 concoctions, available for $9 at mini bars around the venue, had a base of organic fruit. According to a Virginian rugby player at the event who "only drinks girly drinks," Shane's watermelon specialty was "the best drink [he] ever had." If you like a sweet sip, the watermelon is a good pick. However, we found the pineapple the most satisfactory, and the ginger the most pleasantly unexpected. Shane's presentation of the drinks was also aesthetically pleasing, with garnishes of fresh berries, mint, and absinthe.

All in all, it was a fun night. It felt like a guilty pleasure to wander the fascinating museum with a drink in hand, a dance beat pulsing through the scene, and no kids to watch for. 


-Nightlife is a great excuse to dress up, but finery is not a necessity to fit in and enjoy the event.

-Go alone, or with friends. Alone you'll learn more from what the museum has to offer, but it's also great as a social event with the backdrop of creatures and information.

-Make your plan ahead of time. If you'd just like to cruise around and catch whatever is available, no need to plan, as there's plenty of untimed entertainment throughout the museum. However, it's easy to get distracted and the Nightlife is only open from 6-10pm, while some things (such as the presentation on solar innovations) begin promptly and end with enough time to enjoy the rest of the event.

-Many of the themed presentations start at 6:30, so arrive on time if you plan to attend. If you'd like to see the rainforest or planetarium, get passes well before 7 and make those your first stops of the night. We missed both the rainforest and planetarium in favor of a sweeping tour of the whole museum, but those two will be our first destinations the next time we go.

EBAC thanks the California Academy of Sciences for access to this event.

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