When you just have to get out of the house but you can’t go outside, consider one of these aquatic exhibits. There’s more than just one aquarium in town, you know.
Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
As Southern California’s largest aquarium, and the fourth largest in the nation, visitors can find over 11,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits. Three main regions of the Pacific Ocean and their sea life are displayed including Southern California and Baja, the Northern Pacific (off the coasts of Alaska, Russia, and Japan), and the Tropical Pacific (the coral reefs of Palau). Additionally, the aquarium offers educational programs for adults, children, and families, hands-on activities, and lecture series. Be sure to inquire about special animal encounters, summer and winter camps, sleepovers, behind-the scenes tours, and whale watch cruises.
*Tip* Visit during the hours of 5 pm to 9 pm on select days and receive discounted admission.
Each year, over 100,000 students participate in one of the 61 award-winning marine science and maritime history programs offered by the Ocean Institute. The programs are highly immersive, taking students onto the ocean, into laboratories, and aboard ships to learn about oceanography, science, history, and more. The institute is open to the public each weekend for an inside look at how they’re inspiring learning. Also offered are a variety of visitor programs including their annual Jazz event, behind the scenes tours, marine wildlife cruises, and more.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
For over 75 years, the aquarium has provided a space to learn about and interact with local marine life. Boasting the largest collection of marine life in the world, the aquarium offers a variety of ways to engage via interpretive displays, museum collections, and educational programs. Experiences include guided tidepool walks, art classes, whale watching, grunion runs, lectures, and more. *Tip* Check the tide table to plan your visit during low tides which is optimal for exploring.
Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium
School field trips, summer camp, birthday parties, and sleepovers are just a few of the educational and engaging experiences offered at the aquarium which is located at the end of Manhattan Beach Pier. The nonprofit organization teaches visitors both young and old about the oceans, marine life, and the environment. The aquarium is open daily and offers educational tours, free sea story times, and unique experiences including a sleepover at the aquarium with the sharks. Be sure to stay up to date with the latest by following the aquarium on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roundhouse-Marine-Studies-Lab-and-Aquarium/64031319675)
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Overlooking the ocean in beautiful La Jolla, California lies the aquarium, which features more than 60 habitats of fish and invertebrates from the waters of the Pacific Northwest to Mexico, and everything in between. The aquarium, which serves as the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, provides ocean science education, interprets Scripps research, and promotes ocean conservation as seen in their exhibits, programs, and activities. As one of San Diego’s leading cultural destinations, the aquarium offers much in the way of engaging experiences for adults in children including lectures, concert series, and outdoor adventures (i.e. tidepooling, grunion runs). Be sure to inquire about kid-specific programs including birthday parties, summer camps, and sleepovers, and more.
*Tip* Before your visit, check out the animal feeding schedule in order to coordinate the timing with your visit. This is an optimal time to observe animal behaviors as the habitat comes to life.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Dedicated to research, rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and stranded marine mammals, this non-profit organization helps preserve the species while raising public awareness. The organization is unique in that it’s the only one of it’s kind in Orange County, responding to several hundred mammal rescue calls each year. Kid-specific programs are available for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary, middle, and high school students. The center is open daily and free to the public, however donations are encouraged.
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Located at the Santa Monica Pier, the aquarium is home to more than 100 species of marine animals and plants native to the Santa Monica Bay. With a mission to provide education and inspiration surrounding conservation, the aquarium offers hands-on education, activities, and events around the topics of preventing pollution, marine conservation, and biodiversity. Be sure to explore the touch tanks which allow visitors the opportunity to explore hermit crabs, sea urchins, tube worms, and more. Be sure to check out the aquariums quarterly themed weekends, weekly Shark Sundays, and free lecture series.
Caryn Bailey is a mom and blogger in Orange County who publishes the blog Rockin’ Mama.