Kids Will Find California Aquariums A Fun Stop

Aquariums are a fun and educational experience for the whole family and, if you’re planning a trip to California, they are pretty easy to find. From San Francisco to La Jolla, some of the best aquariums in the country are awaiting your discovery.

If you have young kids, a trip to an aquarium can be richly rewarding experience as you watch the wonder in their eyes as they get an up-close look at the other-worldly creatures swimming in tanks designed to look like native habitats. With elaborate signing and fun hands-on exhibits, an aquarium seems almost like a theme park to most children. They’ll discover sealife and various creatures that will offer hours of stimulation.

Here is where you can find some great aquariums in the state of California:

Monterey Bay Aquarium

With its colorful history and Cannery Row sightseeing, Monterey is a popular destination for many California travelers. And Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the biggest reasons people travel to Monterey. You can easily spend many hours in this first-class facility housing more than 6,500 fascinating sea creatures.

Housed in one of the former cannery buildings, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a fascinating exploration of the undersea life found near Monterey. The aquarium covers everything from tide pool creatures to sharks and even features a 31-foot high kelp forest that is visible in one of the aquarium’s huge tanks. Two-story viewing windows give visitors the feeling they are truly 20,000 leagues under the sea.

One of our first impressions was how unique and artistic many of the exhibits are. They combine living creatures with art displays in a very unsual way. The great thing is that exhibits are always changing. So, while we enjoyed the Jellies during our visit, you’ll see other interesting exhbits when you go: Living Art exhibit which featured not only the always colorful jellyfish, but artwork and installations by such well know art figures as Dale Chihuly, David Hockney and Cork Marcheschi.

Among the other parts of the aquarium we enjoyed were the sharks and schools of fish in the Monterey Bay Habitats section, the unusual animals found only at great depths in the Mysteries of the Deep exhibit, and the California Sea Otters, always a crowd favorite.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach. For more information, phone 1-800-756-3737 or visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Aquarium of the Pacific

If you haven’t been to Long Beach yet, you’re in for a treat. You’ve no doubt heard about the famous Queen Mary worth an hour or two of exploration all by itself but nearby is Rainbow Harbor, which offers a multitude of activities that are all within a short walk. The “boardwalk” around the harbor’s shoreline takes you past a host of sea-going vessels ranging from huge excursion boats to paddle-wheel riverboats to historic schooners to garden-variety fishing boats. Several boats offer harbor tours while others will take you whale-watching.

One of the must-see attractions right in Rainbow Harbor is the Aquarium of the Pacific. Home to more than 12,500 ocean animals, the Aquarium also features 19 major habitats and 32 focus exhibits. We spent a couple hours wandering through the exhibits and found each one fascinating and a fun experience for oldsters as well as youngsters.

The Shark Lagoon is one of the most popular exhibits at the Aquarium of the Pacific. With more than 150 sharks, the lagoon includes large sharks, rays and shark touch pools where you reach down and feel them as they swim by. The Aquarium also has exhibits on various geographic areas including the Northern Pacific, Southern California/Baja and the Tropical Pacific.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is an example of major redevelopment that has made Long Beach one of the most surprising and interesting destinations in California. For decades this was a Navy town and some say the types of businesses that sprung up to cater to young enlisted men were not the type the city needed to become a major tourist destination. All of that has now changed and the stylish condos, new restaurants and colorful shopping areas such as Shoreline Village and Pine Avenue have made Long Beach a popular spot for families and couples from all over California.

Aquarium of the Bay

Next time you visit Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, the Aquarium of the Bay is right in the center of the action. Even in summer, the chilly breezes blowing down on the wharf may convince you it would be good to take a break and see a great exhibit that happens to be located indoors.

Uniquely, the Aquarium of the Bay has about 300 tunnels that visitors can walk through that makes it feel like you’re walking through a fish tank. Sharks, eels, octopus whatever sea animals you’re interested in, chances are you’ll see it swimming somewhere at the Aquarium of the Bay.

The kids will be especially interested in the touch pools where they can touch starfish, bat rays and even small sharks.

The aquarium is just part of the attraction here as many seafood restaurants and tourist attractions are located on Pier 39 — which, incidentally, offers terrific views of San Francisco Bay. Take a walk along the pier and you’ll probably spot dozens of sea lions sprawling on the docks below. It’s as if they’re holding court for the tourists who can’t resist their charms.

For more information on the Aquarium of the Bay, visit www.aquariumofthebay.com or call 1-888-732-3483.

Birch Aquarium

The village of La Jolla, near San Diego, is worth a getaway any time of year with its spectacular coastal views, great restaurants and trendy shopping. But one of the best local attractions for kids is the Birch Aquarium.

This is not a huge facility like the aquariums in Monterey and Long Beach, but rather a smaller, more intimate experience where the kids can take their time viewing the exhibits and where parents won’t have to deal with large crowds.

Exhibits at the aquarium are organized by type of fish, and by type of environment. For example, the “Gateway to Baja” looks at fish from that particular region. Another exhibit is on the various species found in tide pools. You can see the difference between the fish found in Southern California waters and those found in the tropics.

Among the most popular exhibits at the Birch Aquarium is the seahorse exhibit where you can view a wide variety of these creatures ranging from tiny half-inch seahorses up to sea dragons. The intereactive exhibits are fun and will teach kids all about oceanography. They can ride an earthquake machine or learn the properties of water and how waves are made. Videos offer extraordinary glimpses of life beneath the sea.

For more information on Birch Aquarium, call 858-534-3474 or visit http://aquarium.ucsd.edu.

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