We opted for a semi-local adventure this weekend and took the kids to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. This is definitely a kid-friendly spot, but it also offers plenty of fun for adults (they even have adults only members nights with drinks and entertainment, though we have yet to make it to one). We are fairly regular visitors at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and would like to share what we consider the highlights as well as our pro tips for a successful visit.
The Hidden Jellyfish Touch Tank: I have to admit that it took us several visits before we discovered what is now our favorite tank at the Aquarium (or at least our toddler’s favorite). The jellyfish touch tank is outside in a quiet corner behind the gift shop. These jellyfish don’t sting, and there are helpful volunteers to teach you about the jellyfish and remind overzealous kiddos of the “one- or two-finger” gentle touch rule.
The Pacific Otter Tank: Another favorite are the adorable otters who are usually putting on quite the show with tons of playful spins. We head to the tank as soon as the doors open and enjoy the viewing area to ourselves for a bit before it gets crowded (see tips below).
Escape to the Terrace: There’s a great terrace with tables and chairs on the second level, and it’s a perfect spot for a break from the hustle and bustle of some of the busier area of the Aquarium. Pack a snack (or grab one from the cafe) and enjoy a picnic.
Super-Sized Tanks & Tunnels: There is something so dramatic and inviting about two-story tall tanks and tunnels where fish or sea lions swim above or below you. The Aquarium of the Pacific does not disappoint, with two tunnels and a few dramatic large tanks. Let yourself be awed by the super-sized creatures swimming by.
Pro Tips for a Successful Visit:
Go on a Weekday if you Can: This is probably a no-brainer, but worth stating that the Aquarium (and most other things in Los Angeles County involving kids) will be much less busy on a weekday. You may run into some school field trips though.
Arrive When They Open: Get in before the crowds and make a mad dash straight for the Pacific Otters, the cutest little critters in the place (at least we think so). You’ll have the viewing area largely to yourself and they’ll usually do a ton of spins for you. See as much as you can before the crowds start arriving.
Get a Coupon: As of this posting, the Aquarium is offering $8 off online through this link. If that link no longer works at some point, the Aquarium’s web site states as of this writing that Domino’s and Smart and Final offer coupons. A AAA membership will also get you 10% off tickets at the window, or 25% off when you order tickets in advance through AAA. Memberships are a great option if you plan to attend more than 2 or 3 times in a year.
Make a Day of It: The nice thing about the Aquarium is that once you’re there, you can take advantage of the rest of the Shoreline Village area where the Aquarium is located. Take a nice walk up to the lighthouse, walk to one of the many restaurants, or check out the touristy shops. If you’ve got a bit more time and money, hop on a whale watching trip or a harbor cruise just a hundred yards or so from the Aquarium entrance. Still have more time? Downtown Long Beach is just up the hill with plenty more food and shopping options.
What are some of your favorite aquariums to visit?