California – Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an immensely popular attraction in California and is frequently named one of the best aquariums in the country. My husband and I had been there two or three other times, but before we had kids, so we very much looked forward to going back there with the kids. Our first impression when we got there was, “Wow, this is CROWDED!” So my first tip is to consider the timing of your visit. If you have preschool aged or younger children, I would highly recommend planning your visit during the school year.
The first exhibit we viewed was the sea otters. These adorable animals are very popular and the viewing windows were lined three and four people deep waiting to see the otters. If you are patient, eventually you will make your way to the glass where you can see these playful creatures.
The exhibit where we probably spent the most time was the octopus tank. Ever since then, my son has wanted to get a pet octopus, so maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. 😉 We got to stare down an octopus, then examine the underside of its tentacles. Utterly fascinating!
Since we visited, they’ve opened a new exhibit called Tentacles that includes octopuses and other cephalopods. I wish we could have seen it.
Monterey Bay Habitats showcases animals that can be found in Monterey Bay. One of my favorites in this section was the sand dollar tank.
The sanddabs will play hide and seek with you. Do you see the fish?
You can also expect to see eels, sharks, and rays.
I love that Monterey Bay Aquarium has not just one Touch Tank, but several of them. In this one, you can pet bat rays.
The Aviary was a quiet place to get away from the crowds for a while and view birds that live along the shore.
Another thing you want to check out in your program is start times for Auditorium Programs and Family Shows which are geared for young visitors. My youngest daughter liked the musical puppet show, but my son and I preferred to spend the time looking at animals instead. And speaking of animals, some of my favorites are jellyfish. There were two jellyfish areas: Jellies and The Jellies Experience. The latter has music and groovy 60’s feel. I preferred Jellies because I didn’t need any special effects in order to study these fascinating creatures.
The Open Sea mesmerizes visitors with large animals like sharks and rays, schools of fish, giant sea turtles, and more.
Flippers, Flukes, and Fun is an area designed just for kids.
Make sure you get outside at some point to see the sea lions out in the bay.
Of course, I had to save one of my favorites for last. I was absolutely awed by the variety of seahorses at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll see.
A cafe and restaurant are located on the premises and both have a fabulous view of the ocean. One more tip: there’s a lot to see at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and if you stay at the Hofsas House Hotel and purchase your aquarium tickets through the hotel, you’ll receive a 2-day pass for the price of a single day. Especially if you have young kids who tire easily, this would be a great way to get the most bang for your buck.
Ready to visit?
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
Adults: $39. 95
Children (3-13): $24.95
Students (13-17): $34.95
Seniors (65+): $34.95
Hours: Check website
Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to the aquarium as a journalist for review purposes. We paid for the remaining tickets ourselves. Many thanks to the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau for coordinating our visit.
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This attraction appears in my e-book, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.