The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California is first rate. Their stated mission is “to inspire conservation of the ocean,” and with their large and gorgeous exhibits, they certainly do.
I recently visited with my parents and showed them some of the wonders of this undersea world. We began at the popular kelp forest aquarium. This tank is 28 feet tall! It gets its water from the natural ebb and flow of the Monterey Bay and natural sunlight pours in through the open top. They have two feedings a day where a scuba diver feeds the fish while using a special microphone to communicate with the outside docent. There is a small theater setting for visitors to watch but you need to get there about 20 minutes early to get a seat. Luckily there is lots of floor space for children.
There are two floors with 12 exhibitions in the Monterey Aquarium. Ever popular exhibits besides the Kelp Forest include Tentacles, Sea Otters, Touch Pools, an Aviary and the Open Sea with its mesmerizing Jellies section. There are also open decks with views over the Monterey Bay where you can often see otters, seals, birds and even a passing whale.
Parents with young children will love this aquarium because they have a Splash Zone Play Area (the relief at being able to rest while your kids run around!), touch pools and an auditorium with several short films that entertain the whole family. They even run quizzes on-screen before the movie starts to further entertain your restless children. There is also a very good cafe and a good but expensive restaurant.
The Monterey Aquarium is a research and education center as well. As you walk around you will notice many informative artworks and signage about habitats and the current state of our oceans.
Get there early and during the week if you can in order to miss the crowds. Tickets are expensive but when you see the state of the art aquariums and exhibits you will understand why. Plan to spend at least four hours there and you will get your money’s worth. And while you are there, be sure to walk down Cannery Row – the street author John Steinbeck made famous many years ago. For hours, location and ticket prices, go to their website.
Here are a few more photos to give you a hint of the treasures inside the aquarium.
All photos by Karen Gough