Aquarium of the Pacific
Pet a Shark, Try and Mimic a Blue Whale's Song, Check Out The Bizzare Sea Dragon and More!
Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
Focusing on the Pacific Ocean's three different regions: Northern Pacific, Tropical Pacific and Southern California/Baja, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific packs 500 different species into a somewhat haphazard layout that can be a bit of a maze, but also a fun Los Angeles attraction not too far from the city.
The Long Beach waterfront known as the Pike at Rainbow Harbor is home to to the aquarium. This area is an interesting place. It's a recent development that has transformed the Long Beach Shoreline into a somewhat “Disneyfied” entertainment complex, complete with restaurants, video game arcades and a movie megaplex. The biggest draw however is the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific itself!
Like the Los Angeles Zoo, The aquarium is a great attraction for the whole family, although if you go on the weekend during the holidays like I did, be prepared to dodge more than a few strollers! ;-)
All part of the fun though. In fact, if you go during Christmas you may come face to face with Santa feeding the fishes!
Planning Your Visit
If you stick to the core exhibits, the Long Beach aquarium can be experienced in a half a day. However, if you take advantage of the various presentations and tours your visit can easily fill a full day.
Upon entering be sure to grab a visitor's guide, there you can check out the map of the aquarium. The aquarium of the pacific is laid out on 2 floors, with different exhibits scattered throughout. There isn't a clear cut route to take, so be sure to use the map to make sure you don't miss anything!
As I said earlier the aquarium covers the 3 different regions of the Pacific Ocean. So make sure your kids don't get disappointed because you've pumped them up to see the “Amazonian Piranhas”! ;-)
Let's take a look at some of the highlights of the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific:
The Blue Whale Replica
Upon entering the aquarium it's hard to miss the life size replica of the largest animal to have ever lived on earth, the Blue Whale. Even if it's a fake, it's sheer massiveness is breathtaking. Could you imagine snorkeling or diving and coming eye to eye (or I should say “body to eye”) with one of these guys?
Southern California/Baja Gallery
Seals and Sea Lions
Located near the end of the Southern California section, the seal and sea lion underwater viewing tunnel is a cool way to see these fun loving creatures. Watch as they dive underwater from their outdoor habitat, rolling along as they swim around you!
After you pass through the seal tunnel you'll find yourself outside in front of Shark Lagoon, certainly the most fun part of the aquarium for the kids. Using 2 fingers you are allowed to touch a variety of small sharks, skates and large rays. Pretty cool experience!
Be sure to follow the rules and help out the poor besieged aquarium staffer sitting on the lifeguard style chair. She's in a constant battle to prevent kids from falling in, throwing things in the water, grabbing the shark's tails and more. It looked exhausting.
Below the touch tanks is the underwater tank filled with sharks you're definitely NOT gonna want to touch! The tank has six different species of shark including the very bizarre Sawfish and the and the very cool Zebra Shark.
Northern Pacific Gallery
On the second floor of the Aquarium of the Pacific you can find the Northern Pacific gallery that explores animals from the Bering sea up near Alaska and the eastern tip of Russia.
Jellies have been in the news a lot recently because of their seeming intent to take over the oceans, reproducing like crazy and destroying many ocean habitats.
Here you can come up close and personal with these mysterious creatures. The tanks are backlit, creating a beautiful effect when combined with the jellies' translucency.
Don't miss these cute guys diving in and out of the frigid waters in their exhibit. They even have a panel that recreates for you the “tangerine” smell Auklet's secrete during breeding season! If you live in Alaska you may want to think twice before buying citrus smelling perfume or cologne. ;-)
Giant Spider Crabs
These are both creepy and fascinating. They seem to be quite curious too, often coming up to the glass to fraternize with visitors.
Whales: Voices in the Sea
This cool station is just outside the entrance to the Northern Pacific gallery. Check out the different sounds whales use underwater to communicate. A whale call made in Hawaii can be heard by another all the way off the coast of California! You can even record your own voice to see if you can mimic a specific type of whale's call.
Tropical Pacific Gallery
Can you pick out the most venomous fish in the world? There were apparently seven in the tank, I was only able to spot 5! Most venomous fish in the world and it looks like a rock!? Recipe for a disaster.
Shark Egg Cases
This was one of the most interesting exhibits at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The little shark egg sacs look kind of like a form of kelp and anchor themselves to rocks. In order for visitors to get a glimpse of the baby shark inside the sac, a slit is cut open on the side of the case.
You can actually see the tiny shark moving inside, feeding on it's companion yolk sac which supplies it with nutrients. They even display egg sacs of different ages, allowing you to see their growth.
Soft Coral Tunnel
This tunnel in the tropical gallery is another really cool experience at the aquarium. A ton of colourful fish as well as other beautiful marine animals encircle you as you walk through.
See if you can pick out my sister's favorite, the Bluespine Unicornfish! Be sure to spot the Olive Ridley sea turtle and the giant grumpy looking Queensland Grouper.
By far one of the most strange and captivating creatures at the Long Beach aquarium are the Sea Dragons! These seahorse type animals glide around looking like floating shrubbery, with leaf and stick-like protrusions sprouting from their bodies. Ingenious camouflage!
They are very serene creatures floating around in slow motion, occasionally grappling their little tails on passing seaweed to anchor themselves. Don't miss them!
Be warned these are computer animated, no live footage! I went into “Monsters of the Abyss” looking forward to underwater video of the creepy fish that live in the deep ocean trenches of the world. Instead the movie was more like a video game or a cartoon. Having said that I'm sure kids would love both 3D movies, the other being “A Fish Story”.
Emboss Your Guide
Throughout the aquarium there are “embossing” stations where you can stamp your visitor's guide with different animals insignias. Can you collect them all?
Presentations and Tours
To be honest there isn't a whole lot of posted information on the various animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific. There's some, just not a lot. So if you would like more info make sure you take advantage ofthe various presentations the aquarium offers. With the visitor guide given to you at the entrance, you should also receive a days schedule with presentations to pick from. Here's some of what you can see:
Dive shows: Watch these divers feed the fishes and hang out in the giant Blue Cavern and Tropical reef tanks.
Shark Presentations: Head out to Shark Lagoon to learn how the aquarium cares for their sharks.
Movies: In the Great Hall you can see a movie on whales and a movie on sharks projected on 8 screens.
For an extra charge you can get a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium of the Pacific. Check out what they call “the wet side”, parts closed to the general public. Learn about animal care and feeding. You also get to head above the giant tropical reef tank and feed the various fishes.
15$ for non members (on top of general admission charge)
11$ for members
If you really what to get up close and personal with the animals at the aquarium and are prepared to pay 90$, you can sign up for one of the three different animal encounters. A 2 hour tour of the aquarium is included with your animal encounter where you'll be able to feed and interact with the animals. You can choose from:
Seals and Sea Lions - (10 yrs and up. Under 16 must be accompanied by adult. Closed toe shoes.)
Sea Otters - (10 yrs and up. Under 16 must be accompanied by adult. Closed toe shoes.)
Sharks - (13 yrs and up. Under 16 must be accompanied by adult. Guests must bring a bathing suit. Private showers and change rooms provided. Guests must be at least 5 feet tall to enter the pool, otherwise they must sit on the edge of the pool and interact with the animals from there. Closed toe shoes.)
These encounters happen on Saturdays and Sundays only from 9:30 am to 11:30am. Reservations must be made 24 hours in advance.
A free option is the
which you can download from the Aquarium of the Pacific website and put on your mp3 player.
- Adult: $23.95
- Child (3-11): $11.95
- Senior (62+): $20.95
These prices are a bit steep, but don't worry! There's no reason to pay full price, there are several ways to save.
Getting There and Parking
Directions to the Aquarium from Los Angeles:
- Take the 405 S to 710 S and follow signs
Directions to the Aquarium from Orange County:
- Take the 405 N to the 22 West/7th Street Exit
- Continue on 7th Street for approximately 8 miles
- Turn left on Alamitos and follow the signs
Here's a link to a map to the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific.
I tried pretty hard to avoid paying the $7 parking fee for the day at the structure in front of the aquarium. I drove around for a while looking for 2 hour spots but with no luck. You can find meter parking relatively easily but they have a 2 hour limit which to fill up will cost $4 dollars anyway. So I think unfortunately the $7 flat rate is your best bet.
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