Otters, octopus, rays and sharks… oh my! You can find them all and more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it’s great fun for the whole family.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a nonprofit public aquarium located on Cannery Row in Monterey, CA; just over an hour’s drive away from Santa Cruz. Known for its regional focus on the marine habitats of Monterey Bay, it was the first to exhibit a living kelp forest when it opened in 1984 and it was the first to successfully care for and display a great white shark. It was also the largest public aquarium in the United States. Today it has over 200 live animal exhibits. The aquarium's research and conservation efforts also focus on rescued sea otters, a variety of birds, tunas, and crustaceans.
The aquarium is also known for creating and publishing its annual Seafood Watch list since 1999. Seafood Watch is one of the best known sustainable seafood advisory lists providing science-based seafood recommendations that consumers, chefs, and business professionals use to inform their seafood purchasing decisions.
Fun Fact: Parts of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the one with the whales) were filmed in Monterey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium which served as the location for the fictitious 'Sausalito Cetacean Institute.'
The Monterey Bay Aquarium was built at the site of a defunct sardine cannery on what was then known as Ocean View Avenue. In 1958 the City of Monterey officially re-named Ocean View Avenue "Cannery Row" in honor of John Steinbeck and his novel. Today, Cannery Row's buildings are updated versions of the turn-of-the-century canneries with a variety of family-friendly attractions, shops, galleries and restaurants. It’s definitely worth checking out after visiting the aquarium. Walk a bit further along the road and you’ll find a number of great seafood restaurants along the water.
You should plan on getting to the aquarium early because it can get quite crowded as the day progresses. Doors open at 10:00am but lines start forming before then. In addition to the exhibits, there are also daily shows and feedings throughout the day — the sea otter and penguin feedings in particular are worth watching – and are free with admission.
You might consider getting a Family Membership for $250, which seems like a lot but it covers not only your entire family for unlimited admission all year long, but also two additional designated adults plus their children or grandchildren (ages 3-21). So if you visit with another family and/or plan to return again at least once during the year, it more than pays for itself. Plus you get Express Entry through a separate Member’s Entrance, special evening and early morning hours, discounts on merchandise, programs and special events, previews of special exhibitions and more. Membership fees are considered donations and, therefore, contributions are tax-deductible.
Family Tours are also available ($15 per person plus admission, or $12 per person for Aquarium members) for a behind-the-scenes look with trained naturalists who share insider stories about the aquarium’s most popular animals. Hands-on activities make this a great choice for families with children under eight years old. Other tours are also available, including Feeding Frenzy, Sharks, Sea Otters and a Personal Guided Tour. Prices vary. Book in advance online.
Monterey Bay Aquarium 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940. Tel. (831) 648-4800. www.montereybayaquarium.org
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