The Monterey Bay Aquarium is arguably the best aquarium in the U.S. (given I’ve not gone to any aquariums outside the U.S.). I’ve been to some very nice aquariums, including my local Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, but the Monterey Aquarium tops the list. Its primary focus, including the large pelagic tank (home to the recently released – unfortunately, a day or two before our visit – juvenile female great white shark – kudos to the aquarium and veterinary staff for keeping her healthy), is the local Pacific waters.
One particularly nice exhibit for those unfortunate souls who don’t dive was a series of tanks showing what you would hope to see on a dive in the Monterey Bay.
Other exhibits include a gorgeous display of jellies and inspired-by-jellies artwork; the aforementioned pelagic tank was just mesmerizing, as we watched huge tunas and dolphin fish, as well as rays and hammerheads, the ever-popular sea otters, and so many educational stops for obviously gleeful and inspired kids it gives you hope in the future for the environment. They’ve also set up webcams so you can watch some of your favorite tanks/critters.
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the seafood watch list –-a trifold card to carry in your wallet so you know which fish are environmentally good to eat.
The giftshop is worth a stop because of the huge book selection, ranging from local information, the animals themselves, oceanography, and general environmental texts, as well as the nice selection of shirts, trinkets, postcards/notecards, and more. Profits go to support the aquarium.