on June 7, 2013
I have been to several aquariums, many of which serve as research and educational marine biology laboratories. I would put the Monterey Bay Aquarium right up there at the top for the high quality visitor experience provided!Having driven up from the LA area that day, we arrived right around noontime. While perhaps at the height of the visitor traffic, it was generally easy to get around through the two floors of exhibits and interactive displays. I should note, we were visiting mid-week and there were several school groups also touring the aquarium. This was most apparent in the dining areas including in front of the otters' exhibit by Cindy's Waterfront Cafe and the gift shop.At the admission desk, we were given "Today at the Aquarium" which provided the feeding and special programming events for the day, as well as a nice full page layout of the complex. This was very helpful as we navigated through our three hour visit.There was a nice blend of viewing, hands on ("touch"), and demonstration exhibits. Many marine creatures are best observed through large enclosed tanks while others are better explored through interactive teaching methods. There were several of these interactive areas throughout the facility, including one area that appeared to be especially engaging . . . Flippers, Flukes and Fun. Young kids could be seen learning while playing.A couple of the areas that I personally enjoyed the most were the current special exhibit "The Jellies Experience" and "The Secret Lives of Seahorses" exhibit. I had no idea there were so many unique species of seahorses including one that looked prehistoric (the weedy sea dragon) and another that looked like some strange form of plant life (the leafy sea dragon).The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in October 1984 after more than seven years of planning and construction. Throughout the years since, they have updated their presentations with innovative and creative exhibits. They continue their mission of "inspiring conservation of the oceans" through their presence in the community.Prior to being an aquarium, the two buildings that make up the aquarium were part of the Hovden Cannery. Built in 1916 and operating until its closure in 1979, some of the original building and equipment remains as a reminder of the sardine canning industry that made Monterey the famous industrial area it was. Visitors should take the 10 or 15 minutes necessary to take a look at the various displays and photos in the ground floor entrance area.During our visit, we did enjoy some time outside at the "Life on the Bay" viewing station. From there, guests can look for sea otters, harbor seals, whales, dolphins and a variety of birds. As part of a 5,300 square mile National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey Bay is a great location to view these animals close up. During our visit, we did see some sea otters about 100 yards out. If you are interested in what you might see there today, check out their 24/7 Monterey Bay web cam: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/efc/efc_lotb/webcam.aspx .Admission is $34.95 for adults, with discounts for children, students and seniors. In addition to the general admission price, guests can also take a number of behind the scenes tours for $12 For those wanting an in-depth 90 minute personal tour, prices start at $144 for up to six people and $24 for each additional over the six. For those who may visit more frequently or who wish to support the work of the aquarium, memberships are also available. Parking is limited along the streets near the aquarium but there are a couple of convenient parking structures which are along the free trolley route.For more information, including hours of operation and special group tours, check them out at: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/vi/default.aspx?c=dd .
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