Activities & Resources
Aquarium of the Pacific554in Long Beach, CA 90802
about Aquarium of the Pacific:
The exhibits stretch from floor to ceiling; kids can lie right down on the carpets and stare up as schools of brightly colored tropical fish go swimming by, and feel that cold thrill as a shark suddenly darts into the picture. Scuba divers make periodic appearances to feed the fish and clean the coral, and are quite willing to wave and clown around for delighted children.
The centerpiece is the 10,000 square foot Shark Lagoon, which offers visitors the opportunity to touch and interact with bamboo, nurse, epaulette, and zebra sharks in shallow pools. One section, featuring above-and-below water views, allows guests to get nose-to-nose (but not, happily, hand-to-mouth) with large, toothy sharks. Sand tiger (endangered in Australia), zebra, nurse, and whitetip reef sharks, as well as rays, are featured. Special daily feeding presentations are a predictably huge draw - who doesn't want to watch sharks eat?
Opportunities for observing and touching other live creatures also abound, both above and under water. There are 19 major habitats on two levels, and 32 focus exhibits. Squeamish kids may not want to feel the sea urchins and anemones, but aquarium staffers are on hand to help those who do.
One gallery covers the Northern Pacific, and is slightly chilly and a bit grey, but worth seeing if only for the naturally comedic puffins. The other galleries cover the temperate waters of Southern California and Baja and the wonderfully warm and colorful tropical Pacific.
Kids can also take an expedition to visit friendly birds from Down Under in the Lorikeet Forest, a 5,200 square-foot walk-through aviary that brings new meaning to the word "encounter:" kids can feed the little flutterballs nectar from a cup!
Indoor and outdoor theaters feature regular showings of documentaries and animal education programs.
The outdoor Explorer's Cove includes Lorikeet Forest, Shark Lagoon, and the Marine Life Theater. There's also an adjacent refreshment and snack area, the Bamboo Bistro.
Cafe Scuba is a cafeteria style restaurant offering hot and cold entrees, salads, and sandwiches. There are plenty of high chairs and booster seats, and indoor and outdoor seating.
The bathrooms on both levels have changing stations, and there is a baby care room, with chairs for nursing mothers and toys for toddlers, in the first floor women's room.
The Aquarium strongly discourages strollers inside the exhibit area, especially on crowded weekends. There is a large stroller parking area in the lobby.
The Aquarium offers all kinds of educational programs for children of all ages on weekends. There are toddler programs for parents with two and three year-olds, Saturday Family Fun for kids four to six-years-old with an adult, and workshops, sleep-overs, Job Shadow and Jr. Biologist for older kids and teens at varying costs and times.
Ocean Adventures Summer Day Camp offers week-long summer sessions at the Aquarium for three to 14 year old campers to explore different facets of life undersea.
All the programs are available for groups; some are especially designed for daycare and pre-school groups. Call for reservations, times and group rates.
The Aquarium also offers daily Behind-the-Scenes Tours (ages 7+) and boat excursions, including Whale Watching and Harbor Tours. SCUBA dive certified guests can dive inside the Aquarium's Tropical Reef Habitat through the daily Dive Immersion Program (ages 15+, must be accompanied by a participating adult if under 18). Animal Encounters are available on weekends by reservation and enable guests to go behind the scenes to get up-close with their choice of a sea otter, sea lion, or shark (age and height restrictions apply).
For more information about any of these programs, call 562.590.3100.
Parties: 90 minute birthday parties at the Aquarium include themed décor and a classroom program that features animal touch time, biofact discovery, and a take-home craft. All you need to do is call at least two weeks prior (subject to availability) to reserve a date and invite friends and family. The party area can accommodate up to 45 guests (minimum 15 participants). Cost is $39 per person (adult or child); members pay $33 per person. For additional information or reservations, please call 562.951.1630.
Membership: Individual $55; Family $115.