Ocean Institute

Coastal Orange County

This child-friendly educational center encompasses four separate ocean-centric ‘adventures.’ It is mostly reserved for school groups on weekdays, so it's best to come on weekends to enjoy the interactive marine-focused exhibits. On Sundays, admission includes the opportunity to discover what life was like aboard an early 19th-century tall ship, the brig Pilgrim. Guided tours of this full-size replica of the ship sailed by Richard Dana during his journey around Cape Horn to California are offered hourly.

You can also board the R/V Sea Explorer (adult/child from $45/25), a 70ft-long floating lab, for a science-focused bioluminescence cruise or whale-watching safari, or join a ‘pyrate’ adventure or gray-whale-watching cruise on the Spirit of Dana Point (adult/child $60/40), a replica of an American Revolution–era tall ship. Make reservations; no children under age four allowed.

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