Long Beach’s most mesmerizing experience, the Aquarium of the Pacific is a vast, high-tech indoor ocean where sharks dart, jellyfish dance and sea lions frolic. More than 11,000 creatures inhabit four re-created habitats: the bays and lagoons of Baja California, the frigid northern Pacific, tropical coral reefs and local kelp forests. The stunning new 29,000-sq-ft Pacific Visions pavilion uses sound, touch, visual art, cutting-edge video technology and natural exhibits to show humanity's relationship with the ocean and sustainability.
Elsewhere, you'll be entertained by the antics of sea otters, spooked by football-sized crabs with spiny 3ft-long arms, and charmed by Seussian-looking sea dragons. In the Shark Lagoon, you can pet small sharks in a touch pool and go nose-to-nose – through a window – with their full-sized cousins patrolling a larger tank. There's also a popular penguin habitat, and the Ocean Science Center shows films and live video feeds of environmental phenomena.
It’s a wondrous world that’ll easily keep you enthralled for a few hours.
The best time to be here is during the daily feeding sessions (check the schedule online or in the lobby). On weekdays, avoid the field-trip frenzy by arriving around 2pm; on weekends beat the crowd by getting here as early as possible.
For an extra fee, the aquarium offers behind-the-scenes tours and ocean-boat trips. Or, for $299 per person, divers with open water certification can enter the tropical reef tank (reservation required); all equipment is provided, including the underwater camera.
Parking is $8 with validation. The garage is on Shoreline Dr between Chestnut Pl and Aquarium Wy.