Aquarium of the Pacific

Top choice in Long Beach & San Pedro

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.

Look for discounted combination tickets with other attractions such as the Los Angeles Zoo, the Natural History Museum and Battleship Iowa.