Janice, near the Rocky Shore Touch Pool, at the super-interactive Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Gettin' Fishy With It — The Monterey Bay Aquarium
MONTEREY, Calif. — The Monterey
Bay Aquarium proves that life is better, down where it's wetter.
Take it from us. With 35,000 animals, 550 species of marine wildlife, 425 full
and part-time staff, 1,000-plus volunteers and 322,000 square-feet (bigger than
the largest Wal-Mart Supercenter), this place will make your head swim.
Our eyes went buggy seeing the colossal Outer Bay aquarium: a deep-blue world swirling with barracuda, hammerhead sharks,
stingrays and 8-foot tuna. At 1.3 million gallons, Outer Bay is the largest fish tank in the world. The viewing window alone is roughly the size of an IMAX movie screen.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium struck us as a brainier version of SeaWorld.
Instead of zinc-nosed lugs in wetsuits, the aquarium's heroes are its research
biologists and volunteers. These guys are like walking encyclopedias of
underwater knowledge. The Aquarium is close neighbors with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
(MBARI), a world-class research facility, renowned for its
exploration of deep-sea marine life. Many MBARI marine biologists swing by
to host video symposiums on subjects like sharks and deep-sea fish.
Exhibits are super-neat, well-crafted and interactive almost to the point of sensory
overload. Literally dozens upon dozen of hands-on
learning stations and interactive galleries. You can touch bat rays in the Bat
Ray Pool and sea stars, gumboot chiton and abalone in the Ocean's Edge Touch
Pool. Microscopes, magnifiers (pictured left), telescopes and viewer-guided underwater video cameras gets you up close. The kids love it. They can even make their own cute
Monterey Bay Aquarium keepsake booklet using ink stamps.
In addition to marine intelligence is the Aquarium's underwater elegance: see the swaying majesty of a 28-foot-tall kelp forest, the supernaturally pink-and-blue world of jellyfish,
and those enchanting, fairy-like seahorses. It's no wonder the Monterey Bay
Aquarium consistently makes several "Best Of" lists among top travel web sites and magazines. More than a collection of marine life, the Monterey Bay Aquarium proves the ocean is more intricate and beautiful that you ever thought possible.
Insider tip: To avoid the huge crowds during the peak summer season, try visiting the Aquarium on a weekday or take advantage of the Aquarium's "Evenings by the Bay" extended Friday and Saturday summer hours (6-8 p.m.). Also, arrive before noon and purchase tickets online. Seeing the Aquarium takes a full day.
Monterey Aquarium info:
Admission: $29.95 adult; $27.95 senior (65+) and
student (full-time college, with I.D.); and $17.95 children 3-12 and the
disabled. Children under 3, free. Discounted tickets for military and their
Location: Historic Cannery Row in Monterey, Calif. (886
Cannery Row), 2 hours south of San Francisco.
For more info, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium's web site or call (831) 648-4888 for daily schedules.