Wednesday, August 31, 2011

6 Ways to Play at the Aquarium of the Pacific (and a Giveaway!)


As the name suggests, the Aquarium of the Pacific focuses on animals that call the Pacific Ocean home. In fact, it houses some 11,0000 animals including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, invertebrates and amphibians.

There’s a ton to see and do here, but the place isn’t so big that you feel overwhelmed trying to do it all. In fact, if you arrive early enough, you can probably see everything you want to in a few hours.

If you’re like me, you’ll want more out of your visit that merely strolling from one tank to the next. Luckily, this place delivers. Here are a few fun ways to explore marine life during your next visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

1. Emboss your Vistors Guide.
The Map & Visitor Guide you receive when you enter the Aquarium comes complete with a circle-shaped embossing space on several of the pages. There are eight Embossing Stations located throughout the Aquarium, presenting explorers with a fun challenge: Find the stations, emboss the Guide and discover the image.

2. Get up close and personal with seals & sea lions.

We skipped the show (which is a little too education focused to hold The Little Explorer’s attention) and stopped by the tank for a visit when the crowds had dispersed. It took only a minute or so before this guy popped up to say hi.



3. Stop by the Ray Touchpool.

Both kids seemed drawn to this spot, where bat rays and shovelnose guitarfish swim right up to the edges of the touchpool, as if asking for a rub. 



4. Seek out other touch tanks.
Sure, there are the bamboo sharks to touch at Shark Lagoon. But if that’s a little too scary for your kiddo, try sea anemones, starfish and sea cucumbers. We found several smaller touch tanks available throughout the Aquarium.



5. Feed the lorikeets.
This was a huge hit when I visited a couple of years ago with The Big Explorer. At that time, he loved having the birds – in their bright green, blue, red and yellow plumage – fly right up to him and drink nectar. This time, not so much. The loud squawking and flybys were a little much for both kids. Go figure.



6. Run around outside at Explorer’s Cove.
This outdoor play area comes complete with a ship and sea creatures in place of the usual slides and swings. It’s a great boredom buster and gives little legs a chance to run free for a while. 



Pack sunscreen if you’re visiting in the summer – it can get hot outside and the play area isn’t protected by any overhead coverage. Oh yeah, and be prepared for the kiddos to get a little wet.

As much as I enjoy visiting this place, it isn’t without its drawbacks. My two biggest complaints: Cost and crowds. I’m offering a solution to the first concern by giving away a pair of tickets to one lucky reader (see below). To beat the crowds, I strongly encourage you to arrive early (between 9 and 10 a.m.) and avoid visiting during the summer.

Planning Essentials

  • The Aquarium of the Pacific is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; closed on Christmas Day & during the weekend of the Grand Prix of Long Beach (usually early-to-mid April) 
  • Admission is $24.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids 3 through 11; kids 2 and under are FREE (You can save a few bucks by purchasing your tickets in advance online)
  • Parking is $8
  • Ticket prices include admission into the Aquarium, all the galleries, hands-on labs & educational presentations; there are extras your kids might enjoy too, like lorikeet nectar & a 4D film
  • All exhibits are stroller-accessible though I recommend leaving yours at home; when it gets crowded, it can be tough to maneuver & wait times at the elevators can be an annoyance
  • Restrooms are available on both levels & in the Shark Lagoon, all of which have changing stations
  • There are several kid-friendly options for food within in the Aquarium but the prices aren’t cheap
  • The large, grassy area outside the Aquarium is perfect for a picnic
  • The Aquarium also offers a variety of special events & activities like children and family programs, children’s camps and outdoor adventures

The Giveaway
One of my biggest gripes about the Aquarium of the Pacific is its hefty admission fee. So guess what? I’m giving away two free tickets to one of you lucky readers!

To enter, leave a comment below telling me about your child’s favorite marine animal. Good luck!

  • This giveaway will run through midnight PST on Friday, September 9, 2011. 
  • Sorry, but this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. 
  • The winner will be chosen using the nifty random number generator at random.org. 
  • The winner will have 24 hours to reply to my notification; if I don't hear back after that, I'll pick another winner.
Aquarium of the Pacific is located at:
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 590-3100

Note: Although we received complimentary admission to the Aquarium, this is an honest review based on my family's personal experience. You can read my full disclosure policy for more information.

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