Does your little beach-loving Moana or Maui need a break from the sun? We’ve found a variety of places where you can explore ocean treasures a bit away from shore. Delightful new exhibits abound––from drawing their own sea creature art that comes alive, to being immersed in a cube of bioluminescence, let your little Nemos take the plunge into sea-inspired learning. Click through our slideshow to see where to wonder about what’s beneath the waves.

San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center

Step into a bird watcher’s paradise. At the Nature Center, enjoy sweeping views of the lagoon from the Observation Deck. Get hands-on with exhibits about history and ecology and the species that share this habitat. The nature center is a perfect starting point for kids of all ages.

After touring the center, step out on a trail and watch shorebirds wading in their native surroundings. Guides can help spot and identify birds in the shrubs and wetlands. The half mile Nature Center Loop Trail gives toddlers and preschoolers the chance to get their socks dusty and experience a first hike near marine creatures. Older kiddos who long for the freedom to roam will enjoy the Wildlife Walk on the second Saturday of each month from 9-11 a.m. The guided walk explores a different trail each month.

Insider’s Tips: Don’t forget closed-toed shoes, hats, sunscreen, water and binoculars. There are water fountains and bathrooms at the nature center, but not out on the trails.

Admission is free.

2710 Manchester Ave.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Ca
Online: sanelijo.org

Photo: Ed Slater 

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Where do you take your kids to learn about the ocean? Tell us in the comments!

––Cherie Gough