From glowing jellies to touchable bat rays, the Aquarium if the Pacific in Long Beach is the best place to give your beach babes an up close and personal experience with marine life. Any visit to the aquarium is an exciting one, but to make the most of your time check out our insider tips—plus where to score Aquarium of the Pacific ticket discounts.
photo: Johnny T. via Yelp
When To Go
If you can swing it, the best time to visit the aquarium is mid-week when the crowds are minimal. This is a big plus if your crew is on the younger side since the indoor exhibits can get a little overwhelming with a lot of visitors. You can also score discounted entry on weekday afternoons through sites like Goldstar if you want to take a little after-school excursion.
If weekends are your best option schedule-wise, then plan to visit early in the day. Arrive at 9 a.m. when the aquarium opens and by the time the crowds surge you’ll have seen most of it and can grab some lunch.
What To See & When To See It
Once you’re inside the aquarium, direct your kid’s attention to the massive whale suspended in the ceiling (if they hadn’t noticed yet) and the Honda Blue Cavern Exhibit behind it. The glass walls of the exhibit, which is meant to replicate Blue Cavern Point, an underwater cavern off the coast of Catalina Island, stretch to the second floor. Kids will want to plop themselves down on the carpet and watch as the eels, leopard sharks and other inhabitants swim around. If you get lucky, you might spot a diver in the tank for feeding time and get a bubbly wave (check the showtime schedule for the exact times). You could literally spend all day here, but there’s still so much to see!
Make your way to the right to the Southern California/Baja Gallery where you’ll explore the Amber Forest of colorful fish darting between kelp. Then head for the Seals and Sea Lions, which you can watch from an underwater tunnel that makes you feel like you’re right in the tank as they playfully dart past.
photo: Shahrzad Warkentin
Next, head outside for some fresh air and a visit to Shark Lagoon. Check out more than 150 different sharks swimming around with large rays. After so much watching, kids will be ecstatic to learn they can even touch a few of them in the shark pool. After you wash your hands, you can give your energized tots a chance to play in the small play structure that features a water-squirting squid. This is also a good time to take a quick snack break. More on the food options below.
After snacks have been eaten, flock over to the Lorikeet Forest. The aviary is filled with over 100 of these colorful native Australian birds. If you really want an up-close experience with the birds, you can buy a small cup of nectar, the lorikeets’ favorite food, and they’ll flock to you for a drink. Just beware they will occasionally land on your arms and shoulders so you might want to do the feeding and just let your younger kiddos watch if you think they might get scared.
photo: McTwitchy M. via Yelp
Next, head upstairs and grab a seat outside in the Southern California/Baja Gallery for the late morning Seals and Sea Lions show where you can learn all about how the aquarium staff cares for these playful marine mammals. (Check the daily show times for exact hours as they vary mid-week versus the weekend.)
After the show, stay outside and waddle over to the June Keyes Penguin Habitat and the Ray Habitat Touchpool. Your little explorers will be delighted by another chance to touch some of the aquarium inhabitants. This time you’ll get up close with bat rays and shovelnose guitarfish. Now would be a good time to wash up and take a lunch break.
photo: Shahrzad Warkentin
After lunch, head to the indoor exhibits on the second floor, starting with the Northern Pacific Gallery where you’ll get another opportunity to get up close and personal with some creatures at the Coastal Corner Touch Lab. Kids will also love watching the sea otters playfully swimming in their habitat. For your last stop on the second floor, make your way to the Tropical Pacific Gallery where you can check out some colorful reef fish and learn about nearly two dozen different species of frogs.
photo: Maruko X. via Yelp
After all of that, head back downstairs to finish off your visit at the Harbor Terrace where you can check out mudskippers, a unique amphibious fish, and the ever-popular Moon Jelly Touch Lab where you can actually find out what it feels like to touch a jellyfish.
Where To Eat
There is one main dining area in the Aquarium of the Pacific called the Scuba Cafe and the menu is chock full of family favorites. You’ll find everything from hot dogs and chicken tenders for kids to soups, crafted salads, pizza and even waffles for diners of all ages.
If you pack your own lunch, there are picnic tables outside on the Harbor Terrace. If you have older kids that don’t need to head home early for a nap, you can also opt to leave the aquarium for lunch at a nearby restaurant and return afterward—just make sure you get your hand stamped at the door for re-entry.
Near the Shark Lagoon, you’ll find the Bamboo Bistro, a small grab-and-go cafe where you can get a quick bite. The menu has the usual staples, like hot dogs, pizza, chips, and drinks.
If you need to fuel up on caffeine or just want a small cookie or snack, hit the Blue Whale Cafe in the lobby entrance just under, you guessed it, the blue whale.
photo: Shahrzad Warkentin
VIP Experience/Animal Encounters
If your future oceanographers and marine biologists want to get even closer to the aquarium’s inhabitants, then you can spend an extra $19 (7 & up) for a behind-the-scenes tour. You’ll get to see how the aquarium operates and see parts not normally viewable to the public. During the tour you’ll also get to go above the Tropical Reef exhibit to feed the fish.
Really want to splurge? The aquarium also offers Animal Encounters ($109 per person) which give you a one-hour private experience with a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the exhibits, like the penguins and sea lions.
Or choose their VIP Experiences ($350 per person), which allows you to get right inside the tanks with some of the animals, like the sea otter. For the majority of these experiences, kids must be 10 and up (13 for the sharks), but the Sea Lion Animal Encounter allows kids as young as seven to participate.
photo: Shahrzad Warkentin
The Aquarium of the Pacific is putting the finishing touches on its massive expansion, the Pacific Visions wing, which is set to open in the Spring of 2019. It will house a state-of-the-art immersive theater, as well as art galleries, special exhibitions and space for more animal exhibits.
Know Before You Go
- Strollers are allowed in the aquarium but some of the exhibits are a tight squeeze when it gets packed, so you’ll want to park it at one of the marked stroller parking spots.
- There is no outside food allowed inside the aquarium but you can eat food you’ve brought at the picnic tables outside on the Harbor Terrace.
- Same day re-entry is allowed as long as you get your hand stamped before you exit.
Hours: 9-6 p.m. daily
Price: $29.95 for adults 12 & up, $17.95 for kids 3 – 11, under 3 are free
- Check out the discount page for the aquarium’s current discount offers.
- Check Goldstar for coupons and discounts on tickets.
- Visit the aquarium (except Lorikeet Forest) after 5:00 p.m. for $14.95.
100 Aquarium Way
Featured photo: Pobs p. via Yelp
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