What is it about fish that mesmerizes kids? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the evidence: almost every board book has a picture of a fish in it (seriously, check it out!), kids’ snacks are shaped like them, and most kids learn to say it as one of their first 5 vocabulary words.  Amusement parks have cashed in on it, building a whole theme park around them (Hello, Sea World).  Sure, fish are slimy but perhaps it’s the gross factor that enthralls our little ones, or maybe it’s because fish make them nostalgic for those primordial days of swimming around in our bellies.  Whatever it is, kids love to watch fish, especially fish cruising around in their natural environment.  We have rounded up five kid-friendly and free spots where your kids can see, touch, hear, and smell their little objects of affection. 

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Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Just a short drive from the Port of Los Angeles, you can discover all of the different types of SoCal sea life under this one roof. It is a great place for kids to learn using four of their senses (we’ll save the taste one for lunchtime…). You can find a list of the different species at the aquarium here.  Kids can explore different habitats such as mudflats, rocky shores, kelp forests, and sandy beaches.  They can also have an exciting hands-on experience in the award-winning exploration center where they can crawl through an aquarium without getting wet, feel the water running through the watershed, and create crafts and art projects.

cabrillo

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
3720 Stephen M. White Dr.
San Pedro, Ca
Phone: 310-548-7562
Online: cabrillomarineaquarium.org
Hours: Closed Mon.; Tues. to Fri. 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm; Sat. & Sun. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Parking: $1 an hour ($9 max)
Admission: Free, but a donation of $5 per adult and $1 per child is suggested

California Science Center
Bring the kids to walk through the impressive aquarium at the Ecosystems permanent exhibit.  The kids will be amazed at the sharks and colorful fishes gliding among the swaying kelp.  Be sure to watch and wave to the scuba diver feeding the fish at around 2:00 – 2:30 pm (times may vary so be sure to ask the staff when the next feeding is).  The little ones will also be amazed by the fish swimming overhead in the glass tunnel – be careful they don’t fall backwards from bending their necks following the fish!

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California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, Ca
Phone: 323-724-3623
Online: californiasciencecenter.org
Hours: Daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Parking: $10 per car
Admission: Admission to permanent exhibits are free. IMAX and other special exhibits are an additional fee.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Don’t let the small size of this aquarium fool you; it is packed with experiences to entertain your family for the afternoon.  The kids can touch and examine sea urchins and sea stars up close.  Be sure to stay for the 3:30 pm Saturday story time that sometimes showcase local authors.   And on Sundays at 3:30 pm, it’s all about the horn and swell sharks. Kids can experience shark feedings, shark films, and crafts dedicated to these fascinating animals.  If your kids love their experience, you might consider signing them up for the summer adventure camp at the aquarium.

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Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
1600 Ocean Front Walk
Santa Monica, Ca
Phone: 310-393-6149
Online: healthybay.org
Hours: Tue. to Fri. 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm; Sat. & Sun. 12:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Parking: Metered parking
Admission: Kids 12 and under are free.  Donations are suggestion at $3-$5 per person.

Roundhouse Aquarium Manhattan Beach
Similar to the Santa Monica Pier aquarium, this pier aquarium houses a giant eel as well as plenty of prickly sea urchins and sea stars to touch.  Upstairs, they have tables, chairs, and books to help little ones further explore what catches their eye.  Be sure to look for the horn shark eggs that look like funky screws!  It’s a great place to end up after a stroll on the beach, looking for fishies in the ocean.

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Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium
End of Manhattan Beach Pier
2 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, Ca
Phone: 310-379-8117
Online: roundhouseaquarium.org
Hours:  Mon. to Fri. 3:00 pm – sunset; Sat. & Sun. 10:00 am – sunset
Parking: Metered parking
Admission: Free with suggested donation of any amount

The Grove
The Grove has koi in their pond? Yes they do. You just might not have noticed it due to celebrity sightings,  kids chasing after the trolley, stops in the toy store & book store or surrendering your kid to Dylan’s Candy Shop.  The pond, located in the middle of the Grove, is home to a humble group of sizable and colorful koi.  Bring the kids out at night after dinner and watch as the pond lights up with fantastic views of the fish.  Want more koi?  Kids love the ponds at the Pacific Asia Museum, Getty Villa and Huntington Gardens, too!

thegrove

The Grove
189 The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, Ca
Phone: 888-315-8863
Online: thegrovela.com
Hours:  Mon. to Thurs. 10:00 am – 9:00 pm; Fri. & Sat. 10:00 am – 10:00 pm; Sun. 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Parking: First hour is free. $4 for second hour, $5 for third hour. Validation at selection stores available.

What is your go-to spot for fishy fun?

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–Sommy Rhee

Photos courtesy of ftrintl.com, buylocalsantamonica.com, and Sommy herself!