Aquarium of the Pacific

When we were in Southern California earlier in October for a family holiday at Disneyland, we also made a few little day excursions .. one to Legoland (of course), one to La Brea Tar Pits, and one to Long Beach specifically to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific.  Sweetie had received earlier in the year, free passes to the aquarium for her honorable mention in the California Coastal Commission’s annual Coastal Art & Poetry Contest.

We arrived just in time to see the diver presentation at the Honda Blue Cavern, modeled after the local Blue Cavern Point, a kelp forest along the northeastern coast of Santa Catalina island.  We enjoyed listening to the diver identify several of the species found in this community, including the Giant sea bass (Sterolepis gigas).

Focused on the Pacific Ocean, the aquarium is organized into three main galleries: Southern California/Baja, Northern Pacific, and Tropical Pacific.   The Ocean Science Center uses NOAA’s “Science on a Sphere” to explore our planet and tell stories about ocean phenomena and their impacts.  Other exhibits include The Shark Lagoon, Lorikeet Forest, Molina Animal Care Center, and Watershed Exhibit. Additionally, there is a special exhibits gallery which featured the Arctic & Antarctic: Our Polar Regions in Peril exhibit while we were there.

I was delighted to point out to the kids the large Sunflower seastars (Pycnopodia helianthoides), the largest seastars in the world.  To the touch, they feel like soft, velvet and velcro covered sponges.  They are commonly found where the substrate is soft, feeding on clams.

While enjoying the outdoor exhibits, Buddy climbed aboard a ship and received an unexpected squirt from a giant fish nearby.  Thankfully, he thought it was as funny as we did and we all chuckled.  🙂

One of our favorite exhibits was the June Keyes Penguin Habitat located outdoors.  We included the photo below in our annual Christmas DVD – you would be surprised to learn how many people asked us if the penguins pictured beside us were actually real.  “I can’t believe they let you hug them,” one family member actually said.

Throughout the aquarium, there are eight embossing stations where visitors can emboss an image of a sea creature in the corner of their visitor’s guide.  This was a great activity for the kids, keeping them engaged and focused on their signage.  If you enjoy Letterboxing and collecting National Park Passport cancellations like we do … you’ll love this.