Home to more than 11,000 animals, the Aquarium of the Pacific explores the Northern and Tropical Pacific waters of Southern California and Baja. A world of discovery awaits guests of all ages and interests. The grand size and scope of the Aquarium of the Pacific will wow you the moment you step into the lobby and see a huge whale suspended above you from the ceiling. From the shark tank to the penguins and my personal favorite, the sea jellies, the Aquarium of the Pacific manages to give you a sampling of the entire Pacific Ocean in just a single visit. Check out our helpful guide for visiting this popular Long Beach aquarium, packed full of ways to save on admission, tips for visiting, other nearby attractions, and much more.
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Tips for Visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific
The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is a wonderfully interactive learning experience for both kids and adults, especially for those who have never gotten close enough to touch amazing creatures like baby sharks and stingrays. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your visit.
- Children under 3 years old are permitted for free.
- Bring your parking ticket inside to get it validated. There are little signs in the parking garage that tell you to bring your parking ticket inside. This is important because the aquarium validates your parking, and the payment machines are also separate from where you enter and exit the garage.
- The Aquarium offers baby “backpacks”, which can be borrowed free of charge at the information desk. They do not offer strollers, but you are welcome to bring your own.
- Help plan your visit with the pamphlet. When you pick up your admission tickets, you'll see a display of pamphlets that offer information about the aquarium. Take a quick look through your pamphlet and choose the events you most want to experience.
- If you arrive later in the day, visit with the interior exhibits first, and see the outside area with the shark tanks last (which is the last part of the aquarium to close for the day)
- Fill up before you arrive. Try to eat before you get to the aquarium. You might pack a snack to eat on the way. Although the aquarium does have a cafeteria, there are more affordable choices available just a few blocks away at the mall and across the street.
- Buy the feeding nectar. Touring the Lorikeet sanctuary is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but it's even better if you wander into it with a cup of nectar for the birds. The cup costs a dollar, and it's well worth the price!
- Attend one or more of the shows. The aquarium hosts several enthusiastic shows that feature local creatures like sea lions and sea otters. If you get to Malibu during your vacation (it's north of Long Beach), you might see those same sea lions in the wild, right off the coast!
- Don't rush to the car after your visit. The shoreline around the aquarium is a peaceful and beautiful place to walk after you visit the aquarium. When you exit the aquarium, the immediate vicinity is a safe and open place to enjoy the Long Beach coastline.
Best Times to Visit
Arriving early and choosing a weekday for your visit is the best way to get into the parking structure quickly and see as many exhibits and shows as possible. Like many popular tourist destinations, the Aquarium is most crowded on the weekends, during the holiday season and during the summer. On the weekends, you can beat the crowds by arriving earlier, between 9:00 am and 10:00 am. On week days, it is a frequent destination for school field trips, which arrive in the morning, but leave by 2:00 pm. Visiting the aquarium when it opens will give you ample time to see as much amazing aquatic life as possible, as well as the opportunity to stroll around Long Beach for its picturesque views and its tourist attractions and restaurants.
What You Should Bring
The aquarium is an experience that's both exciting and relaxing. You'll get to touch sea creatures like sharks, but you'll also get to wander by mesmerizing tanks of aquatic life. Here are a few items you might want to bring to the aquarium.
- Part of the aquarium is outside, so you may want to bring along some sun block and a hat in your bag.
- It goes without saying that a good pair of walking shoes is a must when you're visiting an attraction where you walk all over the property to see the exhibits.
- To stay comfortable whether you're outside or inside, dress in layers like a true Southern Californian. Wear a t-shirt and a light sweatshirt and add a light coat if you're visiting during the winter and expect chilly temperatures outside.
- Bring a camera to take advantage of some incredible photo ops with the family, as well as to snap pictures of remarkable creatures. Consider programming your camera to accommodate low-light conditions to get the best photographs of the tanks without using a flash.
What to Do There
The Aquarium's exhibits span three main regions of the vast Pacific Ocean: the temperate waters of SoCal and Baja; the icy Northern Pacific, off the coasts of Alaska, Russia, and Japan; and the warm Tropical Pacific, featuring the colorful coral reefs of Palau. The aquarium regularly introduces new exhibits as well as seasonal shows, but there are a number of ongoing exhibits and programs that undergo minor change throughout the seasons with the addition of new aquatic life or mammals. Here are a few that highly recommend checking out...
- The Penguin Habitat - Designed to offer guests a personal and close up view of penguins, the exhibit is one of the best ways to see Magellanic Penguins. The habitat features educational exhibit panels and interactive touch screens where visitors can learn more about penguins and issues affecting their survival.
- The Sea Jellies Tank - Did you know that sea jellies (or jellyfish, as they're often known) don't have a heart, brain or lungs? Learn all about these ancient and beautiful creatures at the incredible jellies tank.
- The Shark Lagoon - An educational adventure that features a 10,000 square foot tank showcasing large sharks and rays. You can also explore the two touch pools where visitors can reach in and touch smaller sharks.
- The Tropical Pacific Gallery - There are more than a dozen exhibits that make up the Tropical Pacific Gallery, and you'll see an incredible array of life including sea horses, reef sharks, and puffers. Attend the feeding presentation if your visit coincides with the performance.
- The Northern Pacific Gallery - Just as the tropical gallery features animals from the South Pacific, the Northern Pacific Gallery shows you what life is like around the Bering Sea in the north. You'll definitely want to see the giant Pacific octopus when you visit the gallery.
- The Southern California Exhibit - The animals that mainly live along the West Coast of the United States and Mexico are on display in this gallery. The area features an incredible 142,000-gallon exhibit that stands a massive three stories tall.
- The Lorikeet Forest - A walk through aviary filled with dozens of Australian lorikeets. Visitors can purchase a cup of nectar to feed these friendly birds that will land on your hand, arm, or even your head to get a sip of the nectar.
Remember to examine your informational pamphlet to see if there are any temporary or seasonal events at the aquarium that you might want to visit. The aquarium also houses an animal care center and an ocean science center for educational visits. Learn about sustainability and our planet's future at the "Pathway to the Pacific" exhibit.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is close to many other places in Long Beach that you may want to explore during your vacation. Numerous shops and restaurants are within walking distance, and there are also some other fun activities within a few miles of the aquarium. Here are a few that you may want to consider visiting during your trip...
- The Queen Mary - First launched in 1936, the Queen Mary was an English luxury liner that once carried famous Hollywood celebrities and boasted speed records for crossing the Atlantic. Today, the ship sits permanently in Long Beach as a popular tourist destination.
- Battleship IOWA Museum - The only battleship museum of the West Coast and an important piece of American history. Experience what life at sea was like for sailors, see what technology was used when the ship was built in the 1940’s.
- Harbor Cruise of Whale Watch in Long Beach - Get out on the water and see wondering marine life like whales and dolphin right off the coast.
Places to Eat Nearby
With the walking you'll do around the aquarium, your family will definitely work up an appetite during your visit. The convenient parking garage means no searching for a place to park after you visit the aquarium and want to find a place for food. Many well-known restaurants sit within a block or two of the aquarium, and it's easy to find a place to relax and eat after you complete your tour. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is right next to the aquarium, and you can find more fish at Gladstone's Long Beach, which is a few blocks north of the aquarium at the mall. The mall (which is probably the best place to find a variety of eats) also has a P.F. Chang's, Famous Dave's (burgers and fries), and Tokyo Wako (sushi). You can also find the Outback Steakhouse and the Yard House nearby along the water.
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