Travelers heading to San Francisco know that there's plenty to see and do here. From Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park - how can you decide, really? You know you've got to make it to the Wharf for sure, but which attraction should you tackle first? Among the stars of the Wharf, the Aquarium of the Bay is a must see, especially if you are traveling with children. For us, it's a definite number one. Interactive, educational exhibits entice young minds with dazzling facts about sharks, jellyfish, and other creatures of the sea. Check out our helpful guide for visiting San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay, 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
- Take your time! The aquarium is relatively small, but there is so much packed into the space. Be sure to go through slowly, and get to know the many exhibits.
- Naturalists are on hand to discuss the residents of the aquarium, and often hold topical presentations. A look at the website will show specific times for these presentations.
- Have a look at the feeding schedule and try to time your visit for this exciting daily event! There are scheduled times for shark feedings, as well as feeding times for the tide pool wildlife -- you won't want to miss it!
- Be sure to eat before you arrive at the aquarium. There are no snacks inside, and you don't want to have to leave halfway through because someone is hungry.
- Bring a camera to capture your experience. Photography is allowed in the aquarium, although flash photography will create glare when taking photos through the glass.You may want to take some video of the interactive tide pool activities!
Exhibits at the Aquarium of the BayHave you ever wondered what lies beneath the water in San Fran? At Aquarium of the Bay, you’ll get to see, touch, discover and learn about the fascinating marine life that call the San Francisco Bay home. Explore crystal-clear tunnels that house over 2,000 species, learn how you can help conserve and save the ocean, and find your favorite aquatic critters all in one spot.
Discover the Bay
Under the Bay
Touch the BayOne of the things that makes this destination so special for children is the interactive "splash zone" exhibits featuring species such as baby sharks, bat rays and more. These displays encourage kids to get up close and even touch these wondrous creatures. The tidepool-like interactive zone allows visitors to touch and interact with the marine life for themselves. You can stick your hands right in the water and marvel at the smooth, rubbery texture of Bat Ray skin, or the rougher texture of baby sharks! It is important to be mindful of these animals, and respect them and the rules of the aquarium by only touching them with your finger, and never poking or grabbing at them.
Go With the FlowAllow yourself to be mesmerized by a sea of floating jelly fish. Ambient lighting and 700+ gallon tanks create a neon-colored atmosphere where these hypnotic invertebrates can float around. Did you know there are more than 200 species of jelly fish worldwide? Explore plenty of them at Aquarium of the Bay and learn about the species as a whole.
River OttersVisit these adorable playful creatures in their spot-on river habitat. Meet the four river otters: Shasta, Ryer, Baxter, and Tahoe. They've all been rescued from throughout the Bay area's river systems and now reside full time in their cozy habitat.
Pier 39 Sea LionsDon't miss the Sea Lions! While you are visiting Pier 39 and the Aquarium of the Bay, be sure to look for the San Francisco Bay's most popular residents - the playful, charismatic and laid-back Sea Lions! These guys are a permanent fixture at Pier 39, and always a big hit with kids and grown-ups alike. They arrived for the first time back in 1990, shortly after the Loma Prieda earthquake, and have been returning ever since. The aquarium has even created a special Sea Lion center, where you can go learn more about these magnificent creatures. After visiting the center, go outside and see them in person.
Fun Facts About The Aquarium
- The aquarium is home to 20,000 animals from the San Francisco Bay and nearby waters.
- The Aquarium of the Bay opened in 1996, and is the only aquarium strictly devoted to the marine life of the San Francisco Bay.
- Over 600,000 visitors enjoy the aquarium each year.
- The Aquarium of the Bay is a non-profit marine center affiliated with The Bay Institute.