Looking for a great place to take kids on vacation? Try the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where both kids and adults can enjoy a great afternoon or two. Upon its opening in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the largest aquarium open to the public in the United States. Over ten thousand people came to visit on opening day! There are various exhibits available for marine lovers to enjoy, and the aquarium welcomes around two million guests from all over the world every year.

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Kids will love seeing Finding Nemo in real life. Children will not only love learning about all the different ocean life from knowledgeable staff, but the aquarium also gives guests a chance to actually see under-the-sea wildlife right before their eyes!

The Exhibits

The place has many exhibits, which the kids, as well as the adults, can't resist. Here are all the available exhibits at Monterey Bay Aquarium to check out.

Open Sea

The largest exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium, guests can get a good view of what the real ocean looks like! On the other side of an almost one-hundred-foot window, guests can see a vast assortment of ocean life within. Visitors can spot radiant jellyfish, sparkling sardines, and quick-swimming tuna as Tufted Puffins watch nearby.

  • Notable Animals: Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Pelagic Stingray, Tufted Puffin.

Kelp Forest

Through a forest of kelp, sharp-eyed guests might see leopard sharks and wolf eels as they slip between the green leaves. Notable animals the visitors can find in this exhibit are Rockfish, Giant Kelpfish, Giant Green anemones, and Swell Sharks.

  • Fun fact: When it opened in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first to offer a living forest of kelp!

Sea Otters

Some of the most entertaining animals around, sea otters love to have fun. Watch them wrestle and play in this exciting exhibit.

  • Note: Don’t forget to head up to the second floor! Guests can watch the otters break the water’s surface before diving down into the water’s depths.

Rocky Shore

Watch barnacles sway with the current and glimpse fascinating ochre stars as they grab onto the surrounding rocks.

  • Notable animals: Purple Sea Urchin, Acorn Barnacle, Monkeyface Prickleback, Giant Green Anemone, California Mussel, as well as various snails, crabs, algae, and anemones.

Life on the Bay

This exhibit offers visitors the chance to see wildlife like humpback whales and otters from decks facing the ocean. Both kids and adults can learn about these magnificent creatures by reading about them in the Marine Mammal Gallery.

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Monterey Bay Habitats

The habitats of Monterey Bay showcase giant sea bass, flatfish, and sharks, to name a few. Children and their parents will delight in getting a glimpse of life in the surrounding waters and see how each animal lives in its preferred habitat. Almost one hundred feet long, this large exhibit contains five habitats, showing visitors what life looks like beneath Monterey Bay.

  • Notable animals: Broadnose Sevengill Shark, Rockfish, Pacific Spiny Dogfish, White Sturgeon, Bat Ray, Acorn Barnacle, Big Skate.

Giant Pacific Octopus

Shy yet intelligent, the gorgeous giant Pacific octopus has a complicated personality and a knack for remembering specific faces. Octopi can solve tricky puzzles, and they also are quite athletic and dexterous- they can play with certain toys and open the tops of jars! At this interesting exhibit, watch the giant Pacific octopus as it squeezes into small hide-aways and flashes different colors, blending in with its surroundings.

  • Notable animals: Purple Sea Urchin, Fragile Pink Sea Urchin, Giant Pacific Octopus, Rockfish.

Sandy Shore & Aviary

At the sandy shore exhibit, guests can see marshes, mudflats, and more as the creatures that thrive in these wet environments come out to play. Birds like the Black Oystercatcher look for insects (not oysters, surprisingly) right in front of guests’ eyes.

  • Notable animals: Red Phalarope, Western Snowy Plover, Sea Hare, Ruddy Turnstone, Bat Ray, Black Oystercatcher, and the Black-Necked Stilt.

Splash Zone and Penguins

In this exhibit, kids and adults have the opportunity to get up close and personal with marine life. In safe, shallow pools in the Coral Reef Kingdom portion of this exhibit, kids can dig their hands into the water, and see smaller exhibits designed just for them! The Coral Reef Kingdom section is only open to the littlest of visitors. There is a 34 in height limit.

  • Notable animals: Swell Shark, Giant Green Anemone, Zebra Moray Eel, Clownfish, and African Penguin.

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Into the Deep: Exploring Our Undiscovered Ocean

The Aquarium’s newest exhibit, opening in 2022, allows guests the chance to see fascinating creatures which live in the deepest parts of the ocean. Spooky fish like the Fangtooth and the captivating Anglerfish will delight ocean-lovers looking for rare wildlife not commonly seen in other aquariums!

  • Notable Animals: Predatory Tunicate, Bone-Eating Worm, Fanfin Anglerfish, Hula Skirt Siphonophore, Common Fangtooth, Pacific Hagfish, Giant Isopod, Midwater Eelpout, Giant Ostracodand, Spiny King Crab, and the Apple Anemone.

General Aquarium Information

The aquarium offers no ticket sales at the door, so make sure and purchase tickets and secure reservations ahead of time. The pricing is as follows:

  • Adult (18+): $49.95
  • Senior (65+): $39.95
  • Youth (aged 13-17): $39.95
  • Child (aged 5-12): $34.95

Tip: Consider becoming a member! Members get priority access to the exhibits and other special perks.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see for any family. With several different exhibits to choose from, guests can make this aquarium a single-day stop or a weekend adventure kids will love. Fall in love again with learning about the planet’s most fascinating wildlife and ecosystem at this fabulous and extensive aquarium!

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