Take a break from LA and check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium

May 31, 2010 by Lindsay Pullin

Looking to escape for a weekend? Los Angeles can be an overwhelming city to live and work in. Sometimes you feel like you need to get away for the weekend. 

I recommend a drive up the coast to Monterey Bay to visit the aquarium and enjoy the most beautiful views of the California coast.

The aquarium is a beautiful place to visit, located at the world famous Monterey Bay, where it pumps 2000 gallons of bay water per minute to support the exhibits housed inside. If you have never been here, plan on taking the entire day to explore and enjoy it–it’s two stories, and separated into two sections: The Ocean’s Edge and the Outer Bay.

Everything is really cool to look at, but here are some of my favorites from this weekend past:

The Secret Lives of Seahorses

This aquarium contains more than 15 species of seahorses, sea dragons, and relatives in this whimsical exhibit. See tiny dwarf sea horses through a magnifying glass, and watch Leafy Sea Dragons float mesmerizingly by.  The exhibit walks you through the life of a sea horse from birth to reproduction, and watching sea horses always puts people in a silly mood.

The Kelp Forest

Unique because this exhibit simulates the surge of the ocean, thus allowing kelp to grow (kelp requires movement and sunlight to grow).  This tank houses Leopard sharks, Giant Sea Bass, sardines, and rockfish, among others.  This will probably be the first fish you see in the aquarium, because it is located centrally and is huge. It is lit by the sun, and it’s amazing to see what’s living under water off our coast.

Jellies Gallery

Jellyfish are colorful, and delicate, floating in tanks in a darkly lit ward. Again, be mesmerized by some of the most beautiful creatures of the sea. The tanks have specially circulating water to support the jellies, and some of the bigger exhibits put you face to face with a surfer’s worse nightmare.

The Outer Bay

This exhibit has a giant holding tank for big fish (i.e. sharks, like scalloped hammerheads, Pacific blue fin tuna and pelagic rays). It also has one of the world’s biggest single paned windows closing in 1.2 million gallons of water. You can stand face to face with a shark or a ray as it passes you by.

Also look for sea otters, octopus, sharks, penguins, flamingos and a lot of other things. I touched bat rays in a touch tank (very slippery), learned about ocean-friendly sea food, and came face to face with a sea turtle.

Tickets are $29.95 for adults and $17.95 for children. The aquarium’s business hours are 9am-6pm.  If your conscience can take it, there’s plenty of fresh sea food in the area, and the view of the bay is remarkable. 

The Aquarium is located on Cannery Row, which offers a very heavy dose of literary history.  There are quotes from John Steinbeck’s "Cannery Row" throughout the street.

If you want to get a great view, take highway 1 South to get back home, even though it will add a few hours to your drive.

You’ll see elephant seals, rocky cliffs and beautiful beaches as you drive along the coast.  The road is windy, and most of it consists of only two lanes, but you’ll want to drive slowly just to see the pastures with cows, forests, and beaches.

You can speed back to LA on the 101 once you hit San Luis Obispo, but the extra driving is worth it for the literally breathtaking views. You’ll arrive back in Los Angeles feeling refreshed from the fresh air, and “zenned” out from the aquarium fish.

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