California is known for its amazing weather and abundance of fun activities. If you are heading to Disneyland, our entire state has so much to offer. If you are considering venturing out of Orange County to tour the Golden State, one attraction that stands out above many others on the west coast is the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was lucky enough to recently visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium as part of a media preview event for the upcoming Disney / Pixar film “Finding Dory” that is due out in theaters June 17 of this year.
The aquarium is located along the central California coast in Monterey, not too far from Santa Cruz and about an hour drive from the San Jose airport. It is situated in historic Cannery Row–an area filled with wonderful seafood restaurants, shops and a jaw-dropping, breath-taking coastline. It is literally impossible to take a bad photo in Monterey–this much I am convinced of.
The aquarium is absolutely unbelievable and most certainly must be one of the world’s most extensive marine life collections with more than 35,000 creatures representing over 550 species that fill 34 major galleries. With nearly 200 exhibits in all, the Aquarium is a showcase for the habitats and sea life of one of the world’s richest marine regions.
When you walk into the aquarium it is easy to become completely awestruck by how large and beautiful it is. It brings the majesty and splendor of the open ocean up close and personal. It’s almost like taking a trip in a submarine with nooks and windows at every turn providing incredible opportunities to experience marine life organically. Aquarium guests can see tuna and sharks speed past; sardines swim in huge, glittering schools; and sea turtles swim lazily across the 90-foot window.
The aquarium isn’t all about what swims deep in the ocean. It also offers opportunities to interact with mammals and birds who live along the California coast.
The aquarium offers an incredible children’s section with great touch pools that had this adult wanting more. They also have a fun penguin exhibit that kids adore.
If you are thinking about a trip to Monterey, here are a few tips:
- Plan on a day, or even a day and a half, and really take your time. There is a lot to see and experience, and you really have to slow down so that you don’t miss all of the creatures in the tanks.
- Take note of the times for the different feedings and presentations. The otter demo is excellent and there are many other experts who speak at the different exhibits.
- Encourage your kids to ask questions. Experts and volunteers are every where and happy to answer questions and engage.
- The food is yummy! Unlike many tourist attractions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has excellent (gourmet!) food! Don’t worry about having to leave to get a decent bite of food, because they have fresh, delicious food with a view of the coastline that can’t be beat. (Try the mac and cheese; you will NOT be sorry.)
- Monterey has a small airport, so be sure to check to see if there are direct flights from your local airport. As I mentioned, San Jose is only an hour drive.
- There are a variety of hotel in Monterey, and many more in picturesque Carmel by the Sea and Santa Cruz.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this trip was part of a media event for the upcoming Disney/Pixar movie “Finding Dory” (although I think I already found Dory, Nemo and Marlin while at the aquarium).
If you can’t make it to Monterey any time soon, you will be able to find Dory, Nemo and all of the gang this summer in theaters, and for the footage I’ve seen, it is going to be a family movie event comparable to many of Disney’ s greatest films.
I received a complimentary trip to Monterey so that I could write this post and others about the aquarium and “Finding Dory.”