Last weekend we got to visit one of my favorite places on earth, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were invited to stay with Ian’s brother Danny in Capitola for the weekend and we jumped at the chance. Saturday, bright and early, we drove down to Monterey to show the kids the aquarium. If you’ve never been there, you really must put this place on your bucket list—especially if you never intend to become a certified scuba diver. After you see it and the glorious sea life it holds, you might just change your mind about that.
This was Asher’s first visit to the aquarium. Lucas was here once before, when he was three.
This time, both kids were into it.
The exhibits are outstanding, well lighted, and beautiful. There’s lots of wonderful interactive things for the kids to do, including a wall-size touch screen that taught us about plankton. It looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.
There are nooks and crannies where only children can go, like into a little cavelike space, where Asher was on the other side of a tank.
The places to touch creatures and feel their various textures are a delight. This time, none of the rays came close enough to touch. They may have gotten wise to all the eager hands.
We learned about the habitats that are created when human beings build at the water’s edge. We learned about the deep ocean fish, their endangered status, and got a card to show us what seafood to avoid and what seafood to buy because it’s sustainably raised or sustainably caught. I’m afraid the “good” list is shrinking. Our pocket guide list is specific to the west coast, but you can visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website for a seafood watch pocket guide or app. They even have a substitutions list, in case your favorite recipes call for seafood that is on the “avoid” list. Since we got home, I’ve spent some time watching their webcam at the Outer Bay exhibit. It’s fun to see the turtles swimming past the camera.
The aquarium rescues sea birds and rehabilitates them for a lovely Sandy Shore and Aviary exhibit. This is a snowy plover.
Man, I miss diving!
A highlight for me this trip was seeing this Giant Pacific Octopus change from red to pale white when he moved over to the white wall. I’ve held small octopuses in my hands before on dives, but never anything this large. This fellow is magnificent!
My favorite by far are the jellies. (These are sea nettles.) Lovely spacy music plays in this exhibit and you can watch these creatures gently float around—I feel I could watch for hours, if little hands didn’t pull me away to the next amazing sight. The only thing I regret is missing the sea horses exhibit. I don’t know how we did that! The sea otters exhibit is temporarily closed, but we got to see some wild otters floating in the bay!
I’ve restrained myself to sharing only these few photos. It was tough to do because I truly love this place and I think it is the best, most educational zoo/aquarium I’ve ever been to. It sings to me in the way the kelp sways to and fro with the currents, in the way that the touch pools offer learning experiences that few people will ever get in the wild, and in the way that the public is gently encouraged to care about our oceans and the life within them.
It was a wonderful day. We rounded it out with Mediterranean lunch and a wander through the older part of Monterey. We went home and Ian cooked us a delicious dinner.
I’m so grateful to Danny and his family for letting us visit. It was such a treat!