When you think of Los Angeles, Disneyland and the various film studies may be the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s more to see in the area – just 35 minutes south from LAX is Long Beach. Probably more famous for the Queen Mary and the IndyCar race that happens every year, Long Beach is quick and easy to get to from the airport and it’s also the gateway to beautiful Catalina Island which is just off the coast.
Our destination in Long Beach was the Aquarium of the Pacific, which is located right on the waterfront close to the Queen Mary. Unlike other aquariums, the Aquarium of the Pacific is a not-for-profit aquarium, and that makes it different from others you may have visited before. The first difference is you’re there to be educated, not entertained, but don’t think this makes it boring – far from it. From the screams of delight of what seemed like thousands of children there on school trips – this is no boring day out! The kids were more animated and excited than I’ve ever seen kids at an amusement park. [As a warning, if you’re not used to screaming kids, take some Tylenol with you – you’ll need it after a couple of hours].
The displays were top-notch, and there was always a volunteer around to answer any questions you might have or to tell you something informative and unique about the sea creature or animals you were viewing.
When you arrive, you receive a passport book that contains a wealth of information that you can follow along with as you enjoy each display. They even make learning with the passport fun for the kids with special stations where they can emboss their passports with stamps for each area. There are many extra tours, presentations and movies available, so it’s definitely a full day out.
In addition to regular admission to the Aquarium, we took the Behind-The-Scenes Tour, which lasts about 1 hour and it was worth every penny! When it was over I was shocked that it had actually been just over an hour – it felt like it had only been about 15 minutes. We stopped for lunch in the Cafe Scuba and then spent another couple of hours looking around the other exhibits.
All the action isn’t inside the Aquarium, there’s a Shark Lagoon and Ray Touchpool where you can actually touch stingrays, starfish and sharks! Again education comes into it and the aquarium calls for a two-finger touch – it’s amazing how much more texture you feel when you use two fingers instead of one! Also outside is Explorer Cove where you’ll find three very different creatures – Prevost’s Squirrel, Dusky Pademelon (a member of the kangaroo/wallaby family) and a Binturong (a friendly guy that smells like buttered popcorn!)
I really can’t speak highly enough about the Aquarium of the Pacific – it’s a terrific day out, even if you don’t have kids. But, if you do – it’d be a crime not to plan a visit if you’re going to be in the area!
www.AquariumOfThePacific.org – Open 9am- 6pm every day except Christmas and during the Grand Prix of Long Beach [Thurs to Sun]. Parking is $12 (if you take one of the extra tours your ticket stub gives you $6 off).
© 2013 Iain & Gail Shankland ~ TravelBloggers.firstname.lastname@example.org