7 Reasons to Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Normally, I’m all about sharing tips to help your kids become more adventurous eaters. But part of tapping into their sense of discovery—taste buds and otherwise—is by taking time to explore new things. So it’s field trip time. Our family recently visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. Here are a few reasons you might want to go too!
It’s part of the ocean. Really. Unlike stand-alone aquariums you might find in other cities, this marine-life mecca literally sits in the Bay. Pumps pipe 2,000 gallons of sea water each minute from the Bay into the aquarium, making it possible to sustain sea life you won’t see elsewhere (at least not without some scuba gear).
Touch tanks. There are touch tanks throughout the Aquarium so that you can feel the rough, bumpy surface of a starfish, or the squishy, soft skin of a warty sea cucumber (my favorite), and much more. The extensive Aquarium has enough touch tanks dotted throughout that there’s usually not much of a wait to get an up close and personal encounter with a number of sea creatures. (My tip: skip the daily shows where the crowds tend to congregate and head to the touch tanks.)
Seahorses. Seahorses. Oh, and few sea dragons. I had no idea there were so many varieties of seahorses. The Aquarium houses more than 15 different species of these curly tailed wonders in their exhibit, “The Secret Lives of Seahorses.” You’ll also get a chance to see sea dragons, which look like they sound —floating creatures that seem to have jumped out of the pages of a fairy tale.
Interactive elements to every exhibit. Around each corner at the Aquarium there is something for kids (and grown ups) to try out. Some were just for fun, like the jellyfish kaleidoscope, while others helped you step into the life of researcher charting the ocean floor or cataloging sea life.
The Jellyfish Experience. Austin Powers meets Jellies. This 70-inspired exhibit is just fun: from the surroundings—including jellyfish floating in tanks amidst psychedelic shapes and colors to the mellow 70s tunes in the background. My kids spent the most time in this exhibit where you can even draw your own jellyfish, launch it into an onscreen “ocean,” and email it to yourself to look at later (I couldn’t resist drawing a shark amongst the jellies). This video will give you an idea of the vibe at the Jellyfish Experience.
The Live Web Cams. Not planning a trip to California anytime soon? That’s okay. You can still visit the Aquarium with your kids online. There are six live web cams so you can still sneak a peek into many of the Aquarium’s exhibits (the Sea Otter Cam is temporarily closed as is the exhibit). The web cams include the Kelp Cam, the Underwater Kelp Cam, the Aviary Cam, The Penguin Cam, the Open Sea, and the Monterey Bay Cam. Along with these live feeds, the Aquarium website has podcasts, video libraries, and games available.
Walking along Fisherman’s Wharf. If you are visiting the Aquarium in person, make sure to take time to walk along Fisherman’s Wharf just down the road. Seafood restaurants dot the wharf and compete with each other for the title of best clam chowder. Servers stand outside during lunch and dinner hours offering taster cups. You could fill up on chowder just by visiting each one. My vote for the best chowder goes to Albonetti Seafood Trattoria.
Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering
Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.
All photos except feature photo courtesy and copyright Kristen J Gough
Feature photo courtesy of flickr creative commons: flickr.com/photos/lollyknit/294135456/