A couple weeks ago, my family from Finland was visiting us in California. One lovely and sunny autumn day, we decided to drive down to the city of Monterey. Monterey is about two a hours drive from San Francisco to the south, and it has a long history of fishing and trade. One can still see the history on the main street of Monterey, Cannery Row, where all the sardine factories had been functioning from the 1920's to the 1950's. Due to overfishing, problems began and the factories then closed. Now, there are many nice restaurants and shops in these buildings, and of course, the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non profit organization, and it has been said to be the best aquarium in the state of California, and it truly is a nice place to visit especially with kids. There is so much to see and to do there. You can see jellyfish, sea horses, rays, octopi and all kinds of different fish. The aquarium pumps seawater from the bay, and it mostly exhibits plants and sea creatures from the Monterey coast. The only mammals in the aquarium are sea otters. The aquarium rescues injured sea otters and then releases them after recovery. They also have a wild bird program that does the same, and they have been able to release 58 birds back to nature. A big part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium work is research and educational.
When you arrive at the aquarium, you should first check out the daily schedule. You can follow the feeding of the animals, if you find out when it happens. There are also many educational spot lights which are very popular. We for example, learned the story of Makana, an injured albatross that was rescued by the aquarium. This reminded us of the dangers of leaving plastic in nature. According to the staff, most of the albatross have some sort of plastic in their stomachs, since they end up eating it from nature.
One of our favourite places in the aquarium are the touch pools. Kids can touch and feel some of the under water creatures, and learn how to be gentle with them. You can even pet the eagle rays if they happen to swim by you, and they often do. The staff is there to tell you about what you will find in the touch pools and guide the little ones.
The aquarium is of course the main attraction for the visit, but at least our little girl, loved all the sea themed play areas as well. Bring an extra shirt because here the kids might get wet. But it is so much fun for them! There is also an infant and a toddler area with lots of activities.
We had a lunch in the aquarium cafeteria. There were many different meal choices from hot food to sandwiches, and coffee with some baked goods. You can also buy some souvenirs from the two shops that are right next to the cafeteria. Everything is of course, sea themed. And before heading home, you should also tour around the beautiful city of Monterey. There are lovely little shops, restaurants and beaches near by. I would recommend it even if you are not interested in visiting the aquarium.
Fun Fact: The movie Finding Nemo supposedly got it's inspiration from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and parts of Star Trek IV; The Voyage Home were filmed in the aquarium.