Aquarium of the Pacific

There is something about the mystique associated with the underworld of the ocean, and our family just loves the opportunity to commune with sea life any chance they get. But, out of all the aquariums out there, one place in particular holds a special place in my heart– Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. As former residents of Los Angeles, my husband and I would visit this location before we had children. I would marvel at the aquatic universe that made up the local area. I would ponder the messages displayed in the exhibits. And…ultimately, I would leave feeling more in touch with all the inhabitants of our world.

So, when we booked our latest Southern California vacation this March, Kid Allergy Travel reached out to partner with the Aquarium of the Pacific (via sponsorship). This is an absolute must-do Los Angeles area family activity, and we have detailed our recent visit so you have the latest information for your next trip to this part of Southern California.

The Basics

AZA Accredited

Kid Allergy Travel believes in checking the status of any animal based encounter with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and supporting only those institutions in good standing. The Aquarium of the Pacific is certified through the AZA as an accredited facility that meets the highest standards of quality in animal care, scientific research, conservation, and education programs. Aquarium of the Pacific conservation efforts range from breeding critically endangered species like the Giant Sea Bass, providing Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS)-approved training in underwater data gathering techniques to aide divers in research projects like the Continental Thermograph Array Project, and work on the Seafood for the Future program that provides scientific-based research to help business make informed decisions about seafood choices.

Location

Roughly half an hours drive from Downtown Los Angeles, the Aquarium of the Pacific is located in the city of Long Beach. Situated right along the harbor, you know you are in the right place when you see a fountain showcasing three playful dolphins. The buildings are a collection of soft grey curvy edges and bright blue glass panels, and evoke to the rise and fall of the sea.

Length of Stay

We recommend spending a full day here. In the very least, you should plan for four hours to hit all the major highlights. We visited with another family this day, and had a group of kids ranging in the ages from five to eighteen. The collection of hands-on activities, live presentations and shows, and walk-through exhibits were engaging enough that even our varied age group found themselves entertained for hours on end.

Highlights

The Aquarium of the Pacific encompasses a whopping 5 acre site. This means, you will be traversing a very large area during your visit. If you are short on time or have small kiddos in your group, you might want to focus on the parts you think will interest your family the most. Some of our favorite portions of this family-friendly Los Angeles area attraction are detailed below.

Outdoor Areas

Make sure to make a stop at the Shark Lagoon when visiting the outdoor exhibit area.

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Here you can pet a shark or a ray like the older kids pictured here, or take time to learn about the habits and makeup of a shark like the littlest in our group.

Don’t miss the gift shop for some fun sea-themed souvenirs.

For those traveling with smaller ones, make sure to pop by the toddler-sized splash pad and climbing structures located next to the Shark Lagoon entrance. This will keep your smallest ones entertained and cooled off if they feel a bit too warm in the California sunshine.

Just past the shark area, you will find one of our favorite exhibits. This portion of the Aquarium of the Pacific focuses on the touching story of an ocean-going species of rainbow trout called the Southern California Steelhead. Although historically they have managed to stay flexible enough to weather the fluctuation of environmental change, today these dynamic fish are at risk for extinction. Here you can learn how you can make changes to save this population of fish with hands-on demonstrations and detailed informational placards.

Shows & Presentations

Showtimes for live shows and presentations are ongoing just about every hour. Make sure to set aside some time to sit and listen to those that peak your interest. If traveling with little ones, this is a great opportunity to sit and recharge a bit before tackling more exhibits. Our kids loved the Blue Cavern Dive, Sea Lions & Seals, and Sea Otters. Playful and engaging, these animals captured our hearts and made a real connection with our group of children long after the show had ended.

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For those who like film presentations, don’t miss the Ocean Theater for a variety of shows sure to peak the interest of all ages. For an additional fee, you can make time to add a 3D experience to your day.

The Exhibits

There are plenty of hands-on activities and loads of information to keep everyone learning and loving the creatures of the sea inside at the main exhibit hall. There are two floors with winding adventures at every turn.

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Conclusion

The Aquarium of the Pacific celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, is home to more than 11,000 animals, and ranks as the fourth most attended aquarium in the United States. We love that not only does this particular aquarium focus on sea life abroad, but it also makes a special effort to highlight the local surrounding areas of Southern California/Baja, Gulf of California, and the Northern Pacific. This hometown portion takes up a grand size of the real estate here, and ultimately that investment changes the feel of the location. Sure this place has the great fortune of having some of the world’s most biologically productive and diverse seas in their backyard, but it is how it is presented that makes your visit feel less distant and “museum-like.” The Aquarium of the Pacific is genuinely connected to their local community and they lovingly present the story of their world.

So, the next time you are in the Long Beach or Los Angeles area, don’t miss the opportunity to be their guest. Make a point to add the Aquarium of the Pacific to your family vacation itinerary because you don’t want miss the opportunity to take a peak at their undersea world filled with magic, beauty, heart, and soul.

Please note Kid Allergy Travel did receive complimentary admission while visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos by Kid Allergy Travel.

Looking for gluten free dining options close by to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA? We visited both of these and enjoyed our time greatly with the kids.

Rose Park Coffee Roasters Coffee Bar is a few blocks away for healthy options including gluten free muffins and yummy cups of coffee.

Bubba Gump Shrimp is directly across the street with a gluten free menu and a fun theme for those who have seen and love Forest Gump.

Looking for a good accommodation recommendation while visiting this area of the greater Los Angeles area?

We love to stay at the Shore Hotel or the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Santa Monica. Both are incredible upscale properties that are kid friendly. We highly recommend both for the modern vibe, amazing pools, great proximity to the beach and the Santa Monica Pier. A relatively short drive about 30 minutes down the coast, you can get to all the family friendly activities in Long Beach and beyond.

Not your style? More lodging options can be found here:

Long Beach Hotels through our affiliate partner Booking.com

California Vacation Rental Properties through our affiliate partner VRBO.

 
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