Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the most beautiful aquariums I’ve ever been in. The architecture is stunning and it’s set right on the Pacific Ocean, featuring both indoor and outdoor exhibits.
The marine-life enclosures are humane, and the main benefactors of the aquarium, David and Lucile Packard, are animal conservationists, working closely to preserve the marine population.
[A quick aside — if you’re wondering how a vegan can ethically support an aquarium, please check out my post on Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto to see my thoughts. I do my research and support places that focus on conservation, education, and research.]
There truly are so many things to love about Monterey Bay Aquarium.
However, the crowds were unbearable during our visit. This was partially our fault for arriving around lunch time. I assume the crowds would be better later in the afternoon, when kids are tired and everyone’s leaving for the car-ride home. And it was also summer vacation in America – the time of year in America where everything is crowded.
Crowded museums, galleries, and aquariums are the bane of my tourism existence. At 5ft 2, half of the children in America are taller than me to begin with. So with almost all of the adult population and half of the child visitors towering over you when you’re my height, you get to see very little.
I’d love Monterey Bay Aquarium to do something about breaking up the crowd flow. Staggering admission times and the quantity of people across times would do wonders for allowing customers to see the marine life properly in summer. We missed out on some key exhibits we would have loved, like the sea otters.
But now I’ve had my little rant about the crowds during summer vacation, let’s talk about the positive aspects!
As mentioned, it’s a unique and beautiful aquarium. The building has high ceilings, with huge glass windows, giving it a light, airy feeling. Huge whale sculptures hang above your head, and you can get a closer view of these from the bridge between The Splash Zone and The Open Sea on the second floor.
The First Floor houses the Monterey Bay Habitats and the spectacular Kelp Forest. It’s impossible to get photos of the kelp forest that do justice to their enormity, and their fluid swaying back and forth in the artificial tide.
Just around the corner from the kelp forest is the touch pool — always a favourite of mine.
On this occasion, the rays were hiding in a corner of the touch pool as far away from human hands as possible. I think the rays were well and truly over being patted!
The two special exhibits during our visit were Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid, and Cuttlefishes, and The Jellies Experience. Tentacles was fascinating, with an impressive variety of cellaphods on display.
North Nomad and I have a special fondness for cuttlefish, after visiting an aquarium a few years ago where the cuttlefish played with our hand movements, following our fingers everywhere we waved them.
The Jellies Experience was eye-grabbing, decked out in groovy 60s colours, patterns, and fonts. I’ve seen a lot of jellyfish over the years and I’m starting to get a little bored with them, but the visual impact of the colours and layout of this exhibit were worth checking out.
My favourite section was one of the permanent features on the Second Floor – The Open Sea. It was enormous, the window spanning 90 feet. The room was an eerie dark colour and felt really cold. Both the size and cold, damp feeling gave of the sensation of being in the deep ocean.
And I’m a big fan of enclosures like this one that gives animals a lot of space. There were large Green Sea Turtles, Hammerhead Sharks, and Ocean Sunfish in this exhibit. Photos just don’t do their size justice without having something next to them for scale.
Overall, Monterey Bay Aquarium is a fantastic aquarium. If you can learn anything from our experience, plan early, buy your tickets online, and go late in the afternoon when the peak time has passed.
Location: 886 Cannery Row Monterey, CA 93940
Cost: Adults (18-64 and not in college) $39.95, Children -12 $29.95, Kids under 3 are free, Students 13-17 (or with college ID) $34.95. No mention of seniors prices on the website.
Opening Hours: 9:30AM to 6:00PM
Contact Details: +1 831 648 4800
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