Return to the New Splash Zone at Monterey Bay Aquarium!
The last time we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (back in January—you can read about the trip here), we were a little disappointed to find that the Splash Zone, their interactive education and play area for kids, was closed for renovation. But it's back now at, and, at twice the size of the old Splash Zone, it's better than ever! We weren't able to make the media preview back in March, but we were back in Pacific Grove a couple weeks ago and had the opportunity to check it out.
The Splash Zone is on the second level of the Aquarium, and features hands-on exhibits for children of all ages. We enjoyed the expanded Enchanted Kelp Forest exhibit, with its interactive games and cool new touching pool, which is much more impressive than the one we remember from before. The other new exhibit that everyone loved is the Coral Reef Kingdom, which features tropical fish, seahorses, cuttlefish, and various eels, including little garden eels, which resemble strands of sea grass as they sway in the current. The kids really liked them, especially when they'd zip back into their burrows.
Other features that we enjoyed were the water play area (with waterproof aprons supplied!), and of course the famous penguins. The aquarium's colony of African black-footed penguins seemed to be a hit with everyone, and you could even get a close-up view of them in their habitat via a plexiglass bubble that allows you to pop your head up inside their enclosure. You can take a look at them now, if you like, via the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Penguin Cam.
Of course there's more going on there than we can hope to write about here. The aquarium has a huge amount of information about the Splash Zone on their great website, www.montereybayaquarium.org, including a parents' guide, a guide to the animals found in the exhibits, and a fun and games section that includes online games, activities, and downloadable projects and coloring pages.
We were also able to take a longer look at the Wild About Otters exhibit downstairs. Last time, we didn't get to see much, as the aquarium was at that point very crowded, and we'd been there for about three hours at that point, which meant the kids were getting tired and cranky. Anyhow, it's a great exhibit that features a variety of freshwater otters from around the world, as well as other creatures such as snakes, frogs, turtles, and fish. The otters are very active and playful, and it's a lot of fun to watch them in their simulated river environment. As with the penguins you can watch them from the comfort of your own computer on the aquarium's live Otter Cam.
There was a small play area within the exhibit, as well as a room where you could create your own otter books using the provided printed booklets and rubber stamps of various animals. This area was totally deserted, so we had it all to ourselves.
More Visiting Tips
On this trip we ended up visiting the aquarium on a weekday, which ended up being an amazing revelation. Every other time we've been there has been on a weekend, holiday, or on the aquarium's free day, and it's always been extremely busy and crowded (although arriving when the aquarium opens at 10 am really makes a big difference, as the crowds don't really arrive until later on). This time, however, the aquarium was busy, but relatively uncrowded, although there seemed to be a dozen or more school groups on hand at any given time. It was much easier to get close to some of the more popular exhibits, and overall was just a nicer experience. Definitely try to go during the week if you can!
Also, parking was much easier. We parked on the street on Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove, near the American Tin Cannery outlet stores (just around the corner from the aquarium). The street spaces are metered, but at $1 an hour (for the first two hours... it goes up after that) they are much less than the paid parking lots in Monterey. The spaces are good for a ridiculously long time—I think it was 12 hours—so bring plenty of quarters.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located at 886 Cannery Row in Monterey, which is about 130 miles or so sout of Marin County. We generally get to Monterey by taking I-280 to San Jose, then taking 101 south to Prunedale, where you cross over via Route 156 to Highway 1. Follow Highway 1 south to exit 402B for Del Monte Avenue. Follow Del Monte into Monterey, then through the tunnels onto Lighthouse Avenue. Take Lighthouse to David Avenue. Turn right on David and park in the paid lot located on David between Foam and Wave Streets. Parking is $1 for each 30 minutes or fraction thereof. Street parking in the area is difficult and the paid lots are conveniently close to the aquarium. There's another paid lot on Foam Street at Prescott Avenue, in case the David lot fills up, which it does.
[gmap markers=big blue::36.617663269439504,-121.9017219543457:Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940 |zoom=11 |center=36.602299135790446,-121.893310546875 |width=570px |height=450px |id=macro_map |control=Small |type=Map]
Hours, Prices, and Information
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, and from 9:30 am to 6 pm on holidays. It's closed on December 25. From June 5 through August 31 the aquarium is open until 8 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with live music. Admission is $24.95 for adults, $15.95 for children 3–12, and $22.95 for students 13–17, college students with ID, and seniors 65+. If you're planning to visit more than once a year, a membership at $120 is a pretty good deal. It admits 2 adults and 2 children an unlimited number of times. Bypass the lines and buy advance tickets online here, or become a member.
For more information visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium online at www.montereybayaquarium.org, or call (831) 648-4800.
August 17, 2019
August 16, 2019
August 13, 2019
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