Visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific

Over the holidays, we took Hudson to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach–and we all loved it. It’s a much smaller aquarium than the one in Monterey, but its size actually makes it nicely manageable for a brief visit with a toddler. The jellyfish and nettles and the giant Octopus are always highlights, as are the touch tanks with small sharks and rays. The sea lions, puffins, and otters all seemed to be putting on a show–and there are plenty of different vantage points for seeing them in their habitats. Sadly the Lorikeet exhibit was closed, but this bird enclosure where they will come perch on you in exchange for a sip of nectar is a lot of fun, too.

One of my neighbors when I was in high school, Warren Iliff, was the founding director of the Aquarium of the Pacific. Warren (who passed away in 2006) was gregarious and warm, with an infectious, goofy laugh, had a story that left your mouth agape for every occasion (most notably that time a chimpanzee took off his finger), a true Newman-Woodward-style romance with his wife, and a collection of air-sickness bags from around the world. It wasn’t surprising that he was chosen as the man to helm a bold new project to invigorate the Long Beach waterfront and I think he is still missed by those who worked there with him. We felt really lucky to get a behind-the-scenes look at the groundbreaking development of the aquarium and have a special affection for it, in part thanks to Warren.

If you’re visiting from out-of-town, be sure to see whether tickets can be combined with any other Southern California attractions on your itinerary and look out for special events and feeding schedules. There are lots restaurants around and in neighboring Shoreline Village, but the fish tacos at the aquarium were really good! (I know, is that so wrong? But I always want seafood after Scuba diving, too.)

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