How to Enjoy a Day at Monterey Bay Aquarium

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    • 1). Understand what makes the location of the Aquarium so unique. The Aquarium is situated at the edge of a bay that includes an incredibly deep canyon (the Grand Canyon would fit inside). As a result, it's much easier for researchers to investigate aquatic life that lives in the depths of the ocean--life that has never been studied before.

    • 2). Gain knowledge painlessly. Remember that required science college course? That's not the method here. Each exhibit is richly detailed, but easy to understand. The Aquarium leads not only as a research facility, but also as an example of how to best relate the seemingly obscure life of a jellyfish to the life you lead with things like plastic bags and fertilizer. It's a real-world, real-life relationship that not only educates you about sea life, but also makes you a more aware consumer.

    • 3). View the deep and talk to the researchers. The "Mysteries of the Deep" presentation provides a researcher who will use the latest technology to not only answer your questions, but also show you what's happening right now on the research boat. The Aquarium includes a research vessel that drops a rover into the water to video and investigate deep sea life--one of the least-researched areas of the world. You get to see live, through the camera, what's happening in the ocean right now at depths you'll never be able to actually visit.

    • 4). Laugh with the otters. These funny, silly mammals are a cornerstone of the Aquarium. They have regular feeding times that are posted on the website. Be sure to get there early to view the feedings as they are very popular. Further into the Aquarium is another larger otter exhibit that includes a wide-ranging perspective of otters from other areas of the world. This exhibit is geared for all ages, but kids will especially enjoy the games (like trying to keep an otter fed) and the playground-like feel of the exhibit.

    • 5). See the big tanks to see life in action. Monterey Bay Aquarium boasts some of the largest tanks available. As a result, you can more easily see the interrelationships of the sea life and the skills used to survive in the open ocean. You can also talk with a diver in the tank (see the website for times).

    • 6). Watch a wave wash over you. The kids will love this part of the Aquarium. Directly below the stairs that lead up to the children's playground there is a corner where you can stand where waves wash over the passerby walking through. You can watch the waves through the acrylic ceiling. It's a great way to engage the kids if they're starting to get bored.

    • 7). Have a fabulous lunch. The Aquarium provides two different options for lunch: self-serve cafeteria (that offers some delicious options) and a sit-down restaurant with full bar. The options sit side-by-side, with the Portola cafe on the right and the Portola restaurant on the left. You'll need to make reservations early in the day to get a table at the Portola cafe, but it's well worth it. Not only is the food fantastic, but you'll also be able to distract any children with the binoculars that the restaurant lends to you so that the kids can watch the otters play, the seals push other seals off rocks and the birds fly by. Plus, the laminated card attached to the binoculars helps the older kids learn more about the local sea life.

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