Monterey Bay Aquarium is the most famous aquarium in the United States. This is for good reason as it is a beautiful museum that does amazing work rescuing and protecting the local sea otter population. We loved everything about this museum but the price. Still, we would go again, and we felt a little better that this non-profit is helping nature. At the time of our visit, it cost our family of five a bit over $200 for a day pass. Parking is also an issue in this part of Monterey, and you will pay for it if you can find it.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is amazing. There are two floors and a large outdoor area. The first floor has several different kinds of exhibits. We really enjoyed the kelp forest, which is a three-story tank with fish and sharks swimming among the native kelp. There were a lot of other small tanks with all kinds of sea creatures. The octopus was particularly active when we visited. There are a few exhibits upstairs, too, including the sea otters and a rotating exhibit. It was called Into the Deep when we visited.
This aquarium is very interactive. There are touch tanks staffed by volunteers that show you how to safely touch both animals and sea plants. Another large section has dials and cranks that little ones can manipulate to make cutout versions of the animals move. This helps children see the behaviors of the animals in a fun way. Our boys really liked this section set aside specifically for kids. We were impressed with how many different interactive areas there were for the kids to enjoy.
The main draw for the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the sea otters. There is a large tank that is always busy, both inside and out. The otters are constantly in motion, swimming right next to the glass, or playing with a toy in their enclosure. There are feeding times and a movie about sea otter rescue as well. We spent a lot of time looking at the otters.
Out the back of Monterey Bay Aquarium is a large amphitheater that is open to the ocean. We stood on the deck for a while and searched the ocean for wild sea otters. We saw many kinds of birds, and eventually, some otters as well. In the Spring when we visited they did the back stroke with their fluffy babies on their tummy. They gently groom the pups as they float along. We were glad we had binoculars to see them from the deck.
These are our family tips for visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
- Arrive early. We arrived slightly before opening time and we were able to find street parking not that far from the aquarium that saved us a lot of money.
- Food: You cannot take food into the aquarium, but you can leave and re-enter. So we spent a few hours, left to eat lunch in our car, and then went back into the aquarium. There is also a cafe with lots of options if you don’t want to leave.
- Wear comfy shoes and bring strollers. You will be walking a lot and little legs will get tired.
- If you are in the area, we recommend the 17 mile drive and Point Lobos State Nature Reserve.