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Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California

by Leap on December 15, 2023 Los Angeles

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One of our Frog Family's favorite places to visit is the Aquarium of the Pacific. It's in a beautiful spot in Long Beach with plenty to do — both in the aquarium itself and the local area. The tadpoles enjoy getting their fingers wet in the touch tanks, coming face-to-face with sea lions and sharks, and learning about aquatic creatures, including nearly two dozen frog (and other amphibian) species! If you're taking a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood or Disneyland, plan a day off from the theme parks to spend some relaxing time near the shore in Long Beach with a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific and the nearby Queen Mary.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - giant whale inside

 

Overview of the Aquarium of the Pacific

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - gulf of california species

Located between Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach offers plenty of seaside fun. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach has been open since 1998. The aquarium is currently celebrating 25 Years of Connecting to Nature! Starting May 26, 2023, guests can experience the milestone anniversary with exclusive merchandise and brand-new experiences. This includes a new photo exhibit showcasing how locals connect to nearby nature and a newly rethemed Southern California Gallery.

In addition to these special experiences, the aquarium boasts offers many other aquatic adventures (for an extra cost)!

Our froggy guide will send you hopping through the indoor and outdoor exhibits and even help you save some green with Aquarium of the Pacific discount tickets. Ribbit!

Aquarium of the Pacific Location, Parking, Hours

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - Exterior of Aquarium with parking to the left

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. The nearby parking structure is on the waterside of Shoreline Drive between Chestnut Place and Aquarium Way. Parking is $8 for the day with Aquarium validation. You’ll pay for parking when you exit. We recommend sticking around the area to take advantage of the all-day parking and enjoy nearby restaurants, bike trails and the city's beautiful surroundings.

The aquarium is typically open from Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. On select dates in the summer, the aquarium operates on special hours, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The outdoor Moon Jelly Touch Lab, an activity included with the general admission ticket, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Aquarium of the Pacific Tickets and Reservations

You can purchase Aquarium of the Pacific discount tickets through Undercover Tourist and save money! That's right! Savings can vary per day. Keep in mind that advance online reservations are required for all visitors on weekends (including Saturday and Sunday), all holidays and special events. You may be able to find walk-up availability Monday through Friday if space allows, but reservations are still highly recommended for weekday visits too. Once you select your tickets, you can choose a redemption date and arrival window that you’ll be using the ticket for before you even purchase. When you visit, allow plenty of time to arrive, park and walk in.

Aquarium of the Pacific Exhibits and Plan

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - learning touch lab

The Aquarium of the Pacific houses animals in three major galleries:

  • Tropical Pacific Gallery
  • Northern Pacific Gallery
  • (New) Southern California Gallery

You can explore smaller interactive exhibits within the galleries, see shows and even create art in the art gallery.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - pacific visions microscopes and jellies

One of the other exhibits, Pacific Visions, is a multimedia technology exhibit containing animal art, video projections, soundscapes, microscopes and a marine life theater show. Here are a few of our favorite exhibits and how we approach them.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - gulf of california habitat

Another mini-exhibit in the aquarium is the Gulf of California habitat. This habitat focuses on the area between Mexico and Baja California, as well as the 900 species of fish and seven endangered species of sea turtles that inhabit it.

Southern California Gallery 

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - new southern california gallery

The Southern California Gallery underwent a retheming as part of the 25th anniversary of the aquarium, and fully opened to the public July 1, 2023!  The exhibit highlights local treasures such as coral reefs, kelp forests, sea grass and many other native marine life species in the vicinity. The new gallery places a focus on conservation and paying attention to all forms of sea life. New additions to the gallery include a white abalone snail habitat, a native lobster species habitat, a jelly habitat and an immersive oil rig scene that highlights sea anemones and other invertebrates.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific - Kid at the shark tank

As you exit the indoor exhibit, you can visit the Shark Lagoon outside, where people (especially the tadpoles) like to touch and observe several species of sharks. Some of the shark species include the blacktip reef shark, the zebra shark and the sandbar shark. There are even a few stingrays swimming around with them, including the cownose ray and reticulate whiptail ray.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - shark lagoon rays

While outside, you can also explore the Molina Animal Care Center, Horseshoe Crab Touch Lab, Lorikeet Forest and Moon Jelly Touch Lab (it's tucked away on the side but worth heading over to pet the bouncy jellies). Our tadpoles love to get their froggy fingers in the water and spend some time getting to know the animals.

Then, we head upstairs to the outside to the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, Shorebird Sanctuary and Ray Habitat touch pool. Lorikeet Forest and several So Cal Baja Gallery focus exhibits are temporarily closed.

After that, it's time to tackle the second-floor indoor exhibits. The Café Scuba makes a nice spot to have a quick snack, sit down and rest or take a nearby bathroom break before moving through the second-floor indoor exhibits. Don’t miss the Garden Eels! You can easily mistake them for grass, but look closer.

Northern Pacific Gallery

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - northern california fish

The Northern Pacific Gallery focuses on the colder waters of the Bering Sea and the species native to that area.

There, you can enjoy observing a variety of peaceful sea jellies, including Pacific sea nettle species that can grow up to a foot in diameter! You will also find a giant Pacific octopus and several species of diving birds in this habitat! For a more interactive experience, visit the learning lab filled with vibrantly colored starfish and sea anemones you can touch. Once you've seen all of that, you'll want to spend a significant amount of time watching the adorable sea otters.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - jellies

As part of its anniversary celebration, the Aquarium of the Pacific is working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help care for orphaned sea otter pups before they are released into the wild!

Tropical Pacific Gallery

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - tropical pacific sea apple

The Tropical Pacific Gallery is a newer exhibit. It showcases the beauty and diversity of many tropical habitats, including Indonesia and Palau. Coral Reefs: Nature's Underwater Cities is a large and colorful coral reef habitat, filled with equally vibrant fish species that are typically found in these habitats in the wild. Coral lagoons act as nurseries for young fish and homes to many brilliant species, such as the yellow tang and the moon wrasse. You may also spot clownfish and frogs before moving through the tropical tunnel to meet more creatures.

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Southern California - tropical pacific fish

Another major habitat in the gallery, Frogs: Dazzling & Disappearing contains colorful, endangered species of frogs best observed from afar. In this habitat, you'll find the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog and the Panamanian Golden Frog, among others.

Stop by the Honda Pacific Visions Theater to rest the old flippers and watch a show. It exits to the Pacific Visions multimedia exhibit. Downstairs in the art gallery, we let the tadpoles enjoy some free time playing with the interactive waterfall, paint-a-fish exhibit and coral touch wall.

Before exiting, stop by the Pacific Collections Gift Store. It's full of toys, books and keepsakes for the whole frog family to remember their visit to the aquarium.

Other Fun Add-On Activities at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific - Boat and lighthouse in front of the aquarium

For an additional fee, you can enhance your aquarium experience in many ways! The aquarium offers several extra activities to engage in.

Feed an Animal

For an up-close and personal experience, purchase food to feed the animals. You can feed the nectar to the lorikeets and, on weekends, you can feed brine shrimp to the moon jellies.

Take a Boat Adventure

Get out on the water and experience sea life in the wild on a Dolphin Cruise, a Harbor Tour or whale watching when in season.

Have an Animal Encounter

Feed the sharks and walk among the rays! Join an Aquarium educator for a private encounter at the touch pools of Shark Lagoon.

Dates vary depending on the animal encounter, but all animal encounters cost $150 per person. There may be height requirements or items you need to bring (such as closed-toed shoes), so double-check the details. Reserve an experience by calling (562) 590-3100, ext. 0.

Events at Aquarium of the Pacific

The aquarium holds many seasonal events and festivals throughout the year! Here are some of the confirmed, free events in 2024:

Festival of Human Abilities — Jan. 27 - 28, 2024

This annual festival held at the aquarium is a celebration highlighting the many creative talents and abilities of people with disabilities.

African American Festival — Feb. 24 - 25, 2024

Hosting this festival for the 22nd time, the Aquarium of the Pacific elevates the music, dance, storytelling and historical displays of African-American culture.

Tips for Visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific

Our Guide to the Aquarium of the Pacific - Tree frog

Here are a few tips to make the best of your day at the Aquarium of the Pacific:

  • Eat before you visit.
  • Do not bring any outside food and drink, although you can purchase food from the café upstairs and in the Great Hall.
  • Bring your own stroller. The aquarium does not have rentals.
  • Remember to validate parking.
  • Keep an eye out for special events that may be going on when you visit.
  • Chat with the employees, who will be hoppy to answer questions, share fun facts about the animals and show you things you might've missed.
  • Download the Aquarium of the Pacific Visitor Guide app to see the daily schedule and explore the map (and you can even listen to frog sounds!)
  • Hop by the Ocean Science Center to catch daily shows on real issues that affect our oceans.
  • Get excited about your visit or keep the memories alive by watching Webcams from home.

Hopfully, you're on your way to planning a great day in Long Beach at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Remember to purchase discount Aquarium of the Pacific tickets and make advance reservations before you visit.

Related: Frogtastically Fun Things to Do in Los Angeles with Kids

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