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Monterey Bay Aquarium Family Vacation WOW! Factor - Explore the Deep Blue Sea. Monterey Bay Aquarium Turtle Tank ViewThe Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the United States and is ranked third best family attraction in the United States by the Zagat Survey U.S. Family Travel Guide. It definitely deserves a place on any family’s “to-do” list.

The programs are varied and the exhibitions always awesome. The mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans and they continue to demonstrate their commitment with amazing exhibitions and innovative ways for parents and grandparents to share the wonders of the sea with their children. They continue to offer world-class family experiences for all ages. No two visits will ever be the same because the interactions in the touch tank alone cannot be duplicated.Really any family trip to San Francisco must include a day in Monterey.
Explore underwater. How cool is this?  Underwater Explorers program gives kids ages 8 to 13 the chance to surface SCUBA dive with the aquarium staff in the Great Tide Pool. Meet the critters underwater as part of an aquarium visit. No SCUBA experience is required. Kids wear dry suits and specialized SCUBA gear that keeps them floating safely on the surface while getting a fish-eye view of our Great Tide Pool. The certified dive staff will assist participants in the water, and introduce them to the critters that live in this rocky environment. The small group size (no more than 10 young divers in each session with three staff) ensures a safe and educational experience for everyone. No bathing suit or towel required. They provide all the gear but kids must feel comfortable in the water. 

Check out Aquarium Adventures. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, special summer activities offer great ways for children, adults and families to experience the wonders of the ocean together. It is also possible to go behind-the-scenes with aquarium experts; get a diver’s-eye view of marine life; feed an abalone or a sea urchin; sleepover with the fishes or count amazing jellies. A full schedule and online tickets for all Aquarium Adventures is available online at Bay Aquarium Touch Tank 

The Bay is part of the nation's largest marine sanctuary. A day trip to this state-of-the-art facility will provide a sense of place for visitors. The eye level exhibits provide the ideal way to view the bay's habitats. The displays span from shallow tide pools to the open ocean and deep sea.

Also at the Aquarium. Other permanent exhibits that make Monterey Bay Aquarium among the most popular in the nation include a three-story living kelp forest, a million-gallon indoor ocean, and “Splash Zone”—a colorful, interactive family gallery. Large sharks and diving sea birds roam the 335,000-gallon Monterey Bay Habitats exhibit, shorebirds stroll on beaches in a walk-through aviary, three young sea otters frolic inches away from visitors and petting pools with bat rays, sea stars and other animals thrill children of all ages.

In addition to special exhibitions like The Jellies Experience, the aquarium’s acclaimed permanent exhibits include playful sea otters; a towering three-story kelp forest; touch pools and other hands-on exhibits; Ocean Homes family galleries; and a million-gallon Outer Bay exhibit, home to sharks, tuna, barracuda and other open-ocean animals.

There are daily feeding shows in the Kelp Forest and sea otter exhibits, as well as daily auditorium programs featuring high-definition video clips that take visitors into the deep sea and waters around the world to learn about sharks, jellies and otters.Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter
Go behind the scenes. Throughout the year, popular behind-the-scenes tours continue, giving visitors the opportunity to learn other secrets about the aquarium. Visitors ages six and up can participate in a guided, 50-minute tour and find out what it takes to care for animals and exhibits at the aquarium. These dynamic tours will be offered several times a day. An expert guide, state-of-the-art headset technology and explorations that take you to where the day’s action is most intriguing, make this a must-see addition for repeat as well as first-time aquarium visitors. Space is limited and – while drop-in slots are usually available – advance purchase is recommended.

Don’t miss the bookshop.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Press has published an abundance of titles about jellyfish, whales, sharks and other ocean life. Their award-winning children's books make natural history accessible and exciting to kids of all ages.

Wait for it!
What kid doesn’t love sleeping over but imaging saying we are sleeping over with the fishes. I would be remiss not to mention that it is actually possible to participate in a family sleepover at the aquarium. It’s the perfect way to share family time after hours. Guests may sleep next to a favorite exhibit; enjoy exploring without the daytime crowds; participate in one of the many organized activities; end the evening with a light bedtime snack followed by a late night nature movie for our night owls. Wake up with the fishes and enjoy a continental breakfast.

Location on the planet. Monterey Bay Aquarium is located south of San Francisco on Cannery Row in Monterey.

Make it happen. Travelers can find the latest information about all aquarium exhibits and programs—plus a special events calendar, special discounts, fun and educational games and more—on the E-Quarium at Bonus Points: All exhibits and programs (excluding Underwater Explorers) are included with aquarium admission. Audio tours, available in English, Spanish, German, French and Japanese, are available. Advance tickets are recommended during summer and major holiday periods. For the SCUBA Experience pre-registration is highly recommended. To register call (831) 648-4880, toll-free 1-800-840-4880 or

Information and images provided by Monterey Bay Aquarium. Compiled with comments by FTF staff writer, Jule Nelson-Duac. Updated copyright 2014.