USA Travel

Southern California has a lot of wonderful experiences for visitors, particularly if you’re inclined to enjoy a theme park or two. But there are other things to do that don’t involve theme parks, including the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Located in Long Beach, it offers a very different experience to something like Sea World, one that’s less performance-based and more focused on education. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun, wonderful place to spend time.

Building an aquarium

Formerly known as the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, this facility opened its doors in 1998. This makes it a relatively new aquarium in the United States, though that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable an experience for visitors.

Aquarium of the Pacific

LONG BEACH, CA – FEBRUARY 02: Dr. Jerry Schubel, President & CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific attends Aquarium of the Pacific Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrates Its First Major Expansion, a two-story wing and architectural centerpiece called Pacific Visions on February 2, 2017 in Long Beach, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Aquarium of the Pacific)

The building itself is worth checking out. It was reputedly designed to be reminiscent of the waves of the Pacific Ocean breaking against the shores of California. There’s a fluidity to its look that certainly accomplishes that.

While the exhibits inside the building are certainly the star of the show, the gardens out front are also quite special. They’re definitely gorgeous but they were also designed to be environmentally conscious as it only uses California native and drought-resistant plants.

As great as the architecture and the garden are, you’re not there just to wander around out front. You’re there to get your butt inside and enjoy some stunning exhibits. And that is exactly what the Aquarium of the Pacific has for you.

Wide range of sea life and more

The Aquarium of the Pacific has multiple exhibits, each one with a different theme. Overall, the facility is home to more than 11,000 animals spread across 500+ species. That’s the long way of saying there’s a lot to check out.

Without question, the Blue Cavern tank is an absolute star of the show. Located in the Southern California & Baja Gallery, this 142,000-US-gallon tank is home to animals who live in the waters surrounding nearby Catalina Island.

Throughout the Aquarium of the Pacific, guests will find an incredible range of animals to observe and, in some cases, interact with. The species that call the Aquarium home include the Giant Pacific Octopus, Southern Sea Otters, Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, a variety of sharks and rays, and so much more.

One of the more unique exhibits is the Lorikeet Forest. Lorikeets are small, colorful parrots found across Australia. This walk-through aviary allows visitors to interact with five different subspecies of these incredibly charismatic birds. Take the time to feed them. You won’t be disappointed.

A key Los Angeles spot

Part of what makes the Aquarium of the Pacific so engaging is the location as much as anything else. Naturally, being in Los Angeles is outstanding. There’s no shortage of things to do there, and the weather is almost always amazing.

Aquarium of the Pacific

LONG BEACH, CA – MAY 18: A guest attends Pacific Visions Premiere for the new two-story wing at the Aquarium of the Pacific opening to the public on May 24, 2019 at Aquarium of the Pacific on May 18, 2019 in Long Beach, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Aquarium of the Pacific)

The aquarium is just off West Shoreline Drive, near the spot it intersects with Queens Way. It’s actually located at the mouth of the Los Angeles River on Queensway Bay. The Pacific Ocean is right there, offering all kinds of marvelous outdoor experiences.

In the immediate area, there are an impressive array of restaurants as well as several shops to explore. Additionally, Shoreline Aquatic Park and the picturesque Lions Lighthouse are within easy walking distance of the aquarium.

The Aquarium of the Pacific sometimes gets overshadowed by other aquarium experiences, but it should not be overlooked by visitors to L.A. It’s an incredibly fun destination that will only add to what will inevitably be an amazing trip to Southern California.

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