Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aquarium of the Pacific

When you're so close to the ocean its kind of a necessity to learn about the animals and the ecosystem in it.  After all, we all love to go to the beach, we love clean water, and some even like eating fish.  The Aquarium of the Pacific is the perfect place to spend a day, have some fun, and get educated about marine life. It is located in Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach and has a lot of friendly people eager to tell you about the ocean and its inhabitants.

AOP has over 11,000 animals representing 500 species. It focuses on the Pacific Ocean which of course makes sense because we're so close to it.  There are 19 major habitats and 32 focus exhibits.  The three major galleries are Baja California, Northern Pacific, and Tropical Reefs. Popular exhibits at the Aquarium also include the Aquarium's interactive Shark Lagoon where guests can pet sharks and sting rays and Lorikeet Forest where guests can feed nectar to colorful lorikeet birds.
The unique aspect about the aquarium is it's staff.  There are over 900 people on staff including 300 paid employees and over 600 volunteers.  I recently became on of the 600 volunteers so my experience is a bit different from just visiting for fun.  I volunteer once a week for 4 hours and on my first day had the opportunity to see the aquarium from a patrons point of view.  There is so much to do and see.  I started by going to one of the many live shows that occur daily.  I watched one of the volunteer scuba divers speak to the crowd while in the tank with the animals.  I then went to the Sea Otter exhibit to see Maggie the youngest otter that is super fun to watch.  Next I saw the 4D movie Turtle Vision in the theater which follows a couple sea turtles (my fav).  I finally made my way outside to Shark Lagoon to pet the sharks and sting rays.  Then lastly went to the Lorikeet Forest and fed the lorikeets which was weird because they land on your arm while they eat out of the little cup you hold.  There was so much more to do and see but I was done for the day and quite tired.

A few tips; the aquarium is open from 9-6 daily but to avoid the crowds and the kids I would go around 1 and stay till close during the week if you can.  Most of the school groups leave at 1 so you're not dodging rowdy kids.  Otherwise go on a weekend, perhaps the kids are less rambunctious when with their parents.  It can be a bit pricey at $24.95 per adult but there are a lot of discounts that can be found and as simple as buying your ticket online and saving $4.  You can also participate in their Seafood for the Future promotion by eating a seafood dish at one of the participating restaurants and getting a free ticket.  There are additional discounts and promotions, just check out the website. The website has a host of info and is vital to look at before you visit so you can get the most out of your day and your money.  I'm not going into how focused the aquarium is on conservation education so you can also look of their to find out about their mission and how to get involved if so inclined.  Otherwise, just visit and have a good time.  If you want to see me there come on Wednesday mornings :)

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