California Aquariums


Aquarium of the Pacific Offers Sights and Sounds for Kids of all Ages

Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach
(562) 590-3100

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By C. MacDonald

LONG BEACH--The Aquarium of the Pacific brings out the "kid" in all of us with its real magical wonderland of "awe" and "wow." Upon entering, there's cool stuff to see no matter where your eyes take you.

Look up in the distance and you see a huge replica of a whale hanging from the ceiling. You'll be amazed at its size. Look down and you'll spot designs of Angelfish, Trumpetfish and Unicornfish etched in the floor. Look to the side and there's a mesmerizing Tropical Pacific Fish Gallery Preview, with eye-catching, multi-color fish swimming and drifting right before you. You could spend a whole day just watching the fish do their thing in this section. It's so relaxing.

Beyond this site, on a level above, there's a terrific new interactive kiosk exhibit–"Whale Voices in the Sea"–where you can touch screens and explore how these sensational marine mammals use complex sounds to communicate and navigate through the sea. You are able to hear the actual sounds of whales, while watching a spectrogram as it charts the noises.

Dave Bader (left) and Adrian Samora with "Whale Voices in the Sea"

"You can record your own voice mimicking the whale sounds," said Dave Bader, Director of Education. "Children can delve deeper and learn more about whales with this kiosk. There are even whale watching tours, which originate close to the aquarium." (Harbor Breeze/Aquarium boat trips take you to sea to see the actual whales.)

"We've seen a variety of whales, including some Sperm Whales, which are rare because they may be underwater for 20 minutes at a time," Bader said.

Below the "Whale Voices" exhibit is the remarkable Blue Cavern Habitat, modeled after a kelp forest along the NE coast of Santa Catalina Island. In this impressive display, you'll watch Giant Sea Bass, Moray Eels, sharks and many other creatures.

One of the neat things about the aquarium is that you can get into the ocean without getting wet–be within inches of jelly fish and sharks. If you want to get closer, the Ray Touchpool allows you to feel a real Bat Ray or Shovelnose Guitarfish. A Discovery Lab enables you to touch a sea star or urchin.

Close by, the popular Magellanic Penguins outdoor exhibit is a replica of a giant water-squirting squid, which allows children to have fun, while learning how some animals protect themselves from predators.

Jon Marino with son, Tony, was pleasantly surprised by the Aquarium of the Pacific's colorful displays and interactive opportunities.

Tony Marino, 5, enjoyed igniting the water-squirting device, and he liked the underwater viewing spot at Shark Lagoon, where he came nose-to-nose with real Sand, Tiger and Zebra sharks. Tony's mom, Angela, and dad, Jon, who's a high school teacher in Santa Maria, took him through the Lorikeet Forest, which features colorful green, red, black and yellow birds. (Before entering the aviary, you even can purchase a cup of nectar to feed the feathered friends.)

The aquarium, celebrating its 15th Year of helping people discover the ocean, also offers Animal Encounters, where you can actually feed a shark, sea otter or sea lion.

"There's just so much the whole family can do here," said the Aquarium's Adrian Samora. "There are more than 11,000 animals and nearly 500 different species."

Three main exhibit galleries include the warm, clear waters of the Tropical Pacific, the chilly waters of the Northern Pacific and the local waters of Southern California and Baja. To find out more about this educational playground for kids of all ages, go to, visit it at 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach or call 562-590-3100.

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