From scuba diving to exploring a new deep-sea exhibit, there’s plenty at the aquarium in 2023
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has enough activities to keep you entertained for an entire day, thanks to behind-the-scenes tours, animal feedings, and opportunities to get wet. Here are five fantastic ways to make the most of your time at the aquarium (and there will undoubtedly be others):
Explore a new deep-sea exhibit
In a touch tank, giant isopods scurry around like roly-poly bugs. A whale skeleton is being stalked by Japanese spider crabs the size of Labrador retrievers. Electric-rainbow lights crackle through glass-like jellies. Into the Deep, which opened in 2022, has the largest collection of deep-sea animals in North America – awe lurks around every darkened corner in this strange environment.
Dive with aquarium staff
Do you want to literally immerse your child in the wonders of the sea? Surface-diving excursions in the Great Tide Pool just outside the aquarium are available. Staffers will teach kids ages 8 to 13 how to dive in dry suits and guide them through the diverse wildlife that lives in the shallows for $150 plus admission. They are then given a dive log and a warm cup of hot chocolate. (This year’s dives continue until September 4.)
Get happy with penguins
Standing in front of the African penguin habitat has a mood-lifting effect. Many of the birds, which resemble wobbly bowling pins with flippers, have formed couples, and the romance has spread across species – on a recent visit, a man proposed to his partner in front of the penguins. If you go during feeding time, you’ll learn a lot of interesting facts, such as how the birds can defecate 3 feet away by “projectile pooping.”
Witness a feeding frenzy
Have you ever seen hundreds, if not thousands, of fish swarming a diver like a massive fish-nado? That’s the scene during feeding time in the aquarium’s Kelp Forest, when a brave naturalist descends into the tank to scatter grub and provide live commentary in front of a crowd of onlookers. A similarly impressive feeding occurs in the Open Sea exhibit, with huge tuna and hammerhead sharks, and if you want to go beyond fish, there are mealtimes with penguins and sea otters as well.
Take a behind-the-scenes tour
Have you ever wondered what’s behind the aquarium’s closed doors? Backstage tours are available daily at noon, 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. for $24 plus admission. Staff members demonstrate how they prepare food for over 10,000 animals and guide you through the maze of pipes that channel water to exhibits. They may tell stories about the aquarium’s past or highlight off-display marine creatures. On a recent visit, I discovered a tank filled with the tiniest of jellyfish.
Details: The Aquarium is located at 886 Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; tickets range from $44.95 (child) to $59.95 (adult);