Aquarium of the Pacific

If you haven't been down to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for a while, it's time to take another trip.

The aquarium, which displays nearly 500 different species of inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean, offers a diverse array of programs for children and adults.

New as of this summer are the Ocean Science Center Gallery and the Arctic & Antarctic exhibition. In the Ocean Science Center Gallery, visitors can experience how climate change and maritime trade and ports impact our lives.

The Arctic & Antarctic exhibit tells the story of how these amazing environments are in peril because of climate change (and recently welcomed two new arctic fox pups!).

The kids and I spent an incredible morning at the aquarium yesterday, checking our the new exhibits and some of our old favorites. One highlight of the morning's visit was an opportunity to touch the ethereal moon jellyfish (softer than you would expect) and watch them feed on tiny brine shrimp.

The aquarium hosts an incredible number of special events and festivals throughout the year. Upcoming features through October include Shark Lagoon Nights (Friday nights from 6 to 9 pm); Moompetam: Native American Festival (Sept. 17-18); Baja Splash Cultural Festival (Sept. 24-25); Southeast Asia Day (Oct. 8); the Aquarium Kids Fun Run (Oct. 8), Sea Fare Fundraiser (Oct. 15), and the Halloween Family Sleepover (Oct. 21-22).

Even if you come on a regular day, there's still plenty to do. Daily presentations include movies at the Marine Life Theater and the Honda Theater, and the massive multi-sensory whales presentation in the Great Hall (visitors can get a copy of the daily schedule when they come in).

And of course you won't want to miss the Shark Lagoon - the country's first full-scale shark touch exhibit - and the Lorikeet Forest, where you can feed more than 100 enthusiastic Lorikeets from little cups of nectar.

Does a visit to the aquarium bring out your inner marine biologist? You and your kids can sign up for educational programs (or even sleepovers or private parties) through the Aquarium's education division.

Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA. Open 9 am to 6 pm daily. General admission $24.95 for adults (12+), $21.95 senior (62+), $12.95 child (3-11), free for children under age 3 and aquarium members. Family membership: $115 for unlimited admission for one year, plus other aquarium discounts.

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