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Aquarium of the Pacific

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Aquarium of the Pacific
Head to Long Beach to visit Southern California’s largest aquarium

Located along Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific is Southern California’s largest aquarium and a must-do Long Beach activity for all ages. Home to more than 11,000 animal exhibits, the aquarium explores three distinct waters of the Pacific Ocean. 

Start in the Southern California/Baja Gallery where you’ll find the 536,000-litre, three-storey-high Honda Blue Cavern that features ocean inhabitants found off the coast of Catalina Island. You’ll also want to visit the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat and the Ray Touch Pool. Highlighting habitats in and around the Bering Strait, the Northern Pacific gallery features a collection of graceful jellies, four playful otters in the Sea Otter exhibit, and the largest species of octopus in the world, the giant Pacific octopus, which can grow to more than 6 metres long! 

Then head to the warmer waters of the Tropical Pacific Gallery and the largest exhibit in the aquarium—the 1.3-million-litre Tropical Reef Habitat, which can be viewed from three locations and holds thousands of colourful fish, coral and sea turtles, and two kinds of sharks. Don’t forget to stop by the seahorse and sea dragon exhibit to see if you can find these camouflaged creatures hiding among the seaweed.

In addition to the three main galleries, the aquarium also features outdoor exhibits, including an interactive Shark Lagoon, the Lorikeet Forest aviary, the penguin habitat, and a horseshoe crab touch lab.

If you’re looking to dive in further, the aquarium offers many educational, exclusive and behind-the-scenes experiences. You can get up close and personal with animals such as stingrays, sea lions and penguins, or dive right into an exhibit (certification required). If your children have dreamed of staying overnight next to a gigantic fish tank, you can do that too.

Opening in spring 2019 is Pacific Visions, a brand-new wing that will help aquarium visitors better understand the challenges the ocean faces and the opportunities it holds. The expansion will include a state-of-the-art interactive theatre, a larger exhibit gallery with live animals and an art gallery.

Insider tip: check out the Aquarium of the Pacific website for information on discounted tickets.

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Ron Thomas/Getty Images

Spotlight: Long Beach

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18
May
Average (°C)
Mar - May
22°
High
12°
Low
June - Aug
27°
High
17°
Low
Sept - Nov
25°
High
13°
Low
Dec - Feb
19°
High
8°
Low

Just half an hour from Los Angeles, Long Beach is a beachfront gem you’ll want to add to your California itinerary. It offers beautiful beaches and marinas along with a busy dining and shopping scene that perfectly blends big city sophistication with beach town fun.

Tour the Queen Mary, the legendary, permanently docked ocean liner or relax with a drink in the ship’s Observation Bar—for truly unique accommodations, you can even stay overnight in one of the ship’s staterooms or suites. Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, Southern California’s largest aquarium and home to playful sea otters, Magellanic penguins, and a 350,000-gallon Tropical Reef Habitat, which holds thousands of colourful fish, coral, sea turtles, and sharks.

Looking for some retail therapy instead? Shop designer favorites at Pike Outlets or search for the perfect retro finds at the vintage boutiques along Long Beach’s Fourth Street. Or try your hand at kitesurfing on Long Beach’s Belmont Shores, one of the best places in the state for beginners to learn the sport thanks to the protective breakwater that blocks major waves.

Above all, enjoy eating your way through the city’s culinary delights from the classic waterfront Parkers’ Lighthouse in Shoreline Village to the modern SteelCraft, an urban eatery in Bixby Knolls, to the rooftop Sky Room, an Art Deco bar and dining room, 14 stories atop the Breakers Hotel in downtown Long Beach. Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend, a family reunion destination, or just a getaway with the kids, Long Beach has the food, fun, and sun for your perfect next Southern California trip. 

–Kate Bayless