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6 Wonderful Aquariums To Explore In Los Angeles

Aquariums are amazing places that not only bring you face-to-face with wonders you would never be able to see otherwise, but also instills in us a fascination and appreciation of the ocean. While the Monterey Bay Aquarium should be on the bucket list of every Californian, for Angelenos that's at least a weekend excursion. We're blessed in Los Angeles to not just have Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific, but also a whole slew of smaller, local institutions. This summer, why not make a point to visit and support your local aquarium?


AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC
The biggest aquarium in the state south of Monterey, Long Beach's Aquarium Of The Pacific is a great place to lose an entire day from just watching over 11,000 animals in their 50 exhibits. The core of the aquarium is their overview of the Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water on our planet, which goes from the colorful coral reefs of the tropics up to the frigid waters of the north. It's the only place in L.A. County where you'll get a chance to see so many coral reef fishes. Along the way there's a whole gallery dedicated to the California and Baja coasts, which includes their three-story "Blue Cavern" kelp forest tank. Other highlights include the penguin colony, the outdoor aviary where you can feed over 100 tropical birds, and the shark lagoon where you're allowed to pet some of the sharks. Some of them.

Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach. (562) 590-3100. Open every day of the year except Christmas and during the Long Beach Grand Prix.


CABRILLO MARINE AQUARIUM
Just a stone's throw from the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is a mid-sized aquarium that is the most comprehensive overview of the life just off L.A.'s beaches. The main exhibit hall has almost 40 individual tanks curated to give you a thorough walkthrough of what lives in our local waters. Be sure to schedule your visit so you can be there when the touch pool is open for visitors. The Exploration Center and Aquatic Nursery also give you a more in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, including their laboratory work and breeding programs for rare animals like giant sea bass and black abalone.

When you're done visiting the aquarium, Cabrillo Coastal Park is just outside their door, with beaches, the Point Fermin tidepools, and a great birdwatching spot in the Salinas de San Pedro salt marsh. Be sure to check out their events, which includes grunion runs and scientific cruises to Catalina Island.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is located at 3720 Stephen M. White Drive in San Pedro. (310) 548-7562. Closed Mondays.

THE SEA LAB
This small outfit run by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps is within the shadow of the AES Redondo Beach power plant, and for a good reason—they serve as the rescue center for animals sucked into our local power plants. The ones that are fortunate enough to survive the ordeal are sent to the SEA Lab, where they are rehabbed before being rereleased.

During the animals' brief stay at the facility, visitors can take hourly tours in the afternoon where they can see the animals up close and even get to touch some of them. Kids can pet friendly bat rays, gentle horn sharks, and even feel the harmless sting of a sea anemone in the outdoor holding tanks. On Saturdays at noon you can buy a tray of fish food for $2 and help feed the fish in their outdoor pool. Much more exciting than feeding your goldfish, that's for sure.

The SEA Lab is located at 1021 North Harbor Drive in Redondo Beach. (310) 318-7438. Closed Mondays.


CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTER
Much like the Aquarium of the Pacific, the California Science Center boasts its own kelp forest tank in their Ecosystems hall. Unlike the Aquarium of the Pacific, admission is free! The 188,000-gallon tank has its own miniature version of this unique ecosystem and even includes a walkthrough tunnel, which saves you the trouble of getting SCUBA certified and then diving into frigid waters. Every day there are two dive shows in the tank, where a volunteer diver takes the plunge and fields questions from the audience. A separate exhibit on the deep sea lets you get hands on and control simulated robots as if you were on your own deep sea excursion.

And yes, the California Science Center is the home to the Space Shuttle Endeavor, but there are plenty of other cool exhibits there, including more air and spacecrafts throughout the grounds and a gnarly and awesomely gross Rot Room with cockroaches, maggots, and other creepy critters doing what they do.

California Science Center is located at 700 Exposition Park Drive in Exposition Park. (323) 724-3623. Open daily.


SANTA MONICA PIER AQUARIUM
It's easy to miss Heal The Bay's aquarium since it's right underneath one of the most popular tourist spots in the area. But the next time you visit the Santa Monica Pier, take the stairs down below and take a peek at what's inside. This unassuming space is very kid-friendly and features over a 100 different species that are found just in the Santa Monica Bay. Don't miss Tuesday and Friday feeding times at 2:30, where visitors are invited to help feed the sea stars. On Sunday afternoons, you can safely watch a shark feeding frenzy when the animals get their meal at 3:30.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is located at 1600 Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica, underneath the Santa Monica Pier. (310) 393-6149. Admission: $5 per person, kids 12 and under free. Closed Mondays.


ROUNDHOUSE AQUARIUM
Located right at the end of the Manhattan Beach pier, this tiny aquarium is hardly bigger than your own living room. However, that doesn't mean it's not worth the walk down the pier to check out what they have to offer. It's not hard lose an hour or two just watching sanddabs and baby rays swim around in circles in the sandy bottom tank. Even though it's open from above, there's no petting allowed in that tank. On Saturdays at 12:30, it's feeding time for the leopard and horn sharks in their shark tank.

Roundhouse Aquarium is located at 2 Manhattan Beach Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, at the end of the pier. (310) 379-8117. Admission: free, but a donation of $2-$5 is suggested. Open daily.