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Visitor's Guide to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, located in Monterey, California, is a stunning aquarium located on the former site of a sardine cannery on Cannery Row that opened to visitors back in 1984 showcasing the habitats and sea life of one of the world’s richest marine regions.  The Aquarium is home to more than 30,000 creatures that represent over 550 species with over a hundred exhibiits.  It truly is a window to the wonders of the ocean and how we can help conserve marine life through sustainable fishing and protecting the oceans.

The goal of the non-profit public aquarium is to inspire ocean conservation through its exhibits, education, research and conservation programs and provide its 2 million annual visitors a glimpse into their plan.

Plan Your Visit:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium website has some great information about all of the exhibits showcased at the aquarium, as well as a nice Visitor's Guide that you should familiarize yourself with before your trip.  I always like reviewing the layout of the exhibits and having a plan of how we'll be going through the attractions.

Based on my previous trips here with little ones in tow, here is my plan on seeing all of the exhibits:

From the entrance into the main hallway, go left towards "The Ocean's Edge" exhibit.

Immedietely head upstairs to check out the Kelp Forest and Splash Zone.


After seeing all of the exhibits on the second floor, head back downstairs to see the first floor exhibits, including the Kelp Forest, Monterey Bay Exhibits, Aviary and Touch Pools.

From here, head outside for some nice scenery and views of the tide pools and Monterey Bay.  Head back inside towards the Sea Otters exhibit and if there is a feeding going on, stop to check it out.

Before heading towards the other side of the aquarium, stop for snacks, lunch or a quick break near the cafe and gift shop area.

After stopping for a quick break, head towards the Special Exhibits area, which includes Jellyfish exhibits, the Open Sea, Seabirds and an area for kids called Ocean Travelers

After seeing these exhibits, head downstairs to the Viva Baja and Tentacles exhibits.  It is easy to miss this set of stairs (or the elevator) to these exhibits on the lower floor, so keep a look out for it.

Also, be sure to check the aquarium daily schedule for times for shows in the auditorium, sea otter feeding times and outdoor shows in the great tide pool area. Tips on Maximizing your Experience Here:
Some general information about the aquarium:
Address: The Monterey Bay Aquarium sits at the end of Cannery Row:  886 Cannery Row Monterey, CA 93940

Hours: The Aquarium is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day
General Public: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Members: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Parking Options: There are several pay parking options near the Aquarium, including a nearby garage, paid parking lot and metered street parking:
Cannery Row Parking Garage 601 Foam St. (between Hoffman Ave. and Prescott Ave.)
Cannery Row Parking Lot
160 Irving Ave. (between Foam St. and Wave St.)
Parking will cost you approximately $10-$15 depending on which option you select.  

Tickets: $49.95 for adults, $29.95 for children (ages 3-12, 3 and under free), and $39.95 for Students (Ages 13-17 or college ID) and Seniors (Age 65+)
I would recommend checking the following options for saving money on tickets:

Option 1: Check the Aquarium of the Pacific website for deals or packages available on tickets.  If you're planning on visiting other attractions nearby, package ticket deals are available from the aquarium website

Option 2: Add this attraction as part of the San Francisco CityPass if you're planning on visiting a variety of attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area

Option 3: Golden 1 Credit Union Members (or other affinity groups)

The Golden 1 credit union offers its members discounts on a variety of attractions, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Discounts are around $10 per ticket from the listed prices. 

Based on our previous visits here, I would highly recommend visiting the aquarium if you haven't ever been here.  

Another popular aquarium we've recently visited is the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA.  I would say it is on-par with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in terms of exhibits, though the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a little bit larger and my preference if I had to pick between the two.