Our Fun Visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific

aquarium of the pacific, long beach, logo signWhile my 10yo daughter and I were in Southern California visiting my Dad, we decided to take in at least one of the local sights, do one touristy thing that didn’t involve a beach and seaweed. Yeah, there was a lot of seaweed at this point in the summer, which made swimming in the ocean a bit less glamorous. Still, a California beach in the heat of the summer? Let’s just say that there was plenty of eye candy for this single Dad to enjoy. 🙂

But >ahem< back to our adventure!

We went to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, a jewel of an aquarium rather tucked away in Rainbow Harbor amidst the industrial harbor of Long Beach. In fact, Long Beach is the busiest seaport in the world. There are a lot of ships and shipping containers here, and since it’s in the so-called TMZ (which stands for ‘thirty mile zone’ and refers to the distance from the major TV and movie studios in Hollywood and elsewhere) it’s a popular spot for filming too, as we learned.

The Aquarium itself was easy to find, though the car kept wanting to take us to a cruise ship parking lot so we could jump on a ship like the Carnival Inspiration (which was in the harbor) and sneak away for a few days. D’ya think they’d be showing the World Cup final on board?

If you’re used to relatively modest aquaria — really, that’s the pluralization! — then AotP is a whole ‘nother ballgame, with over 11,000 animals. It’s focused on the waters of Southern California and Baja and the Northern and Tropical Pacific and features more than 50 exhibits and those 11,000 ocean animals represent over 500 species. Their large tanks are over 350,000 gallons. The Aquarium was also paying attention to things like energy efficiency years before anyone else, most recently winning an award in 2009 as the nation’s most energy efficient business with revenues under $150 million. Impressive!

Let’s have a look…

First off, I just have to say that I loved the signage as modern sculptures. This how to be modern, tech, and nostalgic, all at the same time:

Gorgeous signage at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Photography is a big part of visiting a place like the Aquarium of the Pacific, so I gave K- a Samsung Galaxy Mega to use as her camera:

Girl taking photo in walkway tunnel at Aquarium of the Pacific

It was fascinating to see what she found interesting. Thanks to the great camera on the Galaxy Mega, many of her pics turned out quite well, though as a child she lives completely in the moment and hasn’t asked to see the photos she took since we returned. I’m not surprised and if you know child psychology, you wouldn’t be surprised either.

I expect that when she wants to share the experience with siblings or friends it’ll suddenly become more important.

One nice thing about the AotP is that there’s a lot outside for people to enjoy as part of the complex, including this area. The gal on the rock, however, is missing her mermaid tail, don’tcha think?

crowds enjoying a show outside at Aquarium of the Pacific

There are a variety of different species represented, including an enclosure of diving birds, including this cute Horned Puffin:

Puffin swimming for his lunch

One of the most popular creatures in the entire Aquarium, however, was this Northern Californian sea otter. People just love sea otters. I think it’s because they’re cute and such extraordinary swimmers, but whatever the explanation, any place I’ve ever been where there were otters had a huge crowd of people just watching them swim and cavort with delight.

Otter in a dive Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium has tanks of the obligatory colorful fish, and kids clustered around comparing them to Nemo (especially the clown fish). Still, quite pretty:

colorful fish in tank

What I enjoyed more were the ethereal, slow-moving sea anemones:

ethereal sea anemone

Undoubtedly these served as inspiration for part of the planet Pandora in the hugely successful film Avatar.

Another popular creature? Sea horses. This guy was tiny, probably about 1-inch in height. It’s a tightly cropped photo:

Tiny seahorse in tank at Aquarium of the Pacific

K- and I had a great time at the Aquarium, though we had different experiences in the Lorikeet Forest area: she was excited to be in a huge enclosure with lots of colorful lorikeets flying around and I wanted to get out before one landed on my head. 🙂

Once we stepped out, we found that Rainbow Harbor was extraordinarily picturesque, including this beautiful view of old and new cruise ships the Carnival Inspiration and the Queen Mary:

The Queen Mary and Carnival Inspiration, Long Beach Harbor

What you might not know is that I was born in England and when I was 9mo we emigrated to the United States. On the Queen Mary. In fact, my Dad wrote up a short piece about our experiences on the crossing that you can read here: Our Journey to America on the Queen Mary. Always fun to see the ship because of that. And before you ask, no I have no memories of the journey. 🙂

Finally, remember I mentioned that TMZ? No surprise, they were filming on the edge of Rainbow Harbor while we were there:

filming a TV commercial for LG at Long Beach harbor

A huge crew, upwards of 60 people. For an LG cellphone advert. We watched for a few minutes and it was amusing to see the “perfect modern caucasian family” on camera. When the cameras were rolling, the two “children” and “parents” were all smiles. When it wasn’t rolling, they were hot, sweaty, cranky, and covered in production people adjusting hair, makeup, clothes, etc. A bit less glamorous than you might expect, but still a fun wrap up for a great day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the media relations team at the Aquarium of the Pacific for offering us free tickets on very short notice. They came through and we had a splendid time exploring one of the best aquariums in the United States.

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