Great Places to Learn About Marine Life
There are plenty of places in the Bay Area to take your young explorers to learn about sea life. From tidepools to aquariums to rescue centers, the Bay Area is teeming with must-see attractions.
Crab Cove Visitor Center. With an 800-gallon aquarium system at the visitor's center, you don't actually have to get your feet wet to get a glimpse of the critters living in Alameda's Crab Cove. Open Wednesday-Sunday (October-February) 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. FREE admission, $5 parking fee when kiosk is attended.1252 McKay Avenue, Alameda. www.ebparks.org/parks/vc/crab_cove.
Marine Mammal Center. This center is a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational site that has rescued, rehabilitated, and released more than 20,000 marine mammals since its inception in 1975. The patients mostly consist of seals and sea lions and it has the capacity to treat as many as 200 animals at a time. If you want to know the animals you'll be seeing, the center updates a log daily on its current patients. If you're into camping, the center hosts a Seals & Slippers sleepover in April and May. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. FREE. 2000 Bunker Road, Sausalito. www.marinemammalcenter.org/visiting-us.
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Located near Half Moon Bay just off Highway 1, the reserve offers docent-led tours; you can also download a self-guided tour from the website. Near the Moss Beach entrance, there are picnic tables and restrooms. Picnicking is restricted to this area due to the sensitivity of the marine life. The park also offers sunset tidepooling on occasion. The next event is Nov. 13, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Be aware that it is illegal to collect or disturb the creatures in tidepools. Do not move rocks, never pick up animals and stay at least 300 feet from any marine mammals in the area. Tides change daily, so check a tide chart before you go (tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov). The tide should be two feet or less for you to view tidepools. Hours for the reserve vary, check website for details. FREE. 200 Nevada Ave., Moss Beach. parks.smcgov.org/fitzgerald-marine-reserve.
Aquarium of the Bay. Located on San Francisco's Pier 39, this is home to nearly 20,000 animals. This three-level aquarium boasts two touch tanks, an octopus and two tunnels that take you through a near-shore habitat and a deep-water habitat, among other exhibits. Hours vary. $19.95 adults, $11.95 children. 2 Beach Street. www.aquariumofthebay.org.
Steinhart Aquarium. Located at the California Academy of Sciences, it has a shark lagoon, a 25-foot-deep coral reef exhibit and other sea life from California's coastal waters. After lunch, stop by the swamp area to see snapping turtles and to visit Claude, the aquarium's famous albino alligator. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $34.95 adults,
$24.95 children. 55 Music Concourse Drive. www.calacademy.org/exhibits/steinhart-aquarium.
Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is a must-see for sea life aficionados. Take a peep into intertidal zones, kelp forests and the open ocean. Download the aquarium's app before you go for up-to-date information on feeding schedules for the open ocean exhibit, kelp forest, sea otters and penguins, and then pop over to the auditorium for a 15-minute video about the goings on behind the scenes. If you're looking for a challenge, see if you can find the Giant Pacific Octopus in its exhibit. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 886 Cannery Row, Monterey. $39.95 adults, $24.95 children. www.montereybayaquarium.org.
The Seymour Marine Discovery Center. This Santa Cruz center boasts an aquarium, exhibit halls, touch tanks and a peek inside a working marine laboratory. Family-geared tours are offered daily at 11 a.m. Every Sunday from 1-3 p.m., children can make marine-inspired crafts in the crafts room. If the kids need to burn off energy, head outdoors to play among the elephant seal sculptures and to visit Ms. Blue, an 87-foot blue whale skeleton. Open Tuesday- Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $8 adults, $6 children. 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz. seymourcenter.ucsc.edu.
Michelle Leary is a freelance writer in the Bay Area and mother of two.