Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.
My family and I recently visited the beautiful Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, California and what an amazing experience it was! Aquarium of the Bay is located on Pier 39 and has a new Sea Lion center located just around the corner. The Sea Lion Center is free and a must when you visit the aquarium.
The Aquarium of the Bay takes you through the beauty and wonders of the phenomenon that lies beneath the sea. When you walk through the walkway you are taken through a room with a nursery of many different fish species. One of our favorites is the Swirling school of anchovies; it was so neat to watch the fish stick together swimming constantly in the same path.
As you continue you are taken to a lobby with glass windows that overlook the pier which is a nice distraction while waiting for the elevators to take you to the “Under the Bay” exhibit.
As you enter the elevator and are taken below the aquarium you are immediately greeted by an array of beautiful Jellies. I absolutely love how the tall tank has colored lights that circulate making the Jellies appear different colors. My children were both in awe at how magical this looked.
The Jellies exhibit featured Moon Jellies and Pacific Sea Nettles which were so amazing to watch swim. My 5 year old was very intrigued by watching their movements and was able to learn how they are made of 95% water, have no heart, brains or bones but how their bodies movements are controlled by the oceans currents. How awesome, I didn’t’ even know that! The staff at the aquarium is very knowledgeable in answering any questions you have which was very helpful when you have children because we all know their tiny brains have a million questions that can be very challenging to answer.
When you continue past the Jellies you will come across one of two clear tunnel tanks. You feel as if you are actually walking underneath the ocean as you enter the long glass tunnel.
A moving walkway is available to guide you slowly through the tunnel so you can view all of the different fish and sharks.
There is even a Giant Pacific Octopus as well as starfish and a White Sturgeon Olivia was able to learn about later in the “Behind the Scenes Tour”
My youngest normally has a ton of energy, but the Aquarium was very calming for him. I have never seen him sit still for so long and be able to look at all of the fish, it was very relaxing for all of us.
My favorite were the Starfish and the Jellies. We made several trips through the tunnel so I could see them more than once.
This really shows you how big the Jellies are!
Before entering one of the tunnels there was an area to learn all about the Octopus. It was really neat and pretty cool that you could touch objects similar to what an Octopus would feel like.
I was so surprised the kids were not afraid of the sharks, because I sure was! They came so close to the glass it was unreal!
Olivia enjoyed sticking her head into the big transparent dome inside a tank (which lies outside one of the elevators) before going up to the next floor.
After going through the tunnel several times we made our way over to the “Touch the Bay” which is a touch pool with Sharks, rays, and skates. This was the children’s favorite part! In the touch pool the children are allowed to come in contact with Bay Rays, Lepard Sharks and more! The Aquarium employees are very knowledgeable and show each child how to properly touch the fish without harming them.
We also were able to visit the Newest Exhibit, the River Otters! The Aquarium has daily Otter Talks at 11am and 2pm for the children where they introduce the charismatic mammals and how you can learn to keep their homes in the wild healthy and clean.
We were so lucky to experience the Behind the Scenes Tour at the aquarium. The tour is a total of 45 minutes long and during the tour you get to take the catwalk above all the tanks and view the dive operations from above.
The children were able to learn about how the Aquarium cares for 20,000 marine animals.
They even get to see how the food is prepared for the animals and their special diets.
Behind the Scenes tours are a $12 upgrade to your Aquarium admission, for non-members. Price does not include Aquarium admission. Note that children do need to be a minimum of 5 years old to go on the tour and accompanied by an adult 18 years or older. It is well worth the upgrade, we would do it again in a heartbeat.
The Aquarium also offers 3D Films in the Bay Theatre. All films are approximately 20 minutes in length. Most days, the films alternate every 30 minutes throughout the day. I took the children to see Turtle Vision2 3D which was an adorable little flick and not too long for them to sit through.
They also have a 3D Shark movie that takes you underwater! This looked really cool but would probably be better for kids a little older as the little ones may get scared.
SEA LION CENTER
Before you end your visit you must walk down the pier and visit the New Sea Lion Center located at Pier 39.
Operated and managed by Aquarium of the Bay, the Sea Lion Center is a nonprofit organization that offers free interpretive programs to complement one of San Francisco’s most popular attractions. The newly constructed Sea Lion Center is located on the second level of K Dock. Visitors walk up a staircase from the dock to the center and arrive at an observatory overlooking the sea lions.
Tourists and locals alike are invited to enjoy free, interpretive presentations and tours given by Aquarium of the Bay naturalists.
We will definitely be visiting the Sea Lion center and the Aquarium on our next visit to San Francisco and I highly recommend you do the same if you haven’t yet.
* Thank you to the Aquarium of the Bay for hosting our visit, all thoughts are 100% my own