Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Fun, free, and right next to the beach; the Cabrillo Aquarium was a hit with both our boys. Unlike the huge, dazzling tropical display of larger aquariums; Cabrillo focuses on LOCAL marine wildlife and is much smaller. But the animals are well displayed to show their unique characteristics. The aquarium also features a touch tank and a children’s science area additional hands-on activities.
The Cabrillo Aquarium has expanded, there is both an old aquarium section and a newer children’s science center.
Even though the old aquarium portion is low key, it’s one of my personal favorites. It focuses on local marine wildlife, but it’s displayed in such a way to highlight the individual creature’s unique characteristics. You can see two flounders camouflaging side-by-side in black and white gravel, the extended foot of a muscle reaching through a grate towards food, shark eggs in various stages of maturity…every display, though small, has something fascinating to offer.
This aquarium also features a decent sized touch-tank available at frequent intervals. A docent discusses the various critters while children have the opportunity to reach in and touch an urchin or starfish.
The children’s science center appeals to both toddlers and older kids. The toddler section is full of basic games, puzzles, felt board, costumes, and puppets. The section for more advanced kids is stocked with microscopes and other science equipment so they can explore different aspects of the marine life.
The aquarium is free (donations accepted), but parking is not.
There is also a beach located right across the street with good playground equipment, picnic tables, and public restrooms. When you’re done at the aquarium, enjoy the beach.
May is Grunion time. If you visit Cabrillo in May there are extra activities, crafts, and kids can actually hatch grunion eggs right in their little hands!