You know what one of my favorite things about Southern California is? That it can be 75 at the beach in February. This past weekend was filled with absolutely perfect weather. We knew that we had to get in the car and head west (well technically south west…)! We decided to spend the day in La Jolla, a gorgeous seaside community just north of San Diego. In addition to being home to world class beaches and upscale living, it is also home to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium.
Birch Aquarium is a small but wonderful aquarium run by Scripps. What this aquarium lacks in size, it makes up for with quality exhibits and plenty of hands on educational opportunities. The tanks in the Hall of Fishes are filled with plenty of beautiful examples of the wonders of the ocean. Here, your kids can get eye to eye with clownfish (if Nemo is as popular in your house as it is in mine, this is a BIG deal), various small sharks, eels, creatures of the kelp forest, along with many more inhabitants of the sea. If you plan your visit right, you can watch a good old fashion feeding at the huge kelp forest tank. There is also a cute little fish nursery where you can see some aquatic life in their most infantile state.
Outside, there is a nice tide pool exhibit where kids can get hands on with some creatures that call the intertidal zone their home. As beautiful as the tide pools are, it is hard not to be distracted by the incredible views from the deck. Birch Aquarium is perched on the cliffs above the beach and the view is just amazing. I could spend all day just gazing out at the never ending expanse of ocean. Unfortunately, my three year olds don’t exactly have the same attention span so we had to head back inside to check out the rest of the exhibits.
Once inside, we discovered an interesting exhibit about CO2 levels and the effects of climate change on our oceans. I believe it is an important exhibit because it provides some nice evidence for climate change skeptics and helps educate children about the importance of conservation and environmentalism. My kids had a blast turning the crank and finding out how much more energy it takes to power a traditional light bulb as opposed to a compact fluorescent. Another fun exhibit was the Wonders of Water which allowed kids to send plastic boats down a track of their creation and learn about the force of ocean currents. I think my kids could have played there for hours.
We ended our visit in the sea horse exhibit. I don’t know what it is about those delicate little animals but they do seem to peak the interest of everyone who walks by their tanks. I especially enjoyed the video of the male sea horse expelling hatched sea horses from his abdomen. It was satisfying to finally see a man experience some labor pains.
The Birch Aquarium is located at 2300 Expedition Way in La Jolla, CA. Adult admission is $12.00 and child admission is $8.50. Children under 3 are free. This month is Museum Month in San Diego. If you visit any Macy’s in San Diego County, you can pick up (at the cash register) a free museum pass good for half off ALL participating museums (listed here) in San Diego County for the entire month of February. Each pass is valid for up to four people so if you have more than four people in your party, just ask for more passes. Its that easy. We are planning on using our pass as much as possible to explore some of the fantastic museums San Diego has to offer. I hope you pick yours up too!