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Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

We attended as a guest of the Aquarium
Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific, the fourth most attended aquarium in the entire United States, happens to be located right next door to Orange County in downtown Long Beach. The non-profit Aquarium’s mission is to “instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems.”*  With more than 11,000 animals in over 50 exhibits this aquarium has something for everyone from experienced oceanographers to toddlers just getting their feet wet (so to speak), and everyone in-between.

Starting May 23, in addition to their permanent exhibits, the Aquarium rolled out its new Summer of Wonder program featuring new exhibits and interactive experiences. Summer of Wonder focuses on endangered species – from Southern California to the South Pacific – and helps educate visitors on the part they can play in conservation.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek last week before Summer of Wonder was opened to the public, and let me tell you, it was WONDERful.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

One of my kids’ (aged five and two) very favorite exhibits was the large touch pool in Shark Lagoon. While the touch pool has been at the Aquarium for some time, with Summer of Wonder they added Bonnethead Sharks and Cownose Rays to the species swimming about in the pool.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

It is an absolute trip even for me to reach down and pet these sharks and rays, so I can only imagine how scary and wonderfully exciting it is for a child. My two were squealing with delight!

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

One entirely new exhibit in Summer of Wonder is the Southern California Steelhead Story. Southern California Steelhead, while once abundant in local rivers, came close to extinction in 1997 and are now listed as an endangered species.  The exhibit tells their story of resilience and shows how they change throughout their life-cycle.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

The new exhibit is set in an outside corner of the Aquarium and has a peaceful walkway surrounding it.  My two-year old happened to think it was the perfect place for a snack!

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Also new to the Aquarium this summer are a collection of Horseshoe Crabs, an ancient arthropod species whose blood has recently played a role in human health care (without harm to the crabs, of course!)

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

While kids (especially if they’re on the younger side) may not appreciate the groundbreaking ways in which these little guys are impacting medical science, they will be enthralled by the petting area in which they can once again get their hands wet.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Next to the horseshoe crabs is a new and beautiful display of corals and sponges. These little guys, too, look promising on the human healthcare front, and are being used in a new partnership between the Aquarium and the City of Hope.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Another highlight of the new experiences at the Aquarium this summer is the chance to make and drive an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This was a bit over my girls’ heads, but I’d bet a little older, more tech-savvy kids would find this amazing. The program is held daily at the Aquarium; be sure to check the schedule for times during your visit.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

One of the most unusual things one might see at the Aquarium is an exhibit on one of the world’s most endangered species: the Guam Kingfisher.  This bird can no longer be found in the wild, and a mere 130 of them exist in the entire world!  The Aquarium, along with other Zoological institutions, is participating in an important recovery program for the species aimed at repopulating them into their natural habitat.

Of course while visiting the Aquarium this summer you will not only benefit from the amazing new exhibits and interactive experiences that are part of Summer of Wonder, but you’ll also get to see old favorites as well.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

The Magellanic penguin exhibit always draws interest. It can be viewed from both above and below water. It can also be viewed on a live webcam, of which the aquarium has several. Check out the nest box webcam; we heard that they may be expecting babies this Spring/Summer!

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Another tried and true favorite at the Aquarium is the touch lab with tidepool animals including Sea Stars, Anemones, Sea Cucumbers, Urchins and more.  I think one of the great aspects of the experience at the Aquarium is that so much is hands on.  That gets two thumbs up from my kiddos!

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

While it is suspended far out of touch, the life-size Blue Whale displayed in the entry way of the Aquarium drives home how amazing these sea creatures really are.  If you’ve spent much time around the coast in Orange County, you may have seen one of these animal off shore, but I for one didn’t realize how absolutely massive they are! This little guy dwarfs my kids (and everyone around them) and he’s a model of an average size Blue, which runs 80 feet; they get much bigger!

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium offers kids the chance to get up close the so many amazing animals; closer than in the wild, of course, but also closer than they might generally get at a zoo where animals are kept at a further distance. This little guy playfully swam mere inches from my girls’ faces.  We spent lots of time hanging out here, naturally.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

To add to our outstanding visit, we had a wonderful experience with the staff at the Aquarium.  Practically every time you turn around there is someone to answer your questions or offer information that brings to life what you are seeing; it’s the type of thing you just can’t get from a textbook!  Dr Jenny, an educational specialist on staff, had my girls enamored with her friendly demeanor and knowledge of all things at the Aquarium.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

That’s my littlest one pulling up a seat on her lap for the short movie shown in the Great Hall.

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. It is open 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. 
every day of the year, except Christmas day and during the Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 17, 18, and 19, 2015). To help plan you visit and for more information, visit the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Whether you’re visiting from out of town, or simply live 30 minutes South, the Aquarium is sure to be an educational and fun experience the whole family will enjoy!

Summer of Wonder at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Mollie is a wife to a wonderful man and stay at home Mama to two beautiful and energetic little girls. She has lived in South Orange County for most of her life and enjoys crafting, running, clean and natural living, party planning, and being involved in her community and church. She believes that being a Mom was and is her highest calling and attempts to give her girls a wide array of different experiences. From soccer cleats to tutus, running races to finding the perfect hair bow, she wants them to grow up knowing that they can be both girly and strong.
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