Good for: Everyone
Price: $11.95/child, $19.95/adult (possible FREE admission for Bay Area locals)
Features: Underwater tunnels, touch pool
Aquarium of the Bay has been a solid fixture at the entrance of Pier 39 in San Francisco for years. But, we’ve never been inside. Monterey Bay Aquarium is much larger and only a couple hours away so most locals bypass this as some place for the tourists.
However, through the Discover & Go program at Bay Area public libraries, a family of four (two adults, two children) can reserve tickets for FREE admission. The only catch is that you have to reserve your tickets online with a valid library account and print the vouchers to bring with you. We had 14 in our group and all got in FREE.
Inside the Aquarium of the Bay
The aquarium is small so only expect to spend 1-3 hours here. There are a limited number of displays. Most of these feature sea life that can be found in the San Francisco bay (as suggested by the venue name). Kids of all ages will enjoy the touch pool with bat rays and sharks. During our visit, a pygmy hedgehog was also brought out and a docent was on hand to answer any and all questions regarding the animal. Around the corner is a large enclosure with two active river otters.
What really had everyone wowing were the underwater tunnels. Guests could leisurely watch the fish, octopi, rays, sturgeons, and sharks swim overhead while on the people mover belt. It was also fine to step off for photo ops or to admire the creatures close-up. Though the tunnels are wide, it’d be a good idea to avoid them if you have claustrophobic people or kids with you.
The size of the aquarium was perfect for a half-day excursion to the city or as a first aquarium experience. It’s very overpriced so make sure you can get a deep discount or get in free. The kids with us, ages 8-12, all had a great time but it was more because they had the chance to spend time together. The aquarium itself seemed pretty standard so we probably won’t be going back again any time soon.