$8 Admission to Aquarium of the Bay ($15.95 Value)

San Francisco

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Today's Groupon is drenched in San Francisco Bay's sharks, wrapped in its octopuses, and served in a tunnel tank with a moving walkway. Visit Aquarium of the Bay at Fisherman’s Wharf for $8, more than half off the usual $15.95 admission. Aquarium of the Bay is the only aquarium devoted to showcasing the marine life of the San Francisco Bay. With two 150-foot long tunnel tanks and more than 20,000 aquatic critters, it's an absolutely wondrous wrigglebin.

The aquarium is smaller than Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it packs a punch with a dashingly displayed giant Pacific octopus and huge moon jellyfishes. The main tanks, which together hold 700,000 gallons of bay water, host a variety of sea creatures including sevengill sharks, giant sea bass, leopard sharks and bat rays; land animals include blue-tongued skinks, pink-toed tarantulas, African pygmy hedgehogs, and Pacific tree frogs. One of the most popular exhibits (besides the tunnel tanks that allow visitors to walk among the fish) is a transparent plastic window that allows people to see skate embryos in various stages of development.

Exhibits are divided into three sections: Discover the Bay (aquatic animals), Under the Bay (sea creatures), and Touch the Bay (aquatic and land-dwelling animals you can definitely touch, and possibly high five). Aquarium of the Bay's friendly staff are always on-hand to answer questions and share interesting facts about jelly fish, rock fish, flat fish, and fish fish. October is Sharktober at Aquarium of the Bay, which means there's daily shark-touching and shark talks, plus shark hats and special feeding presentations on Thursdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. The aquarium is a nonprofit dedicated to conserving the SF Bay, and it's a city-certified green business. Check out the PG&E Bay Lab to see an interactive climate-change exhibit.

Fall operating hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Winter operating hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

Reviews

Aquarium of the Bay has a four-star rating on Yahoo! Travel, 4.5 stars on Citysearch, and three stars on Yelp:

  • The sea life is amazing, well shown and the staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. It's fantastic walking through the underwater tunnel seeing sharks and rays swimming around you... – Suzanne_Gilbert012, Citysearch
  • This is a great place to bring the little ones while walking pier 39. Yea its [sic] small, but there are LOTS of fishes and the 300 foot underwater tunnel is way cool. – John H., Yelp
  • Very cool tunnel tanks filled with all kinds of fish from San Francisco Bay... Pretty jelly fish, too. Lots of helpful staff to answer your questions. – Mickey, Yahoo! Travel

Why Sea Life is Named Bad

Many of the sea creatures at the Aquarium of the Bay are misleadingly named; the bat ray is not really a bat, and the leopard shark is not really a leopard. But there’s a reason for this confusion: For a brief period in the 1980s, the North American Sea Life Naming Board was run by Dr. Nigel Fennel, a crotchety misanthrope whose only pleasure was upsetting children.

Fennel used his tenure as Chief Sea Life–Namer of America to disappoint school children who longed to examine misleadingly named creatures such as the Laser-Eyed Super Fish and the Gigantic Sasquatchy Talking Sea Friend. The scientific community didn’t intervene, knowing full well that the inevitable would happen: Fennel’s adorable niece would be orphaned, begin living with Fennel, and eventually warm his cold heart. Following his niece’s advice, Fennel retired from the Naming Board to follow his true passion: building motorcycles.

Aquarium of the Bay

Quick: talk about river otters. Here are a few facts to get you started: they're members of the weasel family, they can swim at speeds reaching 7 miles per hour, and a group of them is known, tellingly, as a romp. The keepers at Aquarium of the Bay have spent months studying these sorts of facts and figures, studiously preparing for the arrival of their brand-new residents. In Otters: Watershed Ambassadors, these river kings and queens get some well-earned attention, with exhibits tracing everything from their daily habits to their conservation status.

The otters aren't alone, of course. The 50,000 square foot facility houses three main exhibit areas devoted entirely to marine life native to San Francisco Bay. These include Under the Bay, where Moon Jellies float amidst ambient lighting inside a 725-gallon cylinder tank. They share the exhibit with two tunnel tanks, which provide an undersea view of giant Pacific octopuses, spiny dogfish, swirling schools of anchovies, and the sevengill shark, the largest shark native to the bay. Visitors eager to put their other senses to work can head over to the aquarium's touch pools, where their fingertips can graze juvenile bat rays, leopard sharks, and sea stars.

Daily programs enrich visits with interactive presentations in the Bay Lab—the aquarium's land animal area—including feeding shows. And though not included in this Groupon and membership, behind the scenes tours escort guests through all of the aquarium's highlights. Over in the Bay Theater, 3D films and award-winning documentaries examine subjects such as shark species and marine conservation, while magician Timothy Noonan's 75-minute interactive show blends family-friendly comedy with illusions such as pulling a whale out of a hat.

In a Nutshell

  • Devoted to the marine life of the San Francisco Bay
  • Tunnel tanks
  • Sevengill sharks, Giant Pacific octopus, moon jellies, African pygmy hedgehogs & more
  • Interactive climate change exhibit

The Fine Print

Expires Mar 21st, 2010. Limit 4 per person. May only be applied to general adult admission. Not valid for SharktoberFest, FilmFest and Family Sleepover. Redeem at box office. Merchant is solely responsible to purchasers for the care and quality of the advertised goods and services.