A giant forest stretches across most of California?but its impossible to hike there. Submerged just off of the state's rocky coast, large kelp forests make a home to diverse animal and plant life. Moray eels, leopard sharks, and giant sea bass all swim beneath the water, while sea otters splash at the surface. That's just one of the habitats on display inside the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
The 21,000-square-foot aquarium showcases Southern California's rich marine life, making it the largest aquarium of its kind in the world. The Susanne Lawrenz-Miller Exhibit Hall charts a journey through different regions, from the open ocean, to the mudflats, to the sandy shores. Other areas present a more immersive experience. The tide pool lets visitors touch a starfish, while the exploration center lets them crawl into a tunnel, where they find themselves surrounded by octopuses, sting rays, and other creatures that have signed contracts to make public appearances.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium wants to keep all of these creatures around for the long term. Case and point: the aquarium houses a research library and an aquatic nursery, where the team raises young sea animals and trains young scientists.
With a client list that includes BMW, Apple, Disney, and ESPN—as well as work in films such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Ocean’s Thirteen—Living Art Aquatic Design produces vibrantly colorful aquariums that are custom built for individual spaces by skilled technicians. Much like sculptors working with clay, Living Art’s technicians mold glass and rock to create original aquariums. Though several units have been installed atop the traditional wooden base, other aquariums have been fitted in unorthodox settings, including the wall of a bowling alley and hanging in a chandelier above a staircase. It's these kind of innovations and imagination that entices commercial and residential customers alike to tap a Living Art technician for their own aquatic project.
Betty’s favorite foods are shrimp, clams, and squid. She’s a little over a year old. She has brown hair, and her nickname is “Banshee,” because she wails when she doesn’t get her way. Named for Aquarium of the Pacific sponsor and legendary actress Betty White, she’s a recent addition to the aquarium’s BP Sea Otter Habitat. Betty was discovered in early 2012, a mere pup, without a mother. The staff at Aquarium of the Pacific nursed her back to health until October, when she was well enough to join her friends in the otter habitat. The otter habitat is just one of 19 habitats at Aquarium of the Pacific, which also includes 32 focus exhibits celebrating the diverse wildlife of the Pacific Ocean. In the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, more than 12 tuxedo-clad Magellanic penguins waddle around a rocky beach where guests can spy them nesting, eating, and practicing dance routines with Dick van Dyke, and a crawl space below their swimming pool provides a closer look at the birds as they go for a dip. Outside in Shark Lagoon, some 150-plus sand tiger, zebra, and whitetip reef sharks bare their menacing grins. But in the shallow touch pools, gentle bamboo and epaulette sharks discredit stereotypes by allowing visitors to pet them. For those more interested in the science of the sea, the Ocean Science Center helps visitors explore oceanic trends through its Science on a Sphere exhibit. The globe, a creation of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, measures six feet in diameter and displays films about subjects such as rising sea levels and the connection between ocean health and human health.
The horses?spinning on the carousel might be the flashiest creatures at the Santa Monica Pier, but venture one story down and you'll find an entire world of life swimming below. At the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, aquatic characters from starfish and seahorses to sharks and rays come together to delight more than 85,000 visitors each year while inspiring them to get involved in the mission of conservation.
Eye Catcher: the open-topped shark and ray exhibit, which allows for up-close viewing of horn sharks, swell sharks, and sting rays