In medieval times, splashing around with turtles in shallow marshes was incredibly popular until people found out what they thought were turtles were actually hawks covered in algae. See how far humanity's understanding of our animal friends has come with today's deal. For $10, you get two admissions (up to a $22 value for adults) to Chula Vista Nature Center, located on the shore of San Diego Bay approximately seven miles south of downtown San Diego.
The center offers dozens of ways to encounter animals in a mirrored image of their natural surroundings. Finger graze sauntering rays in a state-of-the-art, 21,000-galloon aquarium, spy on leopard sharks and guitar fish, or admire preening sea turtles basking in a lagoon. Chula Vista also boasts an underwater wonder zone featuring majestic sea horses, spotted octopus, and moon jelly. Peep through circular portal windows to observe the aquatic or sandy exploits of some of the area's most dramatic native inhabitants (lobsters, spiny lizards, exploding ants, etc.).
When sea-life voyeurism evolves like a land-walking man-dolphin, venture outside for a vitamin D dosage and eye full of wildlife during a stroll on 1.5 miles of walking trails. Leading out to the shore of San Diego Bay, the paved paths offer views of former railroad tracks, cute rabbits, and reclusive shorebirds. Other featured exhibits on the grounds include native plant gardens, Raptor Row, Eagle Mesa (home to majestic bald and golden eagles), and a shorebird aviary. Among the many native water- and shorebirds, the aviary houses light-footed clapper rails, one of California's most endangered bird species. Stop by any day of the week to be happily greeted with open wings, fins, and an all-consuming gelatinous blob.
- Featuring exhibits of stingrays and small sharks in kid-level open tanks, the center's most recent addition is its $3-million Discovery Center, which is home to Turtle Lagoon, San Diego's only habitat for endangered green sea turtles. – Frommer's
- I took three boys ages 10-12 to the nature center on a whim. It was a smaller attraction, but just enough to fill the afternoon... Petting the rays was a big favorite, and there is an outdoor walk where you can see the raptors. – jmonte922,TripAdvisor
- Birds aren't my forte at all, but you would never know that based on the fun I had at the raptor exhibits and shorebird enclosure area! Be sure to hang around and take it all in because the more you look the more interesting it gets… – Kristin F., Yelp
Living Coast Discovery Center
Greet a sea turtle as he swims up to say hello. Get eye-to-eye with a bald eagle. Touch a bat ray in an interactive touch pool. Visiting The Living Coast Discovery Center is a chance to experience Southern California's plants and animals on the 316-acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge on San Diego Bay.
A walk-through aviary encompasses the tidal slough habitat of black-crowned night herons and red-breasted mergansers. Bald and golden eagles await up-close encounters at the Eagle Mesa, but the rays get even closer: an interactive touch pool puts the aquatic creatures beneath your fingertips. Raptor Row hosts the Center's non-releasable rescued birds of prey, all of which have injuries or other conditions that prevent them from surviving outside the refuge on their own. Visitors are also free to follow their own path along the center's 1.5 miles of walking trails.
1000 Gunpowder Point Drive
Chula Vista, California 91910Get Directions