Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro (near Long Beach) is a gem. My kids love this place. The historic Frank Gehry-designed aquarium and education center displays the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world. Unlike the more popular (and crowded) Aquarium of the Pacific, the Cabrillo Aquarium is focused on education and takes an interactive approach that kids get really get into. Touch tanks, microscopes, and information displays. It’s on the beach and near tidepools, so you can really make a day of it.
Address: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M White Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90731
Hours: Tuesday-Friday (Noon to 5pm), Saturday and Sunday (10am to 5pm), Closed Mondays
Cost: $1/hr to park. Suggested $5 donation for admission, but it’s free.
Parking: Large gated parking lot
Dogs: No dogs
Facilities: Bathrooms and small gift shop
Many tanks of Souther California marine life, interactive displays, tide pool touch tank, and hands-on education lab with microscopes for kids. And the salt marsh.
What you’ll see
The aquarium boasts the biggest display of live Southern California marine life on this planet. Most of fishes and invertebrates are alive in tanks, but there are some taxidermy displays of birds and marine mammals. There are many small tanks of live fishes and other critters – kelp habitats, sandy bottoms, reefs, sea grass beds, and deeper ocean. The aquarium is filled with interactive displays, photos, and infographics and marine life in Southern California. And there’s a big touch tank display of intertidal critters.
At the north end of the parking lot, there’s a gate that leads to a boardwalk over a restored estuary salt marsh habitat that’s part of the aquarium. If you hit it at low tide, you can watch sharks and rays swimming by, and birds and crabs mucking around for something to eat. Ask the person at the aquarium entrance window for the keys to gate. Kids and I have done this a number of times, and I’ve never seen anyone else there. No one knows about it.
What to bring
There’s no food or drinks available at the aquarium, but usually parked across the street by the beach there’s a food truck that serves hotdogs, sodas, and chips. There are picnic tables and BBQ facilities too on the beach. No eating in the aquarium but theres a central courtyard where you can enjoy a picnic.
Where to stop on the way
We never stop on the way there or home to eat in San Pedro. If you know of a good place, let me know.
Directions to Cabrillo Aquarium
110 S to San Pedro, turn right onto 22nd Street, left onto Pacific Avenue, then left onto Stephen White Drive which leads to the parking lot.
The aquarium is all about school class tours. Encourage your kids’ school to plan a trip there!