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A day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Watch these sea nettle jellies float around in live action, here on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website!

Mesmerizing, isn’t it?

Growing up in California, I remember visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium often, dazzled by the many levels and colorful childrens’ areas. Now as an adult, after exploring a handful of other aquariums (like the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the Seattle Aquarium next to Pike Place Market), my vote for favorite aquarium remains unchanged. I hold my breath in the hypnotizing Open Sea room and Kelp Forest – the panoramic experience makes me feel like I’m right there in the silent water with the animals.

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At 28 feet tall, the Kelp Forest is one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world. It’s as true to nature as outside in the ocean, which just happens to be several feet away. Sardines, leopard sharks, wolf-eels, California sheephead, and many others weave lazily amongst the kelp, enjoying the sun above. At certain times of the day, you’ll even see a staff scuba diver waving at museum-goers while cleaning the tank.

Here are some fun facts from the aquarium website!

Our kelp plants grow an average of about four inches a day and require weekly underwater gardening by scuba divers who untangle and trim the fast-growing plants.

Don’t be surprised if you see rockfish hanging motionless or even upside down among the kelp blades. These fish can hover without sinking or floating because they have a gas-filled sac called a swim bladder helps them stay put.

Pumps push up to 2,000 gallons of sea water a minute through the exhibit and a specially designed surge machine creates the constant water movement that kelp needs to survive.

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My favorite wall hanging in our house, picked up from the Just Looking Gallery in San Luis Obispo. Created by artist Steve Thomas, this print is one in a series of vintage-style travel posters that celebrate the beautiful cities and nature of California’s Central Coast. The posters are inspired by the iconic WPA artwork of the early 1900s, commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. Read more about that fascinating story here and here.

See all of Steve Thomas’s Central Coast fine are prints here. If I had more wall space, I’d own all of these prints!

Love the art style? Here are some gorgeous National Park posters for sale.

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Wave Crash Gallery in the Rocky Shore exhibit

The Wave Crash gallery pumps about 600 gallons of water and “crashes” every 30 seconds. That’s more than 500,000 gallons per eight-hour day. (montereybayaquarium.org)

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Mural made entirely of discarded plastic found in the ocean.

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Yep, those are sardines swirling around in a big circle. They’re moving so fast, and yet, have nowhere to be.

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Interactive exhibit that discusses which seafood to eat or not eat based on different environmental repercussions. Read more about it here.

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Touch pool

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Fun fact: Abandoned western snowy plovers are often brought to the Aquarium for treatment. We also incubate eggs, and newly hatched chicks are raised by exhibit birds. (montereybayaquarium.org)

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Sandy Shore and Aviary exhibit

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Bat rays, which do not shock or sting, and an adorable friend (not sure what bird this is, but here is a general list of the aquarium’s birds on exhibit).

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Kelp Forest exhibit. This exhibit was the inspiration for the fine art print we purchased. Can you see the resemblance?

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Tentacles exhibit

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Read about this amazing creature here.

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There it is! The Pacific ocean!

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Can’t leave without supporting the cause! Of course, everything in the gift shop is beautiful, so that helps. I purchased these gorgeous watercolor note cards by artist Vikki Chu, and enjoy giving them away filled with ocean puns, like “Can’t you SEA that I love you?”

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