24 May Reasons to Love San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay
Since moving to northern California, we’ve explored all kinds of places for family fun. One of my favorites, for many reasons, is the Aquarium of the Bay.
Reason #1: Location, location, location!!!
It’s location on Pier 39 in the popular Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco is one of the best things about the Aquarium of the Bay! Parking in San Francisco can be difficult, at best, however there is a parking structure right across from Pier 39, providing easy access to the Aquarium for those who choose to drive in. Public transportation also makes getting there a breeze! If you’re taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) into the city, you can get off at the Embarcadero stop and catch a vintage streetcar down to the aquarium. Personally, on a nice summer day, I like to just hop off the BART and walk down the Embarcadero to Pier 39.
Location is also worth mentioning as there are some amazing views of the bay and the city to be had from Pier 39. Actually, one of my favorite places to take a family picture is right in front of the entrance to the aquarium where you get a clear shot of Coit tower in the backround.
Reason #2: Cost
Compared to many of the larger aquariums, zoos and museums in the area, the price of the Aquarium of the Bay can’t be beat. If you buy your tickets ahead of time online, adult admission is $22.95, and child admission is $13.95. However, there are often coupons to be found and great deals for locals to the area. You can also find a great price through Pier 39’s Local Advantage program, which will also provide discounts for other attractions and eateries on Pier 39.
Reason #3: Educational Opportunities
The Aquarium of the Bay has daily programs that educate visitors on the life that can be found there. Many of these programs are actually included with the cost of admission. For only $12, there is a behind the scenes tour , and for $25 there is a feed the sharks tour! If you don’t want to purchase a tour or plan your day around the tour time, you can always read the informative signs and direct any questions to the many staff members around the aquarium who are happy to tell you all about what you’re looking at!
Even if you don’t participate in one of the programs the aquarium offers, there are plenty of opportunities for learning around the aquarium! For those traveling with small children, or those who enjoy a more hands on experience, there are a couple of great touchpools featuring things from bat rays and sharks to sea stars! And don’t worry, there are paper towels and hand sanitizer just waiting to be used!
Reason #4: You can find Dory
Even though clownfish and blue tang are not native species to the San Francisco bay, you can still find them here at the Aquarium of the Bay, complete with an explanation of why they won’t be found in the bay waters. My kids LOVE to head straight to this tank so they can find their favorite Disney characters from under the sea: Nemo, Marlin, and Dory.
Reason #5: It isn’t overwhelming.
This is probably the best argument for visiting the Aquarium of the Bay: it isn’t that big. It has all of the things you want out of an aquarium: underwater viewing tunnels, touchpools, and plenty of fish, but it doesn’t have to take up your whole day. This is great if you’re visiting the city from out of town and have a lot of things you want to see. You can easily spend an hour, maybe two exploring the aquarium, grab some lunch on the pier, and then go on some other San Francisco adventures. I like to put the aquarium right in the middle of the day to give the younger kids a break from some of the other tourist activities that might not be as fun for them. I completely see where getting up close and personal with Giant Pacific Octopus would be more fun than shopping in Union Square.
To plan your trip to the Aquarium of the Bay, be sure to visit out their website and also check out the websites for Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf so you can explore some of the great things to see and do in the area.