Kids in tunnels at Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay—Submerge yourself in the Bay’s underwater splendors

in From the Mobile App, Kid-Friendly, Museums

Photo © Aquarium of the Bay

San Francisco Bay is immense. The largest estuary on the West Coast, it links major California rivers with the Pacific Ocean and provides habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species. Yet, until this state-of-the-art Aquarium opened in 1996, most Bay Area residents and even more visitors knew little about the marine animals that lived in the Bay’s waters.

Conveniently located at popular Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay displays more than 20,000 marine animals found in the Bay’s waters. As you walk through two 300-foot-long, 700,000-gallon, crystal-clear acrylic tunnels, the aquatic inhabitants are completely oblivious to spectators while doing their own thing on either side and directly above you.

Hundreds of silver anchovies speed through the water as a group, reflecting light as they twist and turn. Delicate and bright-colored jelly fish float beside 10-foot-long sevengill sharks. A reclusive Giant Pacific Octopus emerges from its lair to glance around. Huge skates glide lazily along the sandy bottom. Reddish sea stars cling to the aquarium’s acrylic sides. A green Moray Eel darts from a hole between two rocks. A bright-orange Garibaldi pecks at foliage and then quickly disappears at sight of a leopard shark. A White Sturgeon — the largest freshwater fish in North America — pauses briefly, as if allowing you to admire its streamlined, modernistic beauty.

Before and after the tunnels are many other exhibits. Touch the Bay offers an opportunity to find out what some of the Bay’s animals — including sea stars, sea cucumbers, urchins, bat rays, and leopard sharks — feel like. The PG&E Lab focuses on land-dwelling animals like Pacific Tree Frogs and Western Pond Turtles, offers daily hands-on science experiments, naturalist-led presentations, and animal encounters.

Tip: Consider taking the private “Behind the Scenes Tour.” You’ll stroll a catwalk above the tanks and learn a lot about what it takes to make the Aquarium function. The tour price ($25 for adults and $14 for children) includes Aquarium admission.

SF Waterfront Editors Recommend:

Frommer’s San Francisco with KidsWritten by parents and for parents, this helpful guide helps you plan family trips and outings that will be fun for the kids–and you, too! Designed for families with kids from 2 to 14, the book gives exact prices, age recommendations for activities, lots of valuable travel tips, rates for restaurants and hotels, and offers plenty of suggestions for safe-but-fun (and sometimes adventurous) family activities. As one of the reviewers of this book put it, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Frommers!” About $12. Learn more about or buy Frommer’s San Francisco with Kids.

San Francisco Bay: Portrait of an EstuaryEnvironmental historian John Hart’s lyrical writing and nature photographer David Sanger’s eye-opening color photographs fully reveal a marvel hidden in plan site–San Francisco Bay.  They journey back through the bay’s history, introducing its native cultures, describing its ecology, and tracing its urban and industrial development. They take us with them on a tanker bound upriver, to a duck hunter’s blind at dawn, to a delta island when the migratory sandhill cranes come in, to the strange white fields where salt is harvested. And they tell the story of how the plucky local movement to save the bay began and evolved into a grand effort–maybe the grandest yet attempted–to repair a damaged organ of the living world. About $26. Learn more about or buy San Francisco Bay: Portrait of an Estuary.

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