Stephen Birch Aquarium
The Birch Aquarium is a small, quaint little operation with enough to keep kids occupied for 2+ hours. The facility can be divided into sections:|
As you enter the Birch Aquarium you will find a spacious central lobby where you can get information about:
- classes offered
- feeding times for the various display tanks
- and noteworthy news.
If you turn towards the right, you will enter the Hall of Fishes.
Hall of Fishes
This part of the aquarium is like other aquariums: it has fishes and sea life in display cases. The 33 displays are organized by region: northwest coast, southern California, Mexico, and tropical waters. It includes many interesting creatures such as giant lobsters, the lovely Garibaldi fish (California's state fish), octopus, sharks, sea morels, seahorses, and more.
The jellyfish are a great hit with their translucent, pulsating bodies. Visitors often crowd around these tanks mesmerized by their uncommon beauty. Different tanks will hold different types of jellyfish and one tank shows how baby jellyfish are formed from polyps.
A noteworthy section is the nursery where baby sea creatures are on display. Did you know that a shark egg is spiral in shape? Sometimes you can see the baby shark inside its egg-casing moving around in a jerkily motion. Did you know that it is the male seahorse who become pregnant and carry the developing babies? Seahorses are cool, but baby seahorses are even more cool!
Of course, you will not forget the Kelp Forest. It is a 70,000 gallon tank featuring a natural habitat of kelp, fish, and marine life. Visitors often take a moment to rest at the seating area and watch the kelp forest sway with the waves. There are Live Feeding shows, and at times, scuba divers enter the tank to perform routine cleaning and maintenance. Getting worried about the 70.000 gallons of water that might rush out at you? Don't worry, the display window has glass that is 10 inches thick!
If you were to read every informational plaque, it would take you about one hour to complete this section of the Aquarium. On the other hand, if you rush through, you can be done in 10 minutes.
If you turn to the left from the central lobby, you will enter the Explorers Gallery. This section is dedicated to environmental issues: global warming, earthquakes, the decline of the coral reefs, CO2 emissions, weather patterns, and more.
Kids love this section because there's lots of hands on displays. Learn something when you crank the shaft, press the button, pull on the string, turn the wheel, and open the flap. The exhibits in this section change from time to time, so you will see different things depending on when you come.
If there is no line up and you visit each display, you can complete this circuit in about one hour. If there is a line up, it will take longer. Similarly, if you simply look without trying, it will take as little as 15 minutes to rush through this section of the aquarium.
The Birch Aquarium has an outdoor plaza with man-made tide pools. Children should not touch the animals within the tide pools; but with the help of docents, they may touch the sea creatures in tanks adjacent to the tide pools.
The plaza overlooks the Scripps Pier and has an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean. It's quite a pleasant facility with a great view and fresh air.
The outdoor Courtyard is an open space not unlike a backyard. Here, is a mish-mash of fun. Currently there is a shark exhibit, a hands-on play station where you can construct canals & waterways to navigate toy boats. At times, rides may be available here (need to pay for these). It's just a courtyard where, depending on your energy level, you can sit & rest or run & play.
If you have packed a lunch or snack, this would be the place to eat it. Otherwise, you can also buy food at the Food Court. The food court is small: it serves up soda, coffee, sandwiches, and snacks. Bathrooms are modern and clean.
Bookshop, Gift Shop|
Last but not least is the gift shop. It is called a "bookshop" but it has more gifts than books. It's small but well stocked with knickknacks, postcards, stuffed animals, toys, T-shirts, jewelry, DVDs, CDs, and yes - books. Definitely worth stopping by for a gander.
The Birch aquarium offers classes and educational opportunities: moon light walk on the pier, Guided Tours, Whale Watching, kayaking classes, snorkeling lessons, classes for children, and more.
The Birch Aquarium sometimes offers special activities; for example,
- Mother's Day (brunch),
- 4th of July (observe fireworks),
- Halloween (haunted aquarium),
- Christmas (tree lighting).
You can even rent the entire facility for a private function. Call to inquire.
Location, Hours of Operation
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
UC San Diego
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, CA 92037
see floor plan
web site: Birch Aquarium
Under 2 yrs ...free
3 hr free parking
Open 9:30 am to 5 pm.
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day