Best Aquariums in Northern California

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Toddler watches stingrays at SeaQuest

Northern California encompasses a number of popular tourist spots, such as the Bay Area, the Central Coast, and the beautiful Sacramento area. The state’s 840 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean provide access to diverse underwater ecosystems, making it an ideal location for aquariums to showcase local marine life. Northern California is also home to multiple marine species, including kelp forests, tide pools, and diverse aquatic habitats. making it the ideal spot to provide rich sources for exhibits for an aquarium.  Here are some of the best aquariums to visit and check out as you cruise on the Pacific Coast Highway!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Home to the massive 1.2 million gallon tank- the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium is considered one of the best aquariums in the world. With their Open Sea exhibit, you can experience a 28-foot-high kelp forest exhibit that showcases leopard sharks, sea otters, sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and even more. A fun fact about the Monterey Bay Aquarium is that it was the first institution to exhibit a great white shark in captivity successfully. If you desire to be completely immersed in marine-related biodiversity, this is the place for you. 

Aquarium of the Bay: San Francisco

If you love Pier 39 on the waterfront of San Francisco, stop by the Aquarium of the Bay and experience a 300-foot-long underwater tunnel! This tunnel allows visitors to walk through an acrylic tunnel beneath a massive tank filled with 700,000 gallons of water, offering a 360-degree view of various local marine species, including sharks, rays, and other fascinating underwater creatures. It’s a truly immersive experience that gives visitors the sensation of being underwater without getting wet. Walking through at an average pace, and seeing all the exhibits, takes about 90 minutes. This Aquarium is home to over 24,000 marine animals and features touch pools and walk-through tunnels for an interactive experience. 

SeaQuest: Folsom

Looking for an incredible, interactive, and affordable animal experience in Northern California and Sacramento? SeaQuest Folsom is a perfect choice! Boasting over 20,000 square feet of fun-packed adventures, SeaQuest Folsom is one of the few places in the Sacramento area that offers hands-on encounters where visitors get to touch, feel, and feed animals from a variety of ecosystems found throughout the world. 

During your quest, you’ll journey through the Amazon, Caribbean, Egyptian Desert, and Mayan Jungle as you interact with sharks, snakes, turtles, and lizards. Ever seen a kangaroo in person? Well, if not, visit the wallabies at SeaQuest Folsom! Wallabies are the smallest in the kangaroo family and love to have visits from guests. 

Exotic Animal Encounters at SeaQuest Folsom:

  • Asian Otter Interaction: Meet Chip and Dale! During your time to feed the otters, you’ll get an educational overview of the otter species and habitat, then participate in an informational Q&A on how you can help save the otters in the wild!
  •  Capybara Fun: Hang out with the most chill “Capy” around, Westley! Hand-feed Westley some of his favorite foods and learn about the fascinating  Capybara species. He loves to take selfies with you, so don’t miss out!  He’s the most photogenic Capybara in California!
  •  Crested Porcupine Interaction: Have you ever wondered what a porcupine actually feels like? Look no further – Meet Quilly, the porcupine here at SeaQuest, and learn all about her unique species while hand-feeding her favorite snacks!
  • Sloth Interaction: Hang out with Flash the Sloth while learning all about him. You get to feed, pet, and touch the sloth in this once-in-a-lifetime experience! Be sure to bring your camera for a selfie during your hand-feeding session.
  •  Fishy Kisses: Dip your feet into a tank of fish that will gently “kiss” your toes, removing dead skin cells in the process. 


DISCOUNT COUPON- 25% Off Seaquest tickets


Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences

Explore the world’s largest indoor living coral reef at the Steinhart Aquarium. Celebrating its 100 years since opening, Steinhart Aquarium is considered one of the most diverse aquariums in the world and one of the top aquariums in California. They also have a Planetarium, which features a 75-foot dome that is used for stunning visualizations and realistic virtual environments for a unique encounter. They have multiple shows to view including ones that include an expedition reef adventure, a tour of the universe, cosmic mysteries, etc.  

Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz

Explore the Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz, only an hour and a half from San Francisco. This aquarium lets you touch sharks up close while you learn about sea creatures native to the area. You can also take a picture in front of the 87-foot blue whale skeleton, one of the largest skeletons in the world. 

Ocean World

Located just over the border of Oregon in South Crescent City, California, Ocean World showcases a variety of sharks, sea lions, stingrays, and other species native to the area. Tours of the aquarium take forty-five minutes, so make sure to get there early and grab your spot in line, the tours run every fifteen minutes. There is truly an adventure for the whole family when you visit this hands-on aquarium! 

Mom and Daughter in the touch tank at SeaQuest

Aquariums can be memorable experiences while providing educational aspects of the earth’s wildlife and overall well-being. You can learn about conservation, our ecosystems, climate change, and the dangers of pollution. Northern California has no shortage of some of the best aquariums in the state! Check out the SeaQuest Folsom website now, you can book your extraordinary exotic animal encounter today!


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