A Day at Birch Aquarium

Is there anything more calming than watching fish? I love love love aquariums. Sitting in front of tanks lit up and full of colorful fish peacefully swimming back and forth, it’s a meditative experience. My dream house would have a wall to wall fish tank in every room, could you imagine?

Aaliyah shares the same love for watching “feesh feeeesh feeeeeesh!” So when my aunt and I were talking about our weekend itinerary, we knew the Birch Aquarium was a necessity. The Birch Aquarium is a part of Scripp’s Oceanography program, and is located on UCSD’s campus. To be very honest, I have never been to the campus. I knew they didn’t have an art history program and didn’t want to torture myself with seeing the campus because it is beautiful. 

This is the view from the patio of the aquarium. Endless heart eyes right?

Looking at the aquarium on the website I thought that it looked pretty small. We decided to go at 2pm, thinking that most families would have already came and went. It was packed. I’m not sure if this is usual for this time, or because of the cloudy weather rolling in and a ton of people were coming in from the beach. The parking lot was a little cramped because of this.

Getting ready to go inside I wasn’t sure if I should bring the stroller or not, and decided to let her walk on her own. I was glad that I did because *very important!* strollers are allowed into the aquarium exhibit space, but it is a little cramped. I would definitely suggest bringing an alternate, when we walked in the whole entry wall was full of parked strollers. I had my baby carrier in the car, but really didn’t feel like I needed it, even though it was crowded it was easy for her to walk or for me to carry her once she got tired.

After walking in, we decided to start with the right side. Here they have the usual tanks, including those filled with jellies, San Diego native fish, and star fish. The walkway, one way in one way out, is very dark. It was dark and hot and crowded. My aunt was the first to leave, but my friend and Aaliyah and I soon followed her out to the patio.

Here you can see the breathtaking view. They also have realistic tide pools set up that also function as touch tanks. We touched the algae and anemones, but in the other tank there were sea cucumbers and starfish. After a quick photo op we decided to try the left wing, hoping there would be less people.

Luckily it was much less crowded, and they had the air conditioning on. This side starts with an amazing photography gallery, and an exhibit on climate change. This aquarium’s educational tools are amazing. They had many signs with quick bits of information, visually intriguing charts and photographs, and even an example of bleached coral. The information was very accessible for kids, and there were a lot of interactive aspects.

After turning the corner we found their special exhibit “The Infinity Cube.” I so wish that I had been able to get pictures of this, but it was extremely hard to photograph, especially while trying to keep track of my wild child in the dark. The cube is in a pitch black room, music plays in the background and lights dance around the cube. The walls are made from a reflective material, and standing in the cube is a mesmerizing experience watching the lights dance around you. From their website:

For three months, London-based artist Iyvone Khoo worked alongside Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine biologist Michael Latz in an effort to better understand the role of bioluminescence — light produced by living organisms — in the marine environment.
They filmed more than six hours of footage of single-celled marine organisms called dinoflagellates reacting to various stimulants, such as the human heartbeat, music, water flow, and air pressure.

Even the smallest of oceanographers will love this exhibit, I saw so many kids dancing and ooo-ahhing at the trance inducing cube.

After the cube, we walked  into a hallway full of diverse sea horse breeds, and walked outside to a second patio. Here they have their “Boundless Energy” exhibit, focusing on natural energy resources. My Merbaby was a little too little to play with the mechanisms, but she did enjoy watching everyone else play. For one, one person sat on a bike while another spun a wheel to move water through buckets. Another used solar power, and yet another kids were able to arrange plastic walls to create currents to move toy boats.

Deciding that enough people had probably left, we went through the right wing again and it was so worth it. We were able to see the fish up close without feeling a little claustrophobic. Then when we came around the corner we found the Giant Kelp Forest. Here, a floor to ceiling tank exhibits diverse fish, including a huge sea bass!, and mimics the rhythm of the tides. There’s a few rows of stadium seating, and we spent half an hour watching the fish swim.

After a few more colorful tanks and a little adorable nursery wall, we decided it was time to leave. We had ended up spending two hours at the aquarium, originally planning for only one! I think the Birch is an incredible aquarium for kids. The exhibits are SO interactive, with so much potential for learning. They also have workshop events you can find on their website, as well as amazing resources to teachers. For those with little ones, I think that this aquarium is the perfect size. My little one fell asleep halfway through Monterey Bay, but here she stayed attentive throughout the whole day.
Have you ever been to the Birch Aquarium? What was your little one’s favorite fish to see?

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1 Comment

  1. That sounds like a really fun time! You got some great pictures too!

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