Francisco Sights to See
3 Aquariums You Should Not Miss
When seeking an aquarium, visitors to San Francisco commonly have a choice of three major options. Fortunately, there's no way for them to go wrong as all three are terrific.
Aquarium of the Bay
The Aquarium of the Bay, which first opened in 1996, houses dozens of
interesting and unusual exhibits holding thousands of animals. There
are literally hundreds of
interesting species on display, including everything from nearly
invisible sea horses to all too visible sharks.
A moving walkway takes the visitor down through two glass-lined tunnels, 300 feet in length. Behind the walls are 700,000 gallons of filtered water
from the San Francisco Bay. These tanks are the habitat and home of over
23,000 aquatic animals of the sort divers might encounter near the shore or off the
coast. Species run the gamut from angel
sharks and giant
Pacific octopi to the tiniest of shrimp.
Move further along, and there's an array of multi-colored species from tidepools
near the coast. Here, visitors can actually touch the
can be seen clinging to coral
as leopard sharks
and bat rays glide by.
The Aquarium is located at Pier 39.
The Steinhart Aquarium
The Steinhart Aquarium downtown is also home to a similar variety of
species, but with some delightful variations.
Everything from poison
dart frogs to alligator
snapping turtles to penguins
can be found here. Eels
are a specialty of the aquarium with many curious and obscure
species on exhibit. There's the fairly common moray eel, but the
aquarium also houses several wolf
eels that grow to be up to seven feet in length.
Like the Aquarium by the Bay, the Steinhart has its own tidepool
display, jam-packed with sea
stars and hermit crabs.
(It's recommended you don't play with the crabs!)
Elsewhere, get a look up close at giant
sea bass or sturgeon,
or come find out what a gar
looks like. Still around after millions of years,
this long-snouted, leopard-spotted fish has a nasty array of
While you're at it, be sure to check out the penguins as they
clumsily groom themselves on the ice shelf or swim gracefully by under the surface. Birds just
don't get any funnier than these clowns of the ocean.
Steinhart Aquarium can be found at 875 Howard Street located between 4th and 5th Streets.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Two hours south by bus from downtown is my personal favorite, the
Monterey Bay Aquarium. The
jewel of all the San Francisco area aquariums, located on Cannery Row, a place
made famous by John
Steinbeck, this site is both a tourist
exhibit and scientific
Here visitors can see thousands of near-transparent jellyfish floating
gracefully around a tank or go outside and see live seals sunning
themselves on the rocks.
Lovers of "Jaws" will be happy, or sad, to learn the aquarium once
housed a live Great
White shark. Extremely rare to catch live, and with a poor survival rate in
captivity, the exhibit displayed the animal for nearly two years before
releasing it back to the wild.
Undoubtedly a young whippersnapper (no pun intended), given its length
of five feet (1.5m) when acquired, the Great
White was re-introduced to the Gulf
of the Farallones at 6 ft 4.5 in
(194cm) at 162 lbs (73.6kg), having gained 100 lbs (45.4kg) while a
guest in Monterey. Several parts of the exhibit show the history of interaction with this fearsome predator.
Outside aquarium are dozens of seal
and sea otters
to view who appear
to appreciate the frequent applause their antics inspire.
Many companies offer bus trips to Monterey and back from San Francisco.
Though a bit long, the trip is well worth it for those who enjoy visiting world class
aquariums. People driving up from the south will find it an easy detour as well.
Monterey has a number of other attractions worth visiting, including their own Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, and
where you can visit tons of artsy shops, dine at Clint Eastwood's" Hogsbreath Inn",
or stay at the hotel run by Doris Day.
Enjoy your visit to San Francisco's, or Monterey's, aquariums, but stay
to learn more about San Francisco.
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