San Francisco Sights to See
3 Aquariums You Should Not Miss
The Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco is just one of three major aquariums in the area

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 animals. Anenomes 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 needle-like teeth.

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 research center.

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.

Great White SharkLovers 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 nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea, 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 dry!

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San Francisco - Aquarium by the Bay - Steinhart Aquarium = Monterey Bay Aquarium - Clint Eastwood - Doris Day

Page Updated 5:55 PM Wednesday 4/15/2015