The Monterey Bay Aquarium first opened its doors on October 20, 1984. Decades later, more than 35,000 creatures call the aquarium home.
Over the past 30 plus years the aquarium has helped inspire thousands of people to care about conservation of the ocean through education and the sharing of knowledge about marine animals.
Backstage passes aren’t just for rockstars, they’re for marine lovers too. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California offers an hour long behind the scenes look at how its well oiled machine runs. Our tour guide, Mary, is a longtime volunteer at the aquarium and she was filled with anecdotes and stories about this special place.
During our adventure we fed fish, got a chance to learn how the handlers thwart crafty octopus escapes and even got to touch jellyfish without being stung. (Spoiler Alert: The jellyfish feel, well, jelly like.)
Going behind the jellyfish exhibit is fun because you get a better sense for what the tanks look like from the other side.
It’s no surprise that giant Pacific octopus is a master of disguise, but we learned during our tour that they’re also insanely talented escape artists.
Not only can the giant Pacific octopus change the color of its skin to blend in with its surroundings, this massive creature (which can grow up to 20 feet in length and weigh as much as 200 pounds) can squeeze through spaces as small as its tiny beak (which is usually only a couple inches long). Luckily the Monterey Bay Aquarium hasn’t had any escapee octopuses… yet. Sadly the same can’t be said for Boston’s New England Aquarium and the National Aquarium of New Zealand which used to be home to infamous escape artist, Inky.
So what’s an aquarist to do if they have a budding Frank Abagnale octopus on their hands? They fight back… with AstroTurf. Octopuses apparently have an aversion to artificial grass. To keep the brainy cephalopods entertained we also learned about the well stocked octopus toy boxes caretakers have access to.
Playtime with a giant Pacific octopus apparently can involve anything from a hamster ball to the KONG puzzles your dog likes to play with at home.
During the behind the scenes tour at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you’ll also get a chance to learn about the various animal diets and peek inside the massive kitchen.
All that playing around sure does make you work up an appetite.
The aquarium keeps a whopping 8,000 pounds of sustainable seafood in its refrigeration units because you need to eat if you want to look as stunning as these sea nettle jellyfish.
Going behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a lovely way to get a more intimate look at a place that thousands of people visit every year.
If you’re interested in doing a tour you can book it in advance by calling the aquarium directly or you can sign up in person at the membership and tours desk in the main lobby. On busy days, booking ahead is your safest bet.
After wandering around learning about all sorts of animals and participating in all kinds of experiences, chances are you’ll have worked up an appetite. You might want to consider walking two blocks over to the delicious and delightful Tricycle Pizza… that is, if krill shakes aren’t really your family’s thing.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, California 93940
Hours: Daily 9:30am to 6:00pm
Phone: (831) 648-4800
Pricing (All in USD): General admission to the aquarium costs $49.95 per adult, $39.95 for seniors (aged 65+), $39.95 for students (between the ages of 13 – 17 or for students with a valid college ID), $29.95 for children (between the ages of 3 – 12), Behind the Scenes Tours cost $15 per person plus admission for the general public and $12 per person for aquarium members