Magnificent Monterey Bay Aquarium

Colorful fish at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Colorful fish in Splash Zone at Monterey Bay Aquarium

I promised myself that we would find fun and engaging activities this summer for the kids, and we have done a pretty good job.

I have to say, our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium today is probably at the top of my list for great family outings this summer.

It was so fun to see Bam-Bam light up when we walked through the doors.  There are so many activities for the little ones, down at their level that are hands on.  For a four year old, tide pools where they encourage you to touch the creatures are just perfect, and laid out so well at this Aquarium.

Bam-Bam just loved touching the starfish and other creatures while learning about their habitat.

Underwater Explorers Dive at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

While we were in the upstairs splash zone which focuses on activities for the under 8 set, Broadway and I stood out on a balcony overlooking the main water theater area for the aquarium.

We noticed an instructor explaining to the students the proper way to put on their wetsuits and breathing tanks, and then watched as these kids were able to go diving with certified instructors and learn first hand all about the sea creatures in the bay.

Well, that was it….Broadway was desperate to find out how she could get in on the action, since it was clearly for kids.  We went downstairs to the activity sign up area, and learned about the dive.  It is for 8-13 year olds and is offered four times per day.

Luckily, there were two openings at the 11:30am dive, so we signed both Broadway and Imagineer up to participate.  They were so excited.

It was really neat for Mountain Man and I to watch them diving and exploring.  They were in the water for 45 minutes learning from their scuba instructor the entire time about snorkeling and sea life.

Underwater Explorers Monterey Bay Aquarium
Underwater Explorers Monterey Bay Aquarium – checking out the sea life

Afterwards, the group was treated to hot chocolate and they fill out a logbook and discuss what they saw on their exploration.

On their dive, they saw: sea cucumber, hermit crab, monkey-faced eel, gumboot chiton, bat star, knobby sea star, decorator crab, giant green anemone, red algae, green algae, and brown algae.

This was truly an unexpected treat and I highly recommend this adventure to anyone with kids ages 8-13.  Broadway and Imagineer agree that this was very cool.  Hopefully this will inspire them to learn more about marine biology.

Visiting the Jellies and the Seahorses

The Jellyfish and Seahorse exhibits are quite extraordinary and located in their own wing at the Aquarium.  Here are some photos I snapped:

Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jellyfish Exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Japanese Sea Nettle Jellyfish
Japanese Sea Nettle Jellyfish
Indonesian Sea Nettle Jellyfish
Indonesian Sea Nettle Jellyfish
Crown Jellyfish
Crown Jellyfish
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seahorses Sign
The Seahorse Exhibit is Exquisite
Leafy Dragon Seahorse
Leafy Sea Dragon – these were simply breathtaking in person
Leafy Dragon Seahorse
Leafy Sea Dragon
Monterey Bay
View of Monterey Bay from Balcony outside Seahorse and Jellyfish Exhibit
Splash Zone at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Splash Zone – learning how tidal waves affect sea life

In the picture above, Bam-Bam is shooting water at the plastic sea creatures including starfish and other sea life.  The idea is to see how their environment changes suddenly when a tidal wave hits.  This was one of Bam-Bam’s favorite spots.  He absolutely loved it. :)  I know, I know, its kind of like a video game, but he IS learning loads about sea life and environment changes, right?  :)

Spotted Leopard Shark in Giant Kelp Forest at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Spotted Leopard Shark in the Giant Kelp Forest at Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Kelp Forest at the aquarium is simply stunning.  It is two stories high and I could just watch all of the action in these underwater scene all day.  There is so much going on with the fish, the kelp, the feedings where scuba divers jump in and feed or clean the tank.

The spotted leopard sharks are so fun to watch swimming so serenely around the tank.

Colorful FIsh
Colorful Fish in a tank in the Splash Zone section of the Aquarium – aren’t they beautiful?

Vivolo’s Chowder House

For lunch, we decided to yelp a great restaurant that was walkable from the aquarium.  We usually go to lunch on Cannery Row, but decided to go off the touristy path.  After reading great reviews about Vivolo’s Chowder House, we decided to check it out.  Great, great choice.

They have a sign that says, “voted best chowder”.  I’m not surprised, as this clam chowder hit the ball out of the park.  There was a certain spice to it that made the tast unique from other chowders I’ve tried.  We all really enjoyed it.

Some pics of our food below:

Calamari Sandwich at Vivolo's Chowder House
Mountain Man ordered the Calamari Sandwich at Vivolo’s Chowder House
Viviolo's Chowder
Vivolo’s Clam Chowder
Roast Turkey Sandwich
Roast Turkey Sandwich with Avocado – YUM. The tomato vinagerette dressing for the salad is amazing – highly recommend.

Surrey Bike Ride from Aquarium to Lover’s Point, Pacific Grove

After the Aquarium, we always have lunch, and then head to rent Surrey Bikes at “Bay Bikes” to ride to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove.

We have been doing this at least once a year now for several years.  We all have a blast on these bikes, where we all look ridiculous trying to steer and trying to at least go faster than the people walking on the path. :)

Surrey Bikes
Surrey Bikes at Bay Bikes in Pacific Grove
Lover's Point Park in Pacific Grove
Lover’s Point Park in Pacific Grove

We always ride to Lover’s Point Park and back on our surrey bikes.  The ride usually takes around an hour, with one or two stops to either climb trees or gaze out at the beautiful Bay.

When we passed the gorgeous Victorian “Seven Gables Inn”, I dropped a hint to Mountain Man that going there would be a great getaway for us.  Ok, I outright told him to book us a weekend there sometime in the near future.  We’ll see if it actually happens.  :)

Dennis the Menace Park

For those of you that have been here, you know how magical this place is for the 10 and under set.  For those that have not visited, I recommend you do next time you’re in Monterey.

There is a swinging bridge, a maze, large slides, and a full size locomotive to climb.  There is much more, but those are the highlights.  Everything here is large and unique.  There are also tunnels to climb through that are always a hit with my bunch.

The park is surrounded by a small lake where you can go pedal boating if you wish, and the bay is just a block away.  Beautiful.

We always stop here last, before we start our two hour drive home.  The kids get a chance to get all of their last minute wiggles out, which makes for a more pleasant ride home. :)

This park was actually designed by the creator of Dennis the Menace, Hank Ketcham.  It really is magical.

Dennis the Menace Park
Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey, CA
Lion Drinking Fountain at Dennis the Menace Park
Lion Drinking Fountain at Dennis the Menace Park
Dennis the Menace Park
Dennis the Menace Park
Dennis the Menace Park History
Dennis the Menace Park History

Of course, fun was had by all at this park.  Such a great ending to our perfect day.

As we were starting our drive home, Mountain Man remarked, “Wow, its like we just experienced two full days in one.”  I agreed.  :)

Really love creating lasting memories with the Family. :)  Today was one of those memory making days.

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