Warm-Weather Penguins

Photo via Aquarium of the Pacific

When you think about penguins, you probably picture a scene filled with ice and snow. At least that’s what we did before we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific’s new Magellanic penguin exhibit. It turns out that most penguins (10 out of 17 species) live in temperate areas and never even see frigid weather. That explains why these friendly Magellanic penguins, who frolic in a special habitat at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, are completely in their element.

Magellanic penguins (named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan) live in coastal climates in South America, particularly Chile and Argentina. They’re petite little creatures – they grow to about two-and-a-half feet tall and weigh about 15 pounds when grown. But they vocalize to communicate, and each has a voice that is as distinctive as a human fingerprint. During our most recent visit, we got to know some of the friendlier penguins in the exhibit – specifically Kate, Avery, and Floyd (each penguin has a clearly labeled name tag), who were happy to slide up against the glass to greet us.

If you visit the aquarium’s new June Keyes Penguin Habitat, you can get to know more than a dozen penguins by name. Stop by and wave to them in front of the glass, or duck into the crawl-in space to watch them swim over and say hello. Miss them once you’re gone? You can watch them through a live cam above the water or under the water; or you can follow Avery the penguin on Twitter (no joke!).

Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA (562) 590-3100. Open 9 AM to 6 PM daily. General admission, $14,95 (kids) to $24.95 (adults); annual memberships with free admission begin at $45 for students, $55 for individuals.

Aquarium at Night

A nighttime crowd gathers at the shark lagoon

You may have admired the beautiful sea creatures at Aquarium of the Pacific during the day time, but have you experienced the aquarium at night? The aquarium has a whole different look and feel – and when you’re seeing the fish at night, you start to feel like you’re a little closer to being right there in the ocean with them.

Moon jellies, under the moon

Happily, the aquarium has plenty of opportunities for you to check out the fish after normal hours. The “Late Nights” series offers discounted admission from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm approximately twice per week through April (and then weekly on Sunday nights beginning in June). The entire aquarium is open except for the lorikeet forest on those nights. Adults can get in for $14.95 and children for $13.95. You can view the whole late night schedule here.

A giant stingray in the shark lagoon, under the stars

On Shark Lagoon nights (Friday nights), the shark lagoon (only) is open for free from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Standing face-to-face with the sharks while you’re both in the dark is both thrilling and fascinating – or possibly creepy, depending on how you feel about sharks swimming right toward you in the dark. You can view the Shark Lagoon night schedule here.

The aquarium also offers plenty of special events with late-night festivities. Last week we had a chance to visit Noche de Estrellas, a party featuring Latin music and food. Upcoming nighttime events include Aquatic Academy courses and documentary screenings. For a full list of events and festivals – both day and night – visit the Aquarium’s events page.

Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA. (562) 590-3100. Parking is $8.

Waste to Waves

Did your holiday gifts come packed in Styrofoam? Don’t throw it away!

Image via Aquarium of Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is partnering with a newly formed nonprofit surf organization, Sustainable Surf, to turn Styrofoam waste into surfboards. On January 14, the aquarium will host a foam collection drive to support Sustainable Surf’s Waste to Waves program. Through this program, expanded polystyrene, also known as plastic No. 6 or Styrofoam, will be recycled into eco-friendly surfboards.

According to Sustainable Surf, recycling the foam packaging into a surfboard eliminates 50 percent of the carbon emissions associated with manufacturing a surfboard. The new eco-friendly surfboard boasts the same performance and durability of a board made from virgin petrochemical materials.

Image via Aquarium of the Pacific

Not only does this program reduce the surfboard carbon footprint, but also it helps keep Styrofoam out of the ocean where it is frequently ingested by marine animals that mistake the tiny foam particles for food.

As part of the Sustainable Surf Waste to Waves campaign, people can also bring waste polystyrene foam to surf shops in California that have collection bins.

For more information, visit Aquarium of the Pacific or call 562-590-3100.


Aquarium of the Pacific

If you haven’t been down to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for a while, it’s time to take another trip.

The aquarium, which displays nearly 500 different species of inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean, offers a diverse array of programs for children and adults. New as of this summer are the Ocean Science Center Gallery and the Arctic & Antarctic exhibition. In the Ocean Science Center Gallery, visitors can experience how climate change and maritime trade and ports impact our lives. The Arctic & Antarctic exhibit tells the story of how these amazing environments are in peril because of climate change (and recently welcomed two new arctic fox pups!).

The kids and I spent an incredible morning at the aquarium yesterday, checking our the new exhibits and some of our old favorites. One highlight of the morning’s visit was an opportunity to touch the ethereal moon jellyfish (softer than you would expect) and watch them feed on tiny brine shrimp.

The aquarium hosts an incredible number of special events and festivals throughout the year. Upcoming features through October include Shark Lagoon Nights (Friday nights from 6 to 9 pm); Moompetam: Native American Festival (Sept. 17-18); Baja Splash Cultural Festival (Sept. 24-25); Southeast Asia Day (Oct. 8); the Aquarium Kids Fun Run (Oct. 8), Sea Fare Fundraiser (Oct. 15), and the Halloween Family Sleepover (Oct. 21-22).

Even if you come on a regular day, there’s still plenty to do. Daily presentations include movies at the Marine Life Theater and the Honda Theater, and the massive multi-sensory whales presentation in the Great Hall (visitors can get a copy of the daily schedule when they come in). And of course you won’t want to miss the Shark Lagoon – the country’s first full-scale shark touch exhibit – and the Lorikeet Forest, where you can feed more than 100 enthusiastic Lorikeets from little cups of nectar.

Does a visit to the aquarium bring out your inner marine biologist? You and your kids can sign up for educational programs (or even sleepovers or private parties) through the Aquarium’s education division.

Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA. Open 9 am to 6 pm daily. General admission $24.95 for adults (12+), $21.95 senior (62+), $12.95 child (3-11), free for children under age 3 and aquarium members. Family membership: $115 for unlimited admission for one year, plus other aquarium discounts.