SEA LIFE Aquarium is home to an array of sea creatures including sharks, stingrays, seahorses and jellyfish. What makes this aquarium unique is that it is specially geared toward families with young children. That and it’s right next door to Legoland and features Lego creations throughout.
Exhibits are arranged along a more-or-less one-way path that explores the animals residing in the area’s waterways and oceans. On the journey to the Lost City of Atlantis, you’ll travel through Gold Rush River, San Francisco Harbor, California Coast, Sharks Revealed and more. For hands-on fun, there are touch pools and a Discovery Zone, where kids can learn ways to help the earth every day.
You won’t see larger animals like seals, sea lions, whales, penguins or otters here or any of the “shows” you might have come to expect at larger aquariums. My 5 year old and I toured the entire place – and saw an animal feeding presentation – in a little less than two hours.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR NATURE LOVERS
This place doesn’t just display sea creatures, but also helps teach kids about the ocean and its inhabitants. SEA LIFE pioneers breeding programs, rescues and rehabilitates marine life in distress and exposes global issues of concern through its “Save Our Seas” Conservation and Rescue campaign.
I was expecting SEA LIFE Aquarium to be little more than a few tanks with some fish and Lego designs inside. I was very much impressed with what’s actually there to learn and discover.
- Hours vary from season to season, so check the Aquarium’s website before you go
- One-day admission is $19 for adults, $12 for kids (children 2 and under are free)
- Parking is $12
- One set of restrooms is located near the exit on the second level
- Free, 10-15 minute animal feedings are available throughout the day
- No food or drinks are allowed inside the Aquarium and there are no picnic facilities outside the Aquarium; food can be purchased at the facility’s café
- Strollers are discouraged as the Aquarium is highly interactive; parking is available in front of the Aquarium
WHAT WE LIKED
- Clean, small-scale, toddler-friendly environment
- Staff is friendly, knowledgeable and great with kids
- Unique viewing opportunities that are geared toward kids, including concave and convex glass tanks and pop-up bubbles so little ones can actually enter the undersea environment and be surrounded by fish
- “Fin Facts” located throughout were short and simple enough for my kindergartner to read and understand
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- The one-way route through the Aquarium makes it tough to return to a favorite exhibit and could be a challenge during crowded days
- My 5 year old was scared off by the music and dark setting of the “Sharks Revealed” exhibit
- There are only a couple of spots to sit down and enjoy the surroundings
- Your journey ends in the Aquarium’s café, which provides great choices but isn’t cheap
- Admission and parking is expensive for what amounts to a couple of hours of entertainment
- Toddlers may enjoy the detour from Legoland that the Aquarium offers, but older kids will be hard pressed to visit when Legoland is right next door
MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT
- Save on admission with an annual pass, which offers free parking, discounts for guests, food and retail purchases. Thanks to my son’s Legoland pass, we paid just $10 for our visit.
- Go during the winter months when crowds are smaller. Choose a day when Legoland is closed to entice older kids to visit.
- Use the “Quiz Trail” scratch-off card you receive when you enter. My son loved keeping an eye out for each question, then trying to guess the right answer based on the clues provided.
- Catch an animal feeding. We watched a sea anemone eat!
- Skip the food and eat on your own. Although the food choices were fabulous, we paid more for lunch ($27) than admission!
SEA LIFE Aquarium is located at:
One Legoland Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Directions to SEA LIFE
Next week’s review: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County