Dive In: Five Must-See Exhibits at Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla attracts more than 410,000 visitors each year. Read up on the five must-see exhibits to hit during your visit.

Tucked in between internationally recognized and , Birch Aquarium is a perfect day trip for locals and visitors. Whether you have 30 minutes or three hours, you can enjoy .

Patch created a list of the five-must see exhibits for your visit and a few extra tips. We even caught up with Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of the aquarium, a few days ago. Her list of the top five exhibits was pretty close to ours. Well–four out of five is not bad!  

First off, we suggest wearing a layer of sunblock and a pair of comfy shoes. A portion of the aquarium is outside. Secondly, we urge you to check out the calendar of events before you arrive.

  • The Kelp Tank: This exhibit is 70,000 gallons of mesmerizing fun. The floor to ceiling tank captivates everyone from infants to seniors. The sway of the kelp and activity of the fish make this a must see. We suggest making it to the Kelp Tank Dive Show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. You can also get the kids excited by watching the Kelp Tank web cam online.
  • The Shark Reef: This is as close as you want to get to a shark. The Shark Reef is home to several shark species including nurse sharks, blacktop sharks and epaulette sharks. This exhibit is located outside. Do not miss it!
  • The Jellies: Several species of jellyfish are located in the Hall of Fishes at the aquarium. Each one is cooler and creepier than the next. The aquarium recently added another tank of "jellies." See if you can find the imposters!
  • Boundless Energy: If your kids seem to have boundless energy then Boundless Energy the exhibit is a must see. Discover how to harness the renewable energy of the wind, sun and waves with interactive demonstrations. Create waves to light up lightbulbs; power a mechanical fish with solar energy; and even seesaw or peddle to create waterpower.
  • Outdoor Tide-Pool Plaza: Get your hands wet in the tide pools at Birch Aquarium. This exhibit allows both small and big hands to gently touch and learn about the inhabitants of local San Diego tide pools with the help of docents. See or even touch starfish, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers and lobster. Plus the Tide-Pool Plaza overlooks La Jolla, Scripps Pier and the ocean.

After your visit, you can grab a bite to eat at the snack bar/café or plan to drive down into La Jolla Shores for lunch. We suggest , which is located just a half-mile away near Scripps Pier and overlooking the ocean.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

  • Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
  •  Cost: Free for 2 and under, $9.50 child, $14 adult. Discounts for military, seniors, students and members.
  • Great For: All ages.
  • Exhibits: More than 3,000 specimens representing 380 species of fishes and invertebrates; and tons of interactive activities for the whole family.

This is the second review in the La Jolla Staycation Guide brought to you by . Also read about .

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