Discounts & Rewards

The most exciting exhibits you shouldn't miss at the Aquarium of the Pacific's AAA Member Night

With more than 11,000 animals and 500 species, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is the L.A. area’s biggest and best-known public aquarium. 

Visitors to the 5-acre campus can explore much of the Pacific Ocean all in one place, from nearby Santa Catalina Island’s kelp forests, to the giant crabs of the northern Pacific, to the colorful coral of distant Micronesia. In addition to fish and sharks, the aquarium is home to sea jellies, shorebirds, otters, sea lions, penguins, and more.

It can be tough to know where to start with so many options; check out our handy guide to some of the exhibits members shouldn't leave without seeing.

The curved screen inside the Pacific Visions Theater

Check out the new Pacific Visions Theater

The Pacific Visions Theater's 32-foot-tall, 130-foot-long curved screen will surround visitors in a virtual ocean environment. Effects include mist, wind, and scent, as well as seat rumblers that help bring the urgency of the program’s conservation message to life.

INSIDER INFO: Is your theater experience often diminished because you are visually impaired? Request assisted seating with Ultrahaptics technology. This gives you a touchless sensory experience that propels the narration to full 4D immersion. 

Delta smelt at the Aquarium of the Pacific

See new art & animals in the all-new wing

The new wing marks the first major expansion in the aquarium’s 21-year history. In addition to the immersive performance hall, the expansion includes an art gallery you can explore while waiting for your showtime, plus an interactive exhibit that illustrates the ideas from the film.

INSIDER INFO: The exhibit visitors go through after the film includes 4 species, including yellowtail, Pacific oysters, and Olympia oysters. The most notable, however, is the delta smelt. This endangered species is not on exhibit at any other aquarium.

Blue Cavern habitat at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Check out the residents of California's kelp forests

Members entering the aquarium for the first time are sure to be drawn to the massive Honda Blue Cavern habitat at the rear of the central atrium. The aquarium's tallest enclosure stretches to the ceiling, where California’s native kelp sway in the sunlight. To the cavern's right is the Amber Forest, a smaller but more colorful gallery of other kelp forest inhabitants.

INSIDER INFO: This exhibit is home to a breeding pair of endangered giant sea bass. Their first successful offspring, the first of its kind in any facility, is around the corner in the Southern California/Baja Gallery's Redondo Canyon exhibit.

A poison dart frog at the Aquarium of the Pacific

See dozens of frogs & learn about the threats they face

Upstairs, the Frogs: Dazzling and Disappearing exhibit in the Tropical Pacific Gallery features many species of amphibians from around the world, including some local to Southern California. The exhibit traces the history of amphibians, their life cycles, the different environments they inhabit, and their surprisingly uncertain future.

INSIDER INFO: Look for tadpoles in the amphibian life cycle exhibit. The tricolor poison dart frogs there frequently lay eggs and begin the cycle of metamorphosis from larvae to tadpoles to frogs. They also vocalize often; watch their vocal sacs inflate as they begin to produce a high-pitched trill.

An egg yolk sea jelly

Get hypnotized by sea jellies

The second floor in the Northern Pacific Gallery is the highlight of the aquarium's collection of sea jellies, though certainly not where it ends—members can find these delicate creatures in many exhibits. Since jellies are 90% water and lack eyes or brains, they're housed in special enclosures called kreisels (German for "gyroscope" or "spinning top") that simulate their free-floating wild habitat and prevent them from colliding with hard surfaces.

INSIDER INFO: Speaking of rotation, the aquarium’s many species of sea jellies are frequently rotated around the aquarium, with new species appearing throughout the year, so it's never too soon to pay another visit.

A tufted puffin swimming

Celebrate 20 years with some of the aquarium's first inhabitants

The aquarium is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with special programs, events, exhibits, and contests highlighting the aquarium’s history and future. Learn about and meet some of the original animals, such as Charlie the sea otter, Lou the turtle, and even a group of sea stars.

INSIDER INFO: 6 tufted puffins were the first birds added to the Aquarium’s Diving Birds exhibit in the Northern Pacific Gallery. 4 of them—Speedy, Val, Monty, and Naia—still live there today. Tufted puffins form monogamous breeding pairs that stay together, often for several years. Monty and Naia have been together as a breeding pair for 20 years.

Tropical Reef tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Surround yourself with the enormous Tropical Reef

The crown jewel of the Tropical Pacific Gallery, the Tropical Reef tank is the aquarium’s largest and houses more than 2,000 animals, from the massive Queensland grouper to the tiny cleaner wrasse. No visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific is complete without seeing this tank, whether afar at its biggest window, below in the Coral Tunnel, or practically inside via an immersive walk-in window.

INSIDER INFO: Though the tank is full of what appears to be colorful coral, none of it is actually alive. Live coral is difficult to care for, and wild reefs are threatened by harvesting, so the pieces in this enclosure are manmade replicas.

Whale song exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Sing along with a whale

There are no whales at the Aquarium of the Pacific (unless you count the blue whale model hanging in the atrium) but that doesn't mean you can't hear them. Just outside the Northern Pacific Gallery are 3 interactive consoles where members can listen to the clicks, whistles, grumbles, and other noises that 8 species of marine mammals make. Budding whale researchers can even record their own interpretation of whale song and play it back!

INSIDER INFO: Making convincing whale calls is surprisingly fun and easy, even for members who are too self-conscious to use their voices. Simply blowing on the microphone or clicking one’s tongue can make a wide range of sounds.

Shark touch pool at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Touch a shark

Members making their way to the aquarium’s outdoor section will first discover the hands-on Shark Lagoon. The small epaulette and bamboo sharks aren’t threats to people, and neither is the bigger zebra shark that lives nearby. Shark scales are similar to shark teeth laid flat, so their skin feels like a softer version of sandpaper. Members can contrast that with the smoother feel of the bat rays in the Ray Touchpool up the stairs to the right.

INSIDER INFO: Unusually for sharks, epaulette and bamboo sharks frequently lay egg cases: brown translucent pouches with an egg yolk inside. If members spot one in the touch pool, staff can fish it out and may incubate it until it hatches!

Steelhead fish at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Learn the surprising story of L.A.’s native river fish

It turns out Southern California has its own native steelhead, and their range includes the L.A. River. The aquarium's Steelhead Story exhibit examines the life cycle of this migratory fish, from recently hatched younglings in the mountains, to rainbow trout in mid-elevation habitats, to smolts preparing to enter the ocean and become steelhead.

INSIDER INFO: The aquarium hasn't yet found the secret to coaxing fish to become ocean-going steelhead in captivity. Since mature steelhead are too endangered to harvest from the environment, the aquarium only has juveniles and trout.

Our Water Future exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Make it rain as much as you want on a model of Los Angeles

Change things up for California's drought at the Our Water Future exhibit, where a replica of the major rivers, channels, and freeways of the Los Angeles Basin demonstrates how water and runoff reach the ocean. Members can hit the "Make It Rain!" button to bring down the water, and learn what happens as it flows to the ocean.

INSIDER INFO: There's no limit on how many times members can hit the "Make It Rain!" button. The water is recycled once it reaches the bottom of the system, so go ahead and press the button to your heart's content. 

A scuba diver holding a AAA membership card

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Members can save up to 20% when they buy tickets online or at a AAA branch. 

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