Discounts & Rewards

8 things to experience at the Aquarium of the Pacific's new Pacific Visions wing

The Aquarium of the Pacific’s first major expansion offers hands-on educational experiences about climate change, which the aquarium says is the most pressing issue in ocean conservation.

It’s a big subject to tackle, so the new two-story Pacific Visions wing tells its story in bite-size pieces that engage the senses. There’s plenty to see, and visitors can also listen to a coral reef, feel thunder and waterfalls shake the ground, work with others to complete interactive quizzes, and test their brawn by trying to lift a car’s carbon emissions, among many other activities. We look at nine of these experiences that make the new expansion worth a visit. 

Pacific Visions

See how the new exterior mimics the ocean

One big change is obvious even before going inside: The aquarium’s completely remodeled exterior. The new façade features 839 blue glass panes that look like waves on the sea, and like the sea, their appearance changes with the time of day and the weather. Give the exterior a close look before and after your visit and see if you can pick out how it’s changed in between. 

Supersized Plankton

Gaze upon supersized plankton

Though they’re a massive part of the ocean’s food chain, plankton are usually too small to see with the naked eye. Pacific Visions’ art gallery gives them the spotlight they deserve with larger-than-life glass sculptures highlighting the otherworldly shapes of diatoms, dinoflagellates, and other plankton. In a twist, the skeletal remains of plankton fall to the sea floor and eventually turn into sand. Sand is used to make glass, creating a connection between the material used to make these sculptures and the creatures that inspired them.

Coral reefs

Touch, listen, & see coral reefs that stretch to infinity

Plankton share the art gallery with another pillar of the ocean ecosystem: coral. Visitors can engage their eyes, ears, and hands here. A larger-than-life video is accompanied by sound recorded at a real coral reef, which is surprisingly noisy. Along one wall, guests can run their hands over five floor-to-ceiling coral replicas and compare how different reefs feel. Finally, five “Infinity Coral” installations that seemingly stretch forever can teach visitors how to identify healthy coral, corals bleached by excessively warm water, and “super corals” that may be able to withstand bleaching.

Pacific Visions Theater

Image: © 2019 Tom Bonner; Sea turtle image: Howard Hall

Immerse yourself in one possible sustainable future

The centerpiece of the new wing is the Honda Pacific Visions Theater and its 32-foot-tall, 130-foot-wide screen that wraps around the front half of the theater. Together with an additional 36-foot oval screen at its base, this big display plays Designing Our Future, a film with similarly big ideas about how society can meet the environmental challenges of the future. Viewers can learn what can be done to ensure sustainable supplies of food, energy, and water, and what an environmentally conscious city of the future could look like. 

Interactive Wall

Whale image: Howard Hall

Get in touch with the ocean at the interactive wall

There’s a lot of information to get a handle on at Pacific Visions, but the wing’s 50-foot-long interactive media wall makes it easier to absorb it all. Touch one of the many floating bubbles and it’ll pop open with a tidbit about the ocean or new sustainable technologies. Differently colored bubbles hide treats, such as 3-D sea creatures. (And let’s be honest, it’s also just plain fun to pop bubbles.)

Interactive table

Image: © 2019 Tom Bonner

Test your brain at the food, water, and power challenges

The aquarium says we’ll need to make important choices, both individually and as a society, to make sure we have enough resources to go around. Try your hand at three cooperative quiz game tables with up to nine other players as you try to make the most sustainable choices, big and small. Will you take a shower or a bath? Source California's water from the Colorado River or elsewhere? Eat beef or seafood? Build tidal power plants? The choice is yours. 

Emission types

Lift the carbon emissions of different types of cars

The aquarium says man-made greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are driving climate change, and since carbon dioxide has no color or smell, they’ve come up with a clever way to make it tangible: Visitors can try their hand at lifting weights equal to 100 miles' worth of carbon dioxide emissions of different types of cars. Feel how much of a difference driving a low-emissions vehicle can make by comparing the weight of emissions from an average car, a hybrid, an SUV, and a completely electric car. 


Meet farmed sea life on its journey to your table

Sustainable seafood farming is one of Pacific Visions’ big themes, as the aquarium says it has the potential to replace less sustainable sources of protein like beef and pork. Visitors can see what this looks like in practice thanks to a tank with farmed Pacific and Olympia oysters and an aquarium stocked with California-native yellowtail, known in sushi as hamachi

Aquarium of the Pacific

Save on tickets to the Aquarium of the Pacific

AAA members can save up to 20% on a one-day ticket to the Aquarium of the Pacific when they purchase tickets online or at a AAA branch in Southern California, or get up to 10% off at the aquarium gate when they show their AAA membership card. 

Buy tickets online | Find a branch

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