Review: Aquarium of the Pacific, Sea-World It Ain't

Img_2445It's been 4 years since we visited The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA.

Four years is long enough for the aquarium to lose it's shine.

It was $86 for the family for the day. Instead, I purchased the one-year membership with no blackout dates for $125 without parking. Parking is $6 per visit.

The folks at the Information Booth told us that the Seal & Sea-Lion Show was the best, but we were disappointed when the "educator" wasted a lot of time repeatedly telling people to keep the aisles clear and trying to get group participation ["Who wants to help the seals? Aw, come on. You can do better than that. Who wants to help the seals!!!!????].

Most of the show was spent listening to the "educators" preach about conservation & recycling while continuously feeding the largely inert seals their fishy treats. While I appreciated the educational perspective, most of the little kids were hot & bored as we sat in the sun (no shade) for 40 minutes. There were a couple of seal barks, flaps and one leap out of the water and then the "show" was over.

You know that feeling when you keep waiting for the "real show" to start only to discover that it's never gonna?

This is where Sea-World does a much better job--they realize that people want to be entertained---heck, we are paying to be entertained. If you throw in a few educational tips along the way, no problem. But when we have to sit in the sun for 40 minutes and listen to a sermon--well, going to church is much cheaper.

We ate lunch in Cafe Scuba where an overcooked chicken sandwich went for $7.75, without a beverage. The line was long, the service sluggish and the counters were dirty.

The redeeming activity for the boys was the shark & sting-ray petting pool. Yes, you can pet real sharks! The boys leaned over the edge and with two fingers, brushed the backs of small sharks and de-barbed sting-rays. The boys were nervous at first, but eventually warmed up and really enjoyed interacting with the animals. That was pretty cool.

Like most things, children enjoy interaction far more than sitting still and being preached to about why they should care about something. For example, when we walked through the underground tunnel where the seals swam, the boys were tickled to see that the seals were playfully following them back and forth along the tunnel.

After 3 hours (including the 35 min. lunch break), we'd had enough. We skipped the 3D movie about sea-monsters and headed home, skimming just ahead of afternoon traffic.

Aquarium of the Pacific is definitely worth visiting. Once. I'm beginning to re-think my one-year membership purchase. Should I get a refund?