A shared obsession with with the ocean was the unlikely impetus for a family trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium. Our children are now adults, are 23 and 26 years old – and they are still obsessed with the aquarium. In fact, we all are passionate about the aquarium.
Given all this, it should not come as a surprise when we took a family vote on where we should take a holiday getaway, the ballots came in nearly unanimous for the California coast from Carmel to Big Sur, with a long stop at the aquarium.
So we four; mom, dad and adult daughters, piled into our oldest daughter, JC’s SUV- the most spacious vehicle in the family- and drove to Carmel for two nights. For affordable Carmel, see the hotel recommendation at the end of the article.
The girls choreographed the music selections, thankfully avoiding techno or hard rock. I sat in the back seat so JC and Annalyse could be the digital navigator and research restaurants. She shared dinner menus with us, got a consensus and made evening reservations. I was relieved to relax and relinquish the responsibility of choosing restaurants.
First on our agenda was a visit the aquarium where we were as excited as on our first trip to Disneyland. Young or old, family or single, it’s an awesome place built for an inquiring mind.
For those of you who have yet to make it there, and even for those who have, now is the perfect time for a trip to beautiful Monterey for a peak into the lives of the exquisite underwater creatures at Monterey Bay Aquarium (some of us, ahem, have even been four times). . The fabulous exhibit, “Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes” features the greatest variety ever of rarely seen animals, multimedia interactives, tattoos and art tracing 4,000 years of fascination with these many-armed masters of disguise. features a diverse collection of cephalopods, from the Giant Pacific Octopus to the Flamboyant Cuttlefish and more.
An estimated 1.8 million inquisitive tourists visit the Monterey Aquarium every year. Over 110,000 school kids visited the Monterey Aquarium last year for free educational programs. For both kids and adults, the experience is addictive.
“Tentacles” is an amazing feat from a scientific perspective largely because these creatures have life expectancies measured in months, not years. Over the life of the exhibit, you can expect to see two dozen species rotating through the dozen living exhibits and even get a peak into the breeding program established by the Aquarium to keep the exhibit up and running.
“These are all short-lived animals. Many are species that have never been exhibited for very long by any of our colleagues, or raised through their entire lifecycle,” said Jennifer Dreyer, special exhibits coordinator for the animal care team. “This is definitely a first for any aquarium.”
The exhibit is designed for all ages with multimedia interactive exhibits that appeal to adults and children alike. One station uses a video camera and software to transform your face like the color-shifting squid, octopus and cuttlefish who use this skill to ambush prey, hide from predators and communicate with potential mates. You can share the videos or “cephalopod selfies” by email or social media channels with your friends!
Art is integrated into “Tentacles” with replicas of Minoan pottery and tiles from Pompeii and Herculaneum; Victorian-era scientific and literary illustrations; modern-day tentacle tattoos; and thee mechanical sculptures commissioned by the Monterey Bay Aquarium from Bay Area artist Nemo Gould, telling a story about conservation and the impact humans have on these creatures.
We love the otters and the jelly fish too.
Years ago, tiny three-year-old daughter Annalyse pressed her nose to the tank window and squealed with joy when the sea otters twisted upside and raced by her head. She felt a profound satisfaction, wearing her jelly fish tee-shirt, when the undulating orange jellies pulsated by the window offering her a seemingly private dance in a mysterious underwater world.
On this trip, as adults we witnessed more than most. “There is a lot of sex going on in here”, Kathy, the volunteer admitted when Annalyse and JC told her about their encounter in the penguin area. Two penguins were mating, before an inquisitive crowd, when Annalyse overheard a mom say to her nine-year-old daughter, “remember we talked about making babies. The penguins are making love,” she added.
This amazing exhibit is included in regular admission: $39.95 adult; $34.95 senior (over 65) and student (13–17 or with college ID); $24.95 child (3–12). Children under 3 are admitted free. Parking available in Cannery Row parking garage just three blocks away.
AFFORDABLE CARMEL Where to lay your head.
We stayed at the Vendage Inn in Carmel, a small property with 18 rooms and suites, free Continental breakfast with croissants and eggs, an outdoor fire pit, gardens, and weekend music on summer weekends. Each room has a different winery theme, bathrooms with Spanish marble and glass mosaic tiles, comfy beds with double memory foam and large High Definition TV’s. Rates begin at $100. www.vendagecarmel.com or 813-624-6400.