Monterey Bay Aquarium gives you a close look at a coral reef.
A renovated second-floor wing at the Monterey Bay Aquarium helps landlubbers enter the life aquatic, with intimate new views into the nooks and crannies where ocean creatures live. Renamed Splash Zone: Ocean Homes, the kid-friendly attraction reopens March 17 after a six-month, $4 million makeover.
In the rocky shore gallery, the black-footed penguins' quarters have doubled in size, while an added exhibit shows off a painter's palette of colorful sea slugs. The coral reef habitat stars charming newcomers such as the potbellied sea horse and the pharaoh cuttlefish, royally trimmed in iridescent blue or red.
In the biggest change, the second level of the towering kelp forest exhibit has been integrated into the family fun. A new archway leads through the sunlit seascape, with golden giant kelp fronds streaming overhead and lion's mane sea slugs gliding by. "It's as if you've just sunk beneath the surface as a diver and you're right under the kelp canopy," says senior exhibit developer Jenny Sayre Ramberg.
Nearby, explore a floor-to-ceiling sculpture of the rootlike holdfast that anchors the kelp. Inside are models of fish eggs and sea bugs, and a live red octopus. Also see the touch pool and 15 new bilingual exhibits. Locate creatures in a kelp forest mural to see a fun animal video. (831) 648-4888, www.montereybayaquarium.org .
Photography courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder
This article was first published in March 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.