ALASKA SEALIFE CENTER Seward, Alaska. "Delightful!" writes Arlyss Lilley of Capitola, Calif. "It’s well worth coming here to see a marine ecosystem in such a spectacular setting. I watched in awe as a sea lion ‘rubbed noses’ with a boy on the other side of a viewing window. And who doesn’t love puffins?" (800) 224-2525, www.alaskasealife.org.
AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC Long Beach, Calif. "A must-see if you travel to Southern California," says Karen Prudek of Clovis, Calif. "This pleasant aquarium is not crowded, and the exhibits are outstanding, especially the tropical reef habitat." (562) 590-3100, www.aquariumofpacific.org.
MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM Monterey, Calif. "This place never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many times I visit, " writes Genevieve Lau of San Lorenzo, Calif. "I can sit for a long time at the million-gallon Outer Bay exhibit just watching the tuna, sharks, and sea turtles swim by."(831) 648-4888,www.montereybayaquarium.org.
OREGON COAST AQUARIUM Newport, Ore. "You’ll feel like a space traveler on a strange and beautiful planet," writes Dolores Stockton of Eugene, Ore. "There’s a tower of jellyfish and an underwater acrylic tunnel that runs through a cloud of huge, improbable creatures and tiny, colorful ones. Go to the tide pool to confront stiff starfish and wiggly anemones." (541) 867-3474,www.aquarium.org.
SEASIDE AQUARIUM Seaside, Ore. "The attraction here is the seals," says Kathy Manney of Las Vegas. "More than a dozen are visible through windows facing the aquarium’s promenade. Inside are touch tanks with sea urchins and crabs, cases exhibiting fluorescent fish, and an octopus in its own pool." (503) 738-6211, www.seasideaquarium.com.
SEYMOUR MARINE DISCOVERY CENTER Santa Cruz, Calif. "This aquarium is inexpensive and rarely crowded," writes Carolyn Bickford of San Jose. "There are displays of local fish and activities for children, including touch tanks. Outside you’ll find a blue whale skeleton, a tank with live dolphins, and views of the ocean, where you can sometimes spot sea otters." (831) 459-3800, www2.ucsc.edu/seymourcenter.
SHARK REEF Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas. "Wow!" exclaims Brandi LoForti-Delhart of Turlock, Calif. "Fifteen species of sharks, a pool where you can watch piranhas eat their lunch, and a petting pool with stingrays. Most dramatic is the acrylic-walled shark room, where the animals are so close you feel you can reach out and touch them." (877) 632-7800,www.mandalaybay.com.
VANCOUVER AQUARIUM Vancouver, B.C. "This is the home of the snow-white arctic belugas," writes Barbara Stanbro of Hillsboro, Ore. "These marine mammals are absolutely breathtaking in their grace and beauty." (604) 659-3474, www.vanaqua.org.
WAIKIKI AQUARIUM Honolulu. "My children love this aquarium—the nation’s third oldest—because the beautiful, informative coral reef exhibits are right at their viewing level," says Sharon Wong of San Mateo, Calif. "What’s more, the building overlooks a living coral reef on the Waikiki shoreline." (808) 923-9741, www.waquarium.org.
Photography courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder
This article was first published in January 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.