Alex is really ridiculously good at gift-giving. And I think it’s his thoughtfulness and ability to plan ahead (like, months ahead) that has really made me reconsider and step up my own gifting game. For my twenty-fourth birthday, for example, he took me up to the Sacramento area to swim with dolphins (!!). This past birthday – my twenty-fifth – he carried on the animal tradition with a Penguin Encounter! This time though, a little closer to come.
The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is located right on Rainbow Harbor, in Long Beach, California; about a 30-minute drive for us. It sits on 5 acres of land and offers a huge variety of marine animals both inside and outside. It’s the perfect size aquarium to not feel overwhelmed in, and I particularly loved the outside element to it, so as not to feel stuffed inside for an entire morning or afternoon.
The Aquarium offers a variety of Animal Encounter Experiences – sea otters & octopi, sharks & sting rays, sea lions, and of course, penguins! For my birthday, Alex signed us up for the Penguin Experience. I think it takes about 10 minutes of Penguin Youtube videos to fall in love with these waddling little guys, but actually seeing and holding and petting and feeding them…well that brings the love to a whole new level!
The Penguin groups are limited to five people per visit, and you must arrive early in the morning before the Aquarium opens to the public. We were met by our tour guide and were given a quick little tour of a section of the Aquarium of our choosing. Afterwards, we were guided “behind the scenes” where we got to learn about food prepping for the Penguins and the other marine animals. After all of this, though, is when the real fun took place. We got to meet the penguins!!
Our guide brought out an adult penguin and a baby penguin for us to play with one-on-one. There were only two other girls in our group (also celebrating a birthday!) so it really worked out nicely for us. Here we learned how to properly pet the little guys and we got to follow them around as they waddled all over the place (even up steps)! They had a pretty extensive pile of dog toys that they enjoyed playing with 😉 We were then led into the exhibit where we got to feed the entire group of penguins their fish for the morning! This was especially fun because they would hop right up into our laps and lay there! It was wild. I should note that all of the penguins in the exhibit have been rehabilitated for health-related reasons and would not be able to survive and thrive in the wild.
We got to spend about two hours with the penguins (the time flew!) before our Penguin Experience was over. However, we had such a wonderful and dedicated tour guide, that she took the time to teach us about all of the different birds and sea otters in the aquarium on a mini-tour, just the four of us! Afterwards, we were allowed to spend as much time at the aquarium as we wanted. Alex and I spent a good time walking around and learning about all of the different exhibits. Long Beach has a pretty incredible Jellyfish exhibit (which was my favorite) and I totally recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the area!
We absolutely loved our time at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The staff were all very genuine and it really stood out to us that they took the time to make our experience even better by showing us more than we signed up for! The whole place is very clean and the animals are cared for extremely well. They offer a pretty wide variety of learning experiences for kids and adults alike, and I would highly recommend bringing your kiddos here, as I think they’d have a great time, especially petting rays & jellies in the outdoor area 😉 Alex and I are already talking about signing up for another Animal Encounter Experience someday, because we had such a fantastic time!
If you happen to make a visit to the Long Beach Aquarium, you won’t run out of things to do after your visit! There are plenty of bikes to rent right on the Harbor, a small shopping village with lots of cute restaurants, and the Queen Mary Boat where you can eat, wine-taste, and more! It’s also a great area to just take a stroll and enjoy the water and beautiful Southern California scenery as well 🙂