California – Monterey Bay Aquarium

September 26, 2012

A very good friend (dive/adventure buddy) of mine works at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. So I packed up the kids and killed two birds with one stone; I got to see my friend and the kids got to see fish. A win for everyone. Luckily for us we hit no traffic and got to the aquarium 20 minutes before it opened. Why is that lucky? Because Jen let us in early and we had the place to ourselves for 20 glorious minutes! The Splash Zone upstairs in the interactive area is geared towards kids, and its usually packed. So we took advantage of our quite time and explored that area.

No crowds in front of the tanks, no waiting our turn, it was fabulous. Fiona eagerly peered into one tank trying to find Nemo. Which she excitedly did!

There was also no line (and no one in my shot!) for the giant clam shell. So I plopped Lincoln in. He doesn’t look all that amused with me; “mo-om, I want to go play, not sit in this stupid shell!”. Fiona refused to sit in the clam and ran off to ride on a sea horse.

It was fabulous having this area all to ourselves for a little while. The kids could run/crawl around and I didn’t have to worry about them. We also got really lucky then Jen’s work schedule that day was pretty lite. She hung out with us for an hour or so before having to get back to her desk. So we got to chat a bit, while the kids played.

Another tongue photo of Lincoln. He loved checking himself out in the mirror and making faces at himself.

While Jen was back at her desk we wandered to the other side of the aquarium to check out the big open sea tank. We got to watch sharks and turtles. Then we checked out the jellies exhibit and ended at the puffin tank. Puffins! Both kids loved the inverted window where they could sit with the water all around them (that was always my favorite as a kid too).

Jen was meeting us for lunch, we waited for her in front of the kelp forest tank. Lincoln loved being able to crawl around instead of being stuck in his stroller. For lunch we snuck out the back of the aquarium and ate lunch near a popular dive spot (Hopkins), right on the beach. It was fantastic weather and a beautiful day. Why are there no photo’s of this fantastic view? Because I stupidly left my extra camera battery in my laptop bag and by battery was almost dead. So Jen (fabulous, fabulous Jen!) was charging both my phone and my camera at her desk (Fiona drained my phone battery playing her doctor game on the way to Monterey).

Jen had to finish a few things up before she got off (early, yay!), so we went back to exploring. But first Jen went with us to buy Fiona a stuffed toy. I told her that morning I would buy her a toy at the aquarium, so all the way there she talked about how she wanted a stuffed (soft and snuggly!) shark, and she was going to name it Dory. Umm.. ok. So we head into one of the gift shops to check out the shark selection. “I want a pink shark!” Hmm, well that was not one of the previous requirements, but we looked anyway. No pink sharks. There were pink dolphins, pink penguins and even a pink seal. But no pink sharks. Apparently sharks aren’t girlie. Well if she couldn’t have a pink shark then she didn’t want a shark at all. Instead she chose a sea otter named Rocky (not pink). She happily toted Rocky around the rest of the day (she still carries him around and he has a place of honor on her bed).

One of Lincoln’s favorite places was a place Jen refer to as the Carwash. Its a glass hallway where waves crash overhead and all around. Lincoln loved it! He stood and happily watched and pointed at the waves.

Fiona was not quite so enamored with the Carwash. She would clutch Rocky and duck every time a wave hit, even though there was no chance of getting wet.

Did I mention the fabulous weather? We didn’t even need sweaters, which is a rarity in Monterey. We headed outside before leaving to check out the ocean. Some times there will be otters visible from the decks, but no such luck today.

But the kids still had fun checking out the water and watching the birds.

We were happily playing tourist, which I guess we are ones now that we live in Texas. But for me I grew up going to Monterey EVERY (okay maybe it wasn’t every weekend, but sometimes it felt that way!) weekend for my dad to teach scuba classes. We had memberships to the aquarium and I spent countless weekends wandering around the aquarium and cannery row. On our way back to the car (after eating at Pink Berry, oh Pink Berry I’ve missed you!!!) we walked by one of those cheesy tourist shops and it had a machine out front that flattens pennies ans imprints a design on it. Fiona wanted to do it, so I put in the penny and the required number of quarters and she cranked away. You can see that Rocky helped her. She was soon the proud owner of a whale penny.

Next up the beach! But that’s a different post…

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