aquarium4My daughter and I were recently in San Francisco for part of the day when a spontaneous thought came to mind. Since we were only a mile or so from Pier 39 and it was mid week and off season, why not stop by the Pier for a little browsing and “playing tourist” as my mom used to call it when I was a kid.

We immediately decided to stop in to the Aquarium of the Bay and were pleasantly surprised when we did. Although its size and grandeur is not the same as the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I grew up and spent many hours after school as a kid, it was a nice little aquarium with well done displays and a little something for everyone.

Located right in the heart of Pier 39 on the Embarcadero at Beach Street, this pleasant little diversion was perfect for a couple of free hours in the city by the bay.

aquarium2Animal feedings peppered daily through the visiting hours allow youngsters a chance to watch giant sharks, bat rays and other enormous marine life feast on the food chain.

Visitor programs like PG&E Bay Lab allow Naturalists an opportunity to pair visitors up with marine animals for “meet and greets.”

Selected presentations daily offer chances for guests to learn about specific species in short and educational talks.

And a 3D Bay Theater offers a chance to learn about and enjoy various aspects of marine life from turtles to sharks, all on the big screen and with dramatic effects.

aquarium1We enjoyed the varied jellyfish displays. The 300 foot walk-through shark and ray tunnel was wonderful as it was filled with over a thousand various huge marine specimens including torpedo-like tuna and colorful rock fish.

A couple of interactive touch pools beckoned smaller kids to touch anemones and starfish. All in all, it was an impressive little aquarium with friendly and knowledgeable staff. The aquarium is a proud member of the San Francisco Green Business group and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

aquarium3This is not the type of venue that you need to plan an entire day around. But it made a great little diversion and escape for half of an afternoon. Pier 39 can be insanely crowded during peak vacation months and summer. We probably enjoyed our visit so much, in part, due to the fact that it was mid week and off season. Parking issues and crowds were a minimum. Take a little time to plan a few hours at the Aquarium of the Bay next time you visit San Francisco.

Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of Roadtripsforcouples.com, an online travel magazine. Carmels been on local talk radio for 17 years and now co-hosts THE GOOD LIFE with Mike the Wine Guy on KMYC 1410AM. Her family travel column can be read in California Kids Magazine at: Valcomnews.com You can follow her on Twitter: @CarmelLeeMooney or Facebook. Carmel is also the Executive Director of Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, a non-profit that trains and places Autism Service Dogs.