Looking for an educational, free aquarium in Southern California? Check out the totally fun, totally free Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, located in San Pedro!
Listen, we love- abosolutely LOVE- the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. We had annual passes for a good long while, and we used them often.
When I decided to stay at home with the kids though, those Aquarium of the Pacific passes were just too pricey to keep. And as a result, we went a LONG time without visiting an aquarium.
So when I hear about an amazing, free little aquarium in nearby San Pedro, I just knew we had to give it a visit.
And oh boy, were we ever pleasantly rewarded!
If you’re looking for an aquarium in Southern California that won’t break the budget, we highly recommend Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro. Here’s what you need to know before you go!
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Where is Cabrillo Marine Aquarium?
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is truly not far from Long Beach, especially if you live on the west side or near downtown.
There’s also TONS to see on the way over the bridges. The port has always been fascinating for my kids, and they love to see the shipping containers on the boats, cranes, trucks, and trains.
When is Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Open?
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 pm. This excludes holidays or days when there are events going on.
As with most places, you should check the calendar before you go!
Is Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Free?
You’re not going to believe this (I didn’t!) but visiting Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is free.
Donations are requested, with a VERY reasonable suggested donation of $7 for adults, and $3 for children.
However, don’t let the donation get in the way of your visit. If you can’t afford it, feel free to visit the aquarium anyways (and support it when times are better).
How Much is Parking at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium?
Parking for Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is shared with the Cabrillo Beach parking lot.
The lot is spacious, and always has spots available. Parking is just $1 per hour for regular vehicles, and $2 per hour for oversized vehicles.
Do You Need to Be Vaccinated to Go to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium?
As of this posting, all adults and children ages 12 and over must be fully vaccinated to visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
Be prepared to show vaccine records for all adults in your party, and for any teens that come with you.
Vaccination is required since Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is located in unincorporated Los Angeles County, and thus follows LA County regulations.
How Do You Get to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium?
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is located off of Harbor Blvd in San Pedro. You can get there by taking the 710 to the bridges, and crossing over into San Pedro.
It is located near the tidepools at Cabrillo Beach, so try to time your visit to coincide with low tide for some local exploration!
Here’s the address, for mapping purposes: 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, CA 90731
What is there to see at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium?
If you’ve never been to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, it’s best to keep your expectations modest. You can expect to spend one or three hours there, depending on the interest of your kids.
There are SO many great examples of local sea animals on display, many of which can also be found (less easily) at the Cabrillo Beach tidepools located nearby. Here’s what we saw while we were there:
- Sea stars
- Sea anemones
- Shark Eggs
There was also a truly incredible science/research wing with lots of hands-on ways for kids to explore. It included:
- A walk-through, larger than life sand tunnel
- Microscopes and magnifying classes for kids to look at specimens up close
- Research facilities with real-life scientists at work (who don’t mind answering your questions!)
- Miniature experiments for kids to complete, and scientific questions for them to consider.
What you WON’T find at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium– I only mention this because if your kids are used to the Aquarium of the Pacific, you may need to prepare them a bit.
- Sea mammals (seals or sea lions)
- Sting rays
What Ages Is Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Best For?
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is best suited for elementary and preschool aged kids. Little ones (ages 1-4) will probably spend less time, while older elementary kids (5-12) will spend more time exploring and learning.
You may find that older kids enjoy it as well, but again, the amount of time they choose to stay may vary for older kids.
What Is Great About Visiting the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium with Kids?
I absolutely love Cabrillo Marine Aquarium’s proximity to the tidepools. Kids can explore the aquarium, then head to the tidepools to see which items that can find in their natural habitat.
If your kids have been to the tidepools before, it’s an excellent chance to learn about the sea animals that live in the ocean below.
I also really appreciate the aquarium’s focus on research and conservation. When we were there, we saw no less than 10 real, live scientists. Many were women and/or people of color, and I absolutely LOVED my kids seeing people who look like them working in a scientific field.
What Else is There to Do with Kids in San Pedro?
If you’re in San Pedro already, there is lots to see and do nearby.
First up, you’re already at Cabrillo Beach. You might as well visit the beach (there’s a playground, and EXCELLENT kit flying potential), and head to the tidepools if the tide is low.
Here are a few other things to do with kids in San Pedro:
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is a truly fantastic, budget friendly way to teach kids about local sea life in Southern California. We recommend visiting the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium with kids anytime for a fun, easy, and low cost afternoon.
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