Aquarium of the Bay

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As its nickname implies, the City by the Bay has a lot to offer visitors interested in marine life and its conservation. Located in the heart of San Francisco, the Aquarium of the Bay in many ways is the leader of the efforts to do just that and even offers its guests a chance to get in on the action.

About the Aquarium

With a central location right on Pier 39 and the Embarcadero, the Aquarium by the Bay is a popular attraction for many locals and visitors alike. Indeed, the Aquarium of the Bay reports over 600,000 annual visitors, including more than 100,000 school children from the greater San Francisco Bay area.

Offering over 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, the building itself is hard to miss. However, the mission of this public aquarium, like many zoological parks, goes far deeper than simply human entertainment. The Aquarium of the Bay is a strong voice in the effort to restore and protect the San Francisco Bay and the watershed which empties into it through its intimate partnership with the famed Bay Institute.

The mission of the Aquarium of the Bay is rooted in the conservationist credo of the Bay Institute which claims to protect the land from “the Sierras to the sea.” As such, this aquarium is extremely locally focused despite its major aim to impact the global environment through the conservation of their watershed. As such, the aquarium is associated with a number of globally-recognized organizations committed to conservation and protection including its membership in the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) as well as an accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It is also certified as a San Francisco Green Business, committed to protecting the whole of the planet and not just its marine areas.

Main Attraction

Unlike many other aquariums which strive to deliver a “whole” experience to their visitors, the Aquarium of the Bay is solely dedicated to showcasing wildlife native to the San Francisco Bay and its watershed. They display over 20,000 animals from the Bay in tanks that hold more than 300,000 gallons of water straight from their backyard. This provides visitors with a targeted look at this area, its marine life, and the threats that consume the Bay Institute’s work each day.

The aquarium itself is divided into three main areas: Discover the Bay, Under the Bay, and Touch the Bay. Each of these areas is designed to provide a specific experience of the San Francisco Bay and educate both children and adults. In addition, the complex includes a 270-seat 3D theatre, a behind-the-scenes tour, and even an opportunity to feed their sharks. Admission is offered for the general displays with additional charges for tours and movies. Adults are charged separately from children and seniors, though a family 4-pack of tickets is also available.

Additional programs and opportunities are offered by the Aquarium of the Bay throughout the year. This includes entertainment options such as youth sleepovers and birthday parties along with more targeted, educationally-focused programs providing teacher education and resources. There is also a constantly-rotating list of special programs and the aquarium can be rented, either by whole or in part for corporate events and other special occasions.

Why It’s a Must-See

For anyone who has been to San Francisco, even for the briefest of times, it is hard to deny the importance of the Bay which shares its name. Far more than simply an opportunity for photographs and cruises, however, the Bay and its wildlife are an integral part of the circle of life in this area and, by extension, the world at large. The Aquarium of the Bay is dedicated to preserving that wildlife while also providing opportunities for visitors and natives alike to enjoy and surround themselves with it—a true win/win program that is a great addition to any Bay area trip.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.
1. Purchase a ticket from the Aquarium of the Bay when you get there.
2.   .
3. Purchase as part of a money saving package. Popular examples to the right.
4. Purchase a Tourist pass. The Aquarium of the Bay is available on the Go SF Card and SF CityPass