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You Otter Go to the Aquarium

They’re cute, they’re cuddly and they’re native to Monterey Bay. No, not your kids. Sea Otters! The Monterey Bay Aquarium celebrates the aquatic mammal September 25-26 with Otter Days, a weekend filled with more cute cuddliness than you’ll know what to do with.

The first time Zee went to the Aquarium, she spent 20 minutes at the otter tank, watching the rockfish float suspended in mid-water. Opaleye lazily swam by, unlike the otters, who zoomed around as if on a high speed chase. Many visits later, the otters have become as much of an attraction as the fish to her.

Otter Days offers kids and parents a chance to meet the aquarists and trainers who take care of the Aquarium’s otters. You can also participate in a short animal training exercise, play otter-themed games and participate in otter spotting off of the outside deck.

If you haven’t been, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to take children. It’s a bit on the expensive side — $29.95 adults, $17.95 children ages 3-12, free under age 3 — but is well worth a membership if you plan to go often. The exhibits have been designed with children in mind, whether it’s a child’s eye view hole at the outdoor tide exhibit or a tunnel of exotic fish (including clownfish a la Nemo) meant for only a child to go through. Along with the floor to ceiling aquariums (the Outer Bay with its sharks and tuna is a favorite), two children play areas on the second floor give kids places of their own.

Though it can be a bit tricky to get to, don’t miss the Secret Lives of Seahorses or the Stories of Hope exhibit next to it. Penguins, sea turtles, flamingos and tropical fish exist among tales of recycling and environmental ingenuity in Stories of Hope. It’s a colorful way to talk with your child about ecology.

The Aquarium cafeteria has healthy food, including cut up fruit and vegetables. Milk and juice are offered alongside the traditional sodas and the mark-up in price is not astronomical. If you choose to go out of the Aquarium for food, there are plenty of choices along Cannery Row. Just make sure to get your hand stamped so you can return.

Parking is the least fun part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium experience, with the costs running from $5 to $15 for the day. Like sardines, the trick is to just keep circling until you find a lot that works for you.

AT A GLANCE
WHAT: Monterey Bay Aquarium Otter Days
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. September 25-26
WHERE: Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey
COST: $29.95 adults, $17.95 children ages 3-12, free under age 3. Parking can run from $5 to $15
AGE RANGE: All ages
MORE INFORMATION: www.montereybayaquarium.org or (831) 648-4800

PHOTO: Copyright 2010 JK Mahal.

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