Aquariums around San Francisco, CA

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San Francisco. Between its unique, varied neighborhoods, never-ending events, and unique proximity to a number of inspiring landscapes, this city seems to have a bit of everything. Thankfully, this is also true for a stunning number of aquatic life, native to the Bay Area and from around the world, resident in a number of aquariums. Whether you’re a tourist drafting a travel itinerary, visiting family and friends, or just looking for something to do around home, read on for some of our favorite aquariums around San Francisco.

Aquarium of the Bay

Located at vibrant and historic Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay is a great attraction to see the wonders and intricacies of aquatic life, local and exotic. Over 20,000 animals live in some 2.9 million liters of water, including famous faces such as the garibaldi, green moray eel, rockfish, giant Pacific octopus, leopard shark, bat ray, seven-gill shark, and the river otter. These species and more reside in an immersive series of exhibits, including the ‘Discover The Bay’ gallery, showcasing the native diversity of San Francisco Bay’s aquatic wildlife, the enchanting ‘Go With The Flow’ gallery with over 1400 gallons of dazzling jellyfish and the series of tunnels in the ‘Under the Bay’ gallery giving visitors a literal walk through the waters of the bay. Aside from these great exhibits, there are also a number of touch-oops where visitors can feel tidal aquatic life, observe the conservation efforts of the Aquarium of the Bay at the Bay Lab, and watch the adorable river otters and their lovable antics at the ‘River Otters’ gallery. 

Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences

Located in lush Golden Gate Park, the Steinhart Aquarium is a corner of the California Academy of Sciences that transports visitors in an educational journey across the aquatic biomes of the world, feeding curiosities and imaginations of generations. Tour the Coast of the Golden State, the Amazonian Rainforest, a Philippine Coral Reef, the Swamps of the Southeast, a mysterious Mesophotic reef among other settings in a series of tunnels, imposing tanks, and open gardens. Some of the aquatic icons you might see here include the weedy seadragon, paddlefish, African penguin, cowfish, blue-spotted ribbontail ray, and the American alligator.

San Francisco Zoo and Gardens

While not specifically an aquarium, the attention the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens has devoted towards the conservation and education surrounding aquatic species earns it a spot on our list (It’s also gorgeous). Magellanic penguins, North American river otters, Nile hippopotamus, and the giant water bug are just some of those that you’ll meet here, among a larger cast of land and sea animals. Aside from the animals, the gardens and displays of flora from California to the notably rare provide visitors with a tranquil space to step away from the action (or the perfect place to spend an afternoon, if you’re a botany enthusiast). Groups of all interests and ages will enjoy the exhibits of land and sea at the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens. 

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