Some travel adventures are worldly and others limited in scope. In the mind of an 18 month-old, the backyard is fascinating. On grandparenting detail in San Diego, while our eldest son and daughter-in-law pursued Chilean delights, we sought that unique destination and content which would perhaps rival the backyard.
Their exuberance piqued our experience.
Drifting from the entry plaza through interior exhibits to the outdoors again, we arrived at Elasmo Beach before the 10:30 Feeding Time, alongside excited kids and their chaperones.
The proximity to leopard sharks and manta rays (both from the species “elasmobranchs”) bigger than he is, just beyond the glass captured the boy’s attention. Tight in our arms, he was wide-eyed.
Inside the Hall of Fishes, he could climb on the ledge to see and touch tanks of ocean life and participate in interactive sites (or so he thought) by pushing buttons. Nonna and Pops and grandson marveled at tangs and seahorses and neon jellyfish. In a 70,000 gallon tank, the Kelp Forest Exhibit dwarfed us all.
Outside, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he joined the others at the water tables to engage in hands-on play with boats and plastic dividers, loving the wet and the kid-frenzy. Here, the older children were stimulated on a different level by these learning stations about energy, ocean currents, and technology.
Our grandson could (gently) touch the seastar and watch wave effects on the fish and crabs from the Tide-Pool’s rocky perimeter. Again, the enthusiasm of nearby children drew on his awareness. Docents were present to educate and monitor the visitors in the fragile eco-environment.
Scripps Aquarium in La Jolla is an age-appropriate match for children of all ages. Cost-friendly, with AARP and AAA discounts, the fee for the two of us and a child under age 3 was less than $20 total. Compared to a $40 plus entry per person for many prime attractions, it was reasonably priced and meaningful for an 18 month-old world explorer. I optimistically sense this day and this experience will be a building block for a child’s life fascination with the ocean.
The new word spoken on this day is “FISH.”
Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; UC San Diego: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, California 92037 (858) 534-4109. http://aquarium.ucsd.edu/