Southern California Aquariums Where Kids Can Visit for $5 or Less

Dive into a world of underwater wonders with our guide to Southern California’s top aquariums and marine life centers! Plus, discover budget-friendly options where kids can visit for only $5 or less.

Editor’s Note: Updated as of February 2024. Be sure to confirm details such as pricing, operating hours, exhibits, etc. with each attraction before attending.



Aquariums That Are $5 or Less for Kids


Cabrillo Marine Aquarium | San Pedro

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium features 35 saltwater tanks and touch tanks, plus discovery labs, and an Aquatic Nursery with baby sea animals. The Exploration Center lets kids crawl into an aquarium, walk through a squishy mud tunnel, identify animals using microscopes, view a working laboratory, create artwork, and more.

Be sure to check out their calendar for weekly tidepool walks, educational programs, public fish dissections, and other fun events.

Kidsguide Tip: It’s a small aquarium, but perfect for an interesting and educational outing without the crowds. Make it a full day of ocean fun by going to the beach across the parking lot or visiting the Marine Mammal Care Center just five minutes away.

Admission: Suggested donation of $7 for adults and $3 for children.



Heal the Bay Aquarium | Santa Monica

Located under the Santa Monica Pier, Heal the Bay Aquarium features 100+ species of marine animals and plants found locally in the Santa Monica Bay. Hands-on activities include touch tanks and daily educational programs.

Admission: Kids 12 and under are free with an adult (13+) ticket purchase for $12. Children must be accompanied by an adult.



Marine Mammal Care Center | San Pedro

MMCC Los Angeles is a non-profit hospital for seals and sea lions that become stranded along the 70+ miles of beaches from Malibu to Seal Beach. The center is open to the public from Friday – Monday. Visitors can see seal and sea lion patients, explore various exhibits, join a scheduled lecture or activity, and learn from experienced docents.

Admission: Tickets are free (a $5 donation per person is appreciated).



Dennis Kelly Aquarium | Orange Coast College

Orange Coast College Dennis Kelly Aquarium is a student-run training and community education facility where students get hands-on experience working with a remarkably diverse collection of aquatic organisms, from leopard sharks to jellies.

Public hours are held weekly during the fall and spring semesters (mid-Feb through May, & Sept through mid-December) to anyone to come learn about the facility, the organisms housed in the aquarium, or just to enjoy the exhibits.

Admission: Free


Pacific Marine Mammal Care Center | Laguna Beach

Note: The visitor yard is currently closed until Fall 2024.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine mammals. Take a tour with docents, check out interactive displays, see new underwater viewing pools, and stop by the gift shop.

Admission: Free. Donations appreciated.



Roundhouse Aquarium | Manhattan Beach Pier

Located at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, the Roundhouse Aquarium cares for 100 different species of marine life, mostly found in the Santa Monica Bay. Enjoy 12+ exhibits showcased within four aquarium galleries.

Admission: Free. Suggested donation of $5 per person, $10 per family, or $20 per group.



Other Aquariums in Southern California


Aquarium of the Pacific | Long Beach
Southern California’s largest aquarium and home to more than 12,000 animals of the Pacific Ocean. Touch sharks, feed Australian lorikeets and moon jellies, and interact with more than 100 other exhibits. Check out the re-imagined Southern California Gallery, highlighting local animals and marine life.


Birch Aquarium | La Jolla
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium features more than 60 habitats that showcase the research discoveries of oceanography scientists at UC San Diego. Touch animals at the Tide Pool Plaza, meet La Jolla’s leopard sharks, get immersed in a two-story kelp forest, and visit seadragons and seahorses. Check out the exhibit featuring little blue penguins, the smallest penguins in the world – the only aquarium in the Western U.S. to house this special species of penguin.


Living Coast Discovery Center | Chula Vista
The Living Coast Discovery Center is a small aquarium and zoo located on the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Encounter local wildlife including sea turtles, sharks, rays, raptors, reptiles, and marine animals. Enjoy daily animal presentations, safari hikes, workshops, bird walks, and wildlife tours. Private Wildlife Tours are available to book and include a private tour and animal encounter.


Ocean Institute | Dana Point
Ocean Institute is an education center that offers over 60 marine science and maritime history programs. Family activities include weekend tours, tide pool hikes, and kayak harbor tours. Whale and marine life tours, plus bioluminescence night cruises aboard a research vessel are scheduled throughout the year.


Sea Life Aquarium | LEGOLAND

Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland is home to more than 6,000 animals and features interactive touchpools, dive shows, and feeding demonstrations. Highlights include a walk-through shark tunnel to see sharks and rays up close and seeing various LEGO models throughout the aquarium and inside tanks.




This post was written by Kidsguide

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