Birch Aquarium La Jolla with Kids

Birch Aquarium La Jolla California with Kids

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a fantastic, family-friendly aquarium and oceanographic museum on a hilltop in La Jolla. There is plenty for families to see and do at the aquarium, from brilliant exhibits showcasing the diverse Pacific marine life to learning about San Diego’s local tide pool animals in the outdoor interactive areas. Find out more about what to expect visiting Birch Aquarium La Jolla with kids in this review.

Birch Aquarium La Jolla CA

Birch Aquarium at Scripps La Jolla

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public outreach center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Founded in 1903, Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest and largest centers for ocean and Earth science research and undergraduate and graduate training in the world.

Scripps La Jolla Aquarium

Part of Birch Aquarium’s mission is to interpret the institution’s research, while providing ocean science education and promoting marine conservation. More than 500,000 guests visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps each year. Birch Aquarium also offers hands-on learning opportunities and climate-based programming to over 40,000 K-12 students annually – on site, in schools and in the field.

Penguins at Birch Aquarium La Jolla

Birch Aquarium La Jolla is a fascinating place for families to visit and learn about San Diego’s local marine life. From the captivating two-story kelp forest and fantastic displays of Pacific marine life to the hands-on tide pool experience, the aquarium and museum offers a great educational day out for all ages.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Kelp Tank, La Jolla CA

Birch Aquarium La Jolla Map

An average visit to Birch Aquarium typically takes between an hour and a half to two hours. Presentations and feedings are on regularly throughout the day, including a Penguin Feeding and Little Blue Penguins 101.

Have a look at the Birch Aquarium Daily Schedule for timings to help plan your visit.

Birch Aquarium Map

Click the Birch Aquarium map for a larger image. Source: Birch Aquarium

We usually start at the Hall of Fishes, then work our way around to the Tide Pool Plaza. Back inside, we would head to the other side of the aquarium, to see the Seadragons and Seahorses exhibit, outside to the Sharks and Rays and then back inside to see the Little Blue Penguins.

Hall of Fishes

The Hall of Fishes at Birch Aquarium La Jolla showcases marine life from more than 60 habitats, from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Hall of Fishes Birch Aquarium Scripps

One of the highlights at the Hall of Fishes is seeing the Giant Pacific Octopus, considered to be one of the most intelligent animals in the ocean! Birch Aquarium regularly engage their resident octopus in enrichment sessions for mental and physical stimulation.

Giant Kelp Forest Tank

The centerpiece of Birch Aquarium La Jolla is the fantastic two-story, 70,000 gallon kelp forest tank, which is completely open on top and illuminated by sunlight.

Giant kelp forest tank Scripps Aquarium La Jolla

The Giant Kelp Forest Tank houses a wide array of local marine life, including an endangered giant sea bass, leopard sharks, eels and garibaldi damselfish. The bright orange garibaldi is the California State marine fish, found in temperate waters off the California coast.

Kelp Tank La Jolla Scripps Aquarium

Visitors can also have the chance to see divers feed the fish several times a week! Kelp Forest Dives are typically at 10:30am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check the Scripps La Jolla Aquarium daily schedule in advance to see if that event is on when you visit.

Leopard Shark Birch Aquarium San Diego

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

The Hall of Fishes is also home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps’s rescued loggerhead sea turtle, which was found injured in a cooling canal for a New Jersey power plant.

Sea Turtle at Birch Aquarium at Scripps La Jolla CA

After undergoing treatment and care, the loggerhead sea turtle was deemed non-releasable due to her extensive injuries and is now housed at Birch Aquarium La Jolla.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle feedings are also part of the daily feedings you can see during your family visit to Birch Aquarium! Check the daily schedule for when the sea turtle feedings take place.

100 Island Challenge

Carry on through the Hall of Fishes and you will see the Research In Action: 100 Island Challenge habitat. The goal of the 100 Island Challenge is to gain an understanding of the current state and future trajectory of the world’s coral reefs, by collecting data from coral reefs surrounding 100 tropical islands worldwide.

Scripps Aquarium 100 Island Challenge

Before travelling to remote locations, Scripps scientists develop their techniques and test equipment within the aquarium’s 100 Islands Challenge habitat.

Tide Pool Plaza

One of the highlights of visiting Birch Aquarium La Jolla with kids is heading out to Preuss Tide Pool Plaza, which overlooks La Jolla and the Pacific Ocean.

Tide Pool Plaza Birch Aquarium at Scripps

The outdoor Tide Pool Plaza features three living tide-pool displays. Volunteers assist visitors to get up close, touch and learn about San Diego’s local tide pool animals, including seastars, hermit crabs and sea cucumbers.

Touch Pool activities Birch Aquarium with kids

The tide pools are fascinating to explore and the aquarium staff are always friendly and engaging with children. We have learned so much about these small tide pool creatures through our family visits to Birch Aquarium over the years!

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

Ocean Views

Tide Pool Plaza has some of the most spectacular ocean views in San Diego. It is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors while you are visiting Birch Aquarium La Jolla. There are benches and telescopes to take in the view.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

Along with sweeping views of La Jolla, San Diego Birch Aquarium overlooks the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Scripps Pier, a private research pier used by the institute for marine research expeditions and for pumping out fresh sea water that is used in laboratories and aquariums.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

Seadragons & Seahorses Exhibit

Birch Aquarium has a new permanent Seadragons & Seahorses exhibition that brings seadragon conservation to the forefront.

Seadragons Exhibit Birch Aquarium La Jolla

One of the most expansive seadragon habitats in the world, the 18-foot-wide, 9-foot-tall exhibit at Scripps Aquarium La Jolla holds 5,375 gallons of water and is designed to create the ideal environment to breed seadragons.

Make sure to check the Birch Aquarium daily schedule on the day you visit for the chance to watch the Weedy Seadragons snap up their meals during feedings.

Seadragons at Birch Aquarium San Diego CA

Other activities to look out for on the La Jolla Birch Aquarium daily schedule are Penguin Feeding, Shark Feeding and Blue Penguins 101.

Related: Best Things to Do with Kids in San Diego

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

Seadragons & Seahorses features more than a dozen seahorse species. Birch Aquarium also offers an inside look into their lives and habitats, along with a glimpse of seahorse babies, in a behind-the-scenes tour, which costs $95 per person (ages 8+).

Sharks and Rays

The South Plaza of Birch Aquarium La Jolla features a Sharks and Rays exhibit, fun outdoor games and seating in the Blue Beach area and the fun Shark Head photo op.

Sharks and Rays Birch Aquarium with kids

The Sharks and Rays exhibit, Shark Shores, is home to a few species you can find along the Southern California coast, including leopard sharks, smoothhound sharks, bay rays, halibut and a Pacific Angel shark.

Sharks and Rays La Jolla Birch Aquarium

Little Blue Penguins

Meet the world’s smallest penguins at the Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins exhibit. The Little Blue Penguins exhibit is a 2900-square-foot habitat, featuring cozy burrows, a sandy beach and an 18000 galloon pool.

Birch Aquarium Little Blue Penguins

Children can enjoy an up close look of the Little Blue Penguins at the Discovery Portal. The interactive research station displays information about the work going on at Scripps to study the challenges the Little Blue Penguins face in a changing climate.

What’s On Birch Aquarium Events

San Diego Birch Aquarium runs several seasonal events throughout the year that are fun for the whole family. Keep an eye on their Events for All Ages page for upcoming events at Birch Aquarium La Jolla for families.

Annual family-friendly events at Scripps Aquarium include Party for the Planet in April, Shark and Ray Awareness Day in July and Halloween Aglow in October.

Birch Aquarium La Jolla for Families

More Birch Aquarium Exhibits

Birch Aquarium also regularly features special exhibits. In February 2024, the aquarium opened an immersive art exhibit, “Hold Fast”. Guests are invited to explore the impact of climate change on the local kelp forest through the lens of three local artists and scientists.

In the same part of Birch Aquarium is the Expedition at Sea: R/V Sally Ride Gallery. This gallery combines science, art, technology and hands-on learning to immerse visitors into the sights and sounds of life and work aboard a research vessel at sea.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

On one of our previous visits to Birch Aquarium with kids, the Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge exhibition was on, showing how climate change is affecting the world’s oceans and presents the latest research findings by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

One display went through various ideas for reducing global carbon emissions, outlining the pros and cons and providing a great resource especially for older children and teens to get them thinking about possible solutions.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

“When the temperature rises, corals expel the colorful algae, exposing their white skeletons and transparent tissues. If the current warming trend continues, more than half of all tropical reefs — and the abundance of life they support — may be lost in the next 25 years”

Address & Ticket Information

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Birch Aquarium Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla CA 92037

Opening Hours: Open daily 9am to 5pm January – February and October – December. Open daily 9am to 7pm from 1 March to Labor Day. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

See the full list of participating museums and download your digital pass at the San Diego Museum Council website

Admission Tickets: Adult tickets are $24.95; child tickets (ages 3 to 17) are $19.95; children age 2 and under go free. Recommended to book online in advance since walkup entry cannot be guaranteed. Admission tickets can be purchased at

Parking: There’s a large parking lot on site with free 3 hour parking. Full day parking permits are available at Guest Services for a small fee.

Food & Drink: Splash! Café is located at Birch Aquarium La Jolla entrance, offering hot and cold beverages, sandwiches and snacks. View the menu.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, La Jolla San Diego CA

San Diego with Kids Guide

I hope you found this post on visiting Birch Aquarium La Jolla with kids helpful! San Diego is a great family destination offering plenty to see and do year round.

Read on for more tips and reviews for planning a family trip to San Diego, California;

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The New Children’s Museum San Diego Day Out

Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

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This post was updated on 23 February 2024 with more photos and updated information about visiting Birch Aquarium La Jolla with kids.

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Birch Aquarium La Jolla with Kids









  1. What a fun and interactive aquarium! And you’ve made me homesick as La Jolla isn’t far from my hometown! #FarawayFiles

  2. So glad you posted this! We’re headed down that way this weekend and we night just have to make a stop here! #farawayfiles

  3. This does look like a brilliant aquarium, Cindy. I particularly like the look of those seahorses and I love to see turtles too. It’s great that it gets kids thinking about the impacts of climate change. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

  4. Ahhh California. So warm and sunny and the perfect place for an aquarium. I love that the kids can hands on with the sea creatures. Thanks for joining us on #FarawayFiles

  5. Oh we love Birch Aquarium – great for all ages. That touch pool with views of the Pacific is my favorite. Stunning! Thanks for sharing this gem with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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