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San Francisco Bay Aquarium

What to Expect During Your Visit to the Aquarium of the Bay

The San Francisco Bay Aquarium, officially known as the Aquarium of the Bay, is a popular stop on Pier 39. I enjoy visiting this aquarium to learn more about all the different plants and animals that call the SF Bay their home.

It's a perfect stop for kids of all ages as there are plenty of things to see and do.

I also think they did an amazing job with this museum. The flow is great and I learn something new every time I visit.

aquarium of the bay

The first exhibits in the museum show the smaller animals and plants living near the top of the water. As you continue through the San Francisco Bay aquarium, your visit takes you deeper and deeper into the water where more of the larger plants and animals live.

What to Expect During Your Visit

Your visit starts on the second floor. This is the history area with some videos and written information.

There are also a handful of colorful fish in the aquariums. These are just a few pictures from this area.

sf aquarium

fish in the aquarium in SF

The second floor is small with just a few exhibits. Don't let that fool you!

After you complete the second floor, you look out over the San Francisco bay as you wait for the elevator to the first floor. This is where you will find most of the exhibits for the San Francisco Bay Aquarium.

When you enter the first floor, the first thing you'll see is a large jellyfish display. These are just a few pictures of the jellyfish on display.

sf bay aquarium jellyfish

jelly fish sf aquarium

yellow jellyfish sf bay aquarium

From here, you will head through the first of two walk through aquariums. The first one contains smaller fish and quite a few starfish.

aquarium of the bay

fish at sf bay aquarium

star fish at sf bay aquarium

Before you enter the second aquarium, you get the rare chance to see a giant Pacific Octopus. He is quite busy, so it's tough to get a clear photo of him.

giant pacific octopus

sf bay aquarium octopus

The second walk through aquarium is up next. This one has several small sharks and large stingrays.

sharktank sf aquarium

sting ray sf bay aquarium

Once you finish in the second aquarium, you will hop back on the elevator and head up to the top floor. This is the interactive area where you can see several animals up close and touch baby sharks, stingrays and starfish.

Here is a look at some of the things you can do in this area of the aquarium.

petting aquarium sf
The first pond has several baby stingrays and sharks that you can touch.

baby sting ray sf aquarium
Here is just one of the baby stingray in the pond.

star fish petting pond
The pond where you can touch a number of colorful starfish

star fish sf aquarium
Just a few of the starfish and other creatures you can touch in this pond

In addition to these displays, they also have some other animals. They include turtles, a snake and an opossum. Throughout the day, these animals are brought out of their cages so visitors get the chance to see them close up.

Here is the schedule from the last day I visited.

petting schedule sf aquarium

This is the final display area of the San Francisco Bay Aquarium. From here you exit through the gift shop back into Pier 39.

Bay Theater

For an additional fee, you can also see a couple of 3D movies in the Bay Theater. These movies run all day long and last about 20 to 30 minutes.

There are usually two movies on display. They range from animated shows to educational animal movies.

Ask for the current movie schedule and pricing at the main ticket booth in Pier 39.

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit is first thing in the morning. This is usually when I visit and it's still pretty quiet during this time.

The weekdays are the best, as the weekends can get quite crowded. However, if you get there early, you can usually beat the crowds.

A trip to the San Francisco Bay Aquarium will take anywhere from an hour to three hours. If you plan on catching the movies and/or the magic show, then add another hour to your visit time.

Ticket Prices and Hours

The cost to visit the San Francisco Bay Aquarium is usually around $25 for adults with discounts for kids and seniors. Check for ticket availablity here on the City Sightseeing website. They often offer a small discount on their online tickets.

There is also a behind the scenes tour at the aquarium. It is a little more expensive, but a great way to learn even more about the animals that live in the SF Bay.

The aquarium is open seven days a week. They are only closed on December 25. Their hours vary slightly during the week vs. the weekends. They also vary slightly in the summer and winter months. Here are their general hours of operation:

Summer Hours
Daily: 9 am to 8 pm

Fall/Spring Hours
Monday-Thursday: 10 am to 7 pm
Friday-Saturday: 10 am to 8 pm

Winter Hours
Monday-Thursday: 10 am to 6 pm
Friday-Sun: 10 am to 7 pm

You may want to check out the days you plan on visiting specifically to confirm the hours as they do have special hours on certain days. You will find their details hours here.

Save on Your SF Aquarium Tickets

If you plan on visiting several museums or attractions in addition to the aquarium, you might be able to save money with one of these discount passes. Both include admission to the aquarium as well as admission to places such as the California Academy of Sciences and tickets on popular bay cruises.

Click through the links below to learn more about the passes including a list of the attractions and museums included with it. If you aren't sure where to start, you can also head to the discounts page to compare them side by side.

san francisco city pass
go san francisco card
San Francisco
Go San
Francisco Card

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