Instead of spending Black Friday at the malls, we decided to drive to Monterey and visit the aquarium. Judging from the crowds, I'm pretty sure our idea wasn't very original. But none of that really matters since it was really fun and the kids loved seeing all of the animals (they kept saying "more animals" like we were at a zoo).
The jelly fish were spectacular! We spent quite a while watching their beautiful silent ballet before checking out the playful otters and getting some hands-on experience with the starfish and some of their other tide-pool friends.
There's a million gallon tank with huge fish in it and, supposedly, a great white shark (that never came to the front of the tank to pose for a picture). I'm not really sure how they can keep a big shark in a tank with other fish without food-chain issues but I guess they make it work.
The Aquarium has many small educational exhibits designed to help us have a better understanding of various aspects of aquatic life. One that was very popular with the kids was a small glass enclosed alcove in which you stand and experience what it would be like to have ocean waves crashing over you several times per minute. I think you're supposed to look through the glass and observe the starfish and other creatures that live in that environment but Gwen and Maddy were more thrilled to cling to Daddy for dear life and scream with excitement when another wave "hit" them. It was hard to get a good picture of this so next time we'll bring the video camera.
The anchovies were pretty interesting but mostly just "pretty". The kids pressed their nose to the circular tank and watched as they demonstrated their much practiced form of traffic school.
All told, it was a nice way to spend our Friday even though it turned out to be surprisingly expensive. The round trip gasoline expense plus the $80 admission to the aquarium plus $45 bucks or so for lunch and then the parking ticket for the meter that expired less than five minutes before we got back to the van. I think we'd get a season pass for the aquarium if we lived closer. It's nicely maintained and we all really enjoyed it.