Birch Aquarium at Scripps
With a glorious setting above La Jolla's coastline, the contemporary Mission-style complex encompasses a state-of-the-art aquarium and the largest museum in the nation devoted solely to oceanography. Named to recognize funding from the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, the 49,400sq-ft facility opened in September 1992 and overlooks the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego.Ocean life from the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, Mexico and the tropical seas is displayed in 46 separate viewing tanks housing 3,700 fish of 390 species. A highlight is the kelp forest, a 70,000gal tank containing a giant kelp environment; open to natural sunlight and gently agitated by a wave-making machine, the exhibit features towering sea plants, giant sea bass, garibaldis, blacksmiths, sheepheads and California morays. In the Hall of Oceanography interactive exhibits and displays cover the history of oceanography, the physics of seawater, the ocean's effect on climate and weather, the ocean floor, undersea life and the future of oceanographic research. A submersible ride (12min) simulates a deep-sea dive; a series of galleries is devoted to changing exhibits.