A Close Look at The Aquarium of the Pacific

photo of jellyfish
photo of little girls at an aquarium

When the city of Long Beach, Calif. sought to revitalize its downtown, civic leaders turned to the water.

Like many great American cities, Long Beach has seen its share of economic mood swings. Combined with the adjacent Los Angeles Harbor (forming what is now known as World Port LA) the Port of Long Beach forms the largest man-made harbor in the world and the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere.

Coupled with the discovery of large oil fields in the 1880s, Long Beach became a bustling harbor town enjoying vibrant economic activity throughout the 20th century. It was famous for its seaside amusement park, The Pike and became southern California’s terminal for the cruise ship industry. It also became the permanent home of the Queen Mary.

For all of that bustling activity, the city suffered severe social decline and by the early 1980s had become known more for high crime and urban decay. The area adjacent to the harbor had become no place to bring a family.

That began to change in the 1980s when civic leaders undertook a massive makeover, focusing on turning waterfront areas into a major tourist destination with housing, retail, entertainment developments including the Long Beach Convention Center and associated hotels.

The crown jewel of those high-flown efforts, The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific (now known simply as the Aquarium of the Pacific) opened its doors in 1998. The facility contains 50 marine exhibits housing more than 11,000 animals and over 500 species in displays ranging from 5,000 to 350,000 gallons. One of its most spectacular features is a life size blue whale and calf that hang over the lobby.

In 2013, the Aquarium of the Pacific drew more than 1.5 million visitors.

The aquarium now anchors a vast complex of parkland, pedestrian trails, hotels, restaurants and retail stores, all organized around the harbor shores, and an updated version of The Pike. The adjacent downtown area followed suit with the construction of multiple hotels, promenades and office buildings.

Today Long Beach has regained its reputation as a family friendly tourist destination with its shimmering Aquarium of the Pacific serving as a major hub of activity.

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