The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

The California Bucket List is your daily guide to essential California adventures, from easy to edgy. Check in every day for a new must-do adventure, each tried and tested by one of the Travel section's staffers and contributors. Or use the filters in blue below to seek out great spots in each of 12 California regions: North Coast, Shasta Cascade, Gold Country, S.F. Bay Area, High Sierra, Central Valley, Central Coast, Deserts, Inland Empire and the counties of L.A., Orange and San Diego.

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Central CoastFamily-friendly

Schmooze with jellyfish at Monterey's big aquarium

 (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Why: It's the state's foremost aquarium, in a neighborhood full of Steinbeckian marine biological history.

What: From its opening in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium immediately became the state's go-to aquarium, with tanks that open on to Monterey Bay and all sorts of technical breakthroughs. (It turns out jellyfish enclosures are hard to design.)

Give your family several hours here among the sharks, otters, penguins, tuna and seabirds -- more than 40,000 plants and animals, many of which get extra frisky at feeding time. (When you get hungry, feel free to order fish for lunch at the aquarium's sit-down restaurant, Cindy's Waterfront. Or not. Weird, right?)

While gawking, recall that this now-ultra-touristy district was once a gritty neighborhood. It held the home and lab of Ed Ricketts, the celebrated marine biologist and friend of John Steinbeck who is featured in Steinbeck's nonfiction volume "The Log From the Sea of Cortez" and fictionalized in Steinbeck's novel "Cannery Row."

California has several rewarding aquariums -- especially Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific if you're in Southern California -- but none has Monterey's waterfront history.

Where: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, 321 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

How much: Adult admission is $49.95. For kids 3-12, it's $29.95.

Info: Monterey Bay Aquarium


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