An Oceanside Discovery Center For Your Mini Marine Scientists

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Maybe the kiddos’ obsession with Discovery Channel ocean shows is getting out of hand (we already pulled one too many mini colossal squids out of the bathtub drain), but we’re not one to discourage our Jacques Cousteau wannabes from exploring the ocean. Help your budding Bay Area scientists turn their their Shark Week dreams into reality (minus the need for chain mail) at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz. It happens to be only the coolest working marine research laboratory ever, where kids get first hand access to all things sea-related (they get to pet live sharks!) simply by way of the perfect day trip—with epic views.  Consider it the day your kid became a marine scientist.


Get There
The Seymour Marine Discovery Center is part of a working marine research laboratory with UC Santa Cruz; it sits atop a bluff overlooking spectacular views of the Monetery Bay National Marine Sanctuary, so the visual landscape alone is worth the trek.  Day tripping south of San Francisco for a little over an hour gets you there with a lovely scenic drive down Highway One, so bust out your playlists and cameras.

100 Shaffer Road
Santa Cruz 95060
For hours and admission click here.

Insider tip: if you’re heading south on Highway One there aren’t a lot of places for potty breaks before you hit Santa Cruz, so look out for the many state beaches along the way (some of the exits are easy to miss and it’s not easy to make a U-turn along the road).  If the kiddos are feeling cooped up during the drive, the coastal beaches are your best bet for bathroom breaks, not to mention stretching and taking in deep breaths of crisp ocean air.


What’s There?
Oh, only one of the largest whale skeletons in the whole world (you know, no biggie. Her name is Ms. Blue and if you take one of the daily tours you get to step inside of it!). The museum is full of saltwater touch tanks and small viewing tanks (with water pumped in directly from the ocean), plus interactive games and exhibits, and the volunteers working there are super excited to share their knowledge about marine life. It’s great for kiddos on all levels; there’s a lot for the little ones to explore and those same exhibits are equally compelling to the older ones, with kid-friendly factoids to make it a full on edutainment experience.



Tours Galore
The center has various tours including a behind-the-scenes tour of the research projects at Long Marine Lab, hiking tours, daily tours, family tours, and a Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf tour.  Some of these take place outside, including the daily shorter ones that start out at Shipwreck Cove (where you’ll see the remains of an old shipwreck from years ago), so definitely bring protectors like hats and sunscreen—it can also get chilly up on that bluff depending on the weather, so wear layers.


Pit Stops
Before you get to the museum, consider stopping along a small stretch on Highway One about 9 miles north of Santa Cruz in the teeny town of Davenport; that’s where Whale City Bakery, Bar & Grill lives, serving up all kinds of baked treats, fancy coffee, and a full menu.  Or else when you’re done exploring the museum head straight for the many options in laidback Santa Cruz like the yummy burgers at local hangout Surfrider Café.


What are your favorite places that encourage that Shark Week spirit?  Tell us!

–Mae Respicio

All images courtesy of Mae Respicio