Monterey Bay Aquarium – Part 6: Lunch at Aquarium Cafe and Sandy Shore Exhibit

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on Cannery Row; which is an area filled with shops and restaurants. Although we did wander around Cannery Row we opted to have lunch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Cafe.

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium Cafe is a casual food option at the aquarium. The other food option inside would be the full service restaurant at Cindy’s Waterfront. The Cafe and Cindy’s Waterfront each have a different menu and that was my deciding factor on what to eat.

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Like most self-service cafeteria like restaurants, you simply walk in, grab a tray and then get into individual lines to get your food. Here things are divided by Hot, Cold, and Sweet. We didn’t get any desserts, but we had to stop by to get our drinks (tricky!). We got a few coffees and a hot tea. Sorry I drank it all before even thinking to take a picture.

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As for the Cold. There were sandwiches, salads, and soups? Yeah, I was a little confused with that, but I guess there were just too many things in the Hot section.

Mom and Yuntiha went into the Cold line to get food. I originally wanted a salad (I was oddly really really craving fresh vegetables) but the vegetables just didn’t look very fresh.

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We got Dad a Turkey Club. And I honestly have no idea what was in it. It did come with a bag of chips though.

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Mom and Yuntiha ordered a Clam Chowder Bread Bowl. Sorry, I mean a California Clam Chowder Bowl. What’s the difference? I’m sure there is a big difference but I really can’t tell. I guess these clams are from California?

Mom especially really likes her clam chowder in a bread bowl. That was what made her really sad when we didn’t order our clam chowder the previous night at the Old Fishermans Wharf.

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And then I got into the Hot line. And it was quite a busy line, but they were very efficient because all of the food was already all out under heat lamps.

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Can you guess what I ordered? Pizza or Whatever that’s in the little casserole dishes? The people at the cafe kept the line moving quite fast here and gave exactly what you order to you immediately. And more food was continuously put under the heat lamps as they were being prepared.

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I got the Chicken Pot Pie AND Mac and Cheese. I got greedy. This was definitely more food than what we would normally order. 4 things for 4 people (we usually get 3 things for 4 people).

But in my defense, Yuntiha said she would share the Mac and Cheese with me. I wouldn’t say the food was the best I’ve ever had or anything, but it did its’ job. I would say it was quite expensive and was pretty much slightly better than standard theme park food.

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And since it was a cafeteria self-service kind of place it was also self seating. And that could be quite a struggle during the peak lunch hours. We decided to eat at just the right time because it wasn’t too bad but when we finished eating, there were quite a few people wandering around struggling to find a table.

There were 2 groups of people who were actually going to take our table when we were getting ready to leave.

At least the Cafe has some floor to ceiling views of Monterey Bay. And after lunch we made our way to the Sandy Shore Exhibit.

I know we were planning to see everything, but I was quite excited check out the Sandy Shores Exhibit after seeing something interesting from one of the outdoor viewing areas.

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It’s actually located near more touch pools. And after getting distracted by an animation of how starfish eat (have you ever seen that before?) I found Mom and Yuntiha standing under the big water feature.

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It’s a tunnel like area with a glass wall and ceiling, every few minutes or so water will be dumped over the glass creating a waterfall effect. It really did feel as though we were standing under a waterfall without getting wet.

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Do you ever go pick up sand dollars on the beach? I have, but they’re so fragile! I really enjoyed trying to take pictures of the things inside of these dome like exhibits.

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium we found real live sand dollars; not the dried fragile (dead?) ones we find on the beach. Usually I rely on the facts that I learned at the aquarium (and from the aquarium website) but I asked my trusty brother about sand dollars. And he was quite excited to share what he knows.

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Sand dollars are naturally a purple color when alive. The white ones we find on beach are long dead and preserved (somehow). He said that you can actually find some live ones on the beach in San Diego.

And did you know? Sand Dollars are related to Sea Urchin. If you look super closely Sand Dollars have tiny tiny spikes like Sea Urchin.

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I found another touch pool. This one has some floating magnifying glasses. And this was the only place where I sort of got my hands to try to move the magnifying glass over the purple sea urchin.

Check out the picture below; do you see any resemblance to the Sand Dollar?

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T160703f Monterey Bay Habitats _29hough the view without the magnifying glass was much more beautiful sadly. It’s just fun to have interactive things around.

They do have more magnifying glasses set up around other exhibits as well.

I wanted to go see the skeleton shrimp, but the kids were having so much fun. I watched them for a little and let other kids explore.

This is definitely a nice way to challenge us though. That is because the skeleton shrimp are like the praying mantis of the sea because they look like algae things that they cling onto and become camouflaged.

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And as if that wasn’t hard enough, we were once again visually challenged. Do you see what is on exhibit here?

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Here is a slightly closer look. Do you see anything yet?

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How about now?

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And now, do you finally see them? I really did spend quite a bit of time standing there counting how many of these camouflaged flatfish I could see.

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And after spending a day at the aquarium seeing a plethora of fish and sea life, there is one takeaway that we should all remember as we go home. Read the Seafood Watch pamphlet and make an effort to choose seafood that’s caught or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean. They give you recommendations that indicate which seafood items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”

And in a way, I personally found it somewhat confusing. Not because the pamphlet is not clear but because of the way our seafood industry has evolved (I guess). Some fish are better to be eaten farmed and others need to be wild caught and then there are some listed by where they should be from. When we go out to eat seafood, I don’t always check for where it’s from or if its wild or farmed. Do you ask when you eat seafood? I should….


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