Visiting the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California

The Legacy
The Legacy
Tide Pool
Tide Pool
Scripps Pier
Scripps Pier
Star Fish
Star Fish
Sea Anemone
Sea Anemone
Sand eels
Sand eels
Sea Dragon
Sea Dragon
Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish

History of Scripps

In 1903 Scripps was formed by UC Berkley zoologist William Ritter, community leaders, and philanthropists such as the Scripps family. They chartered the Marine Biological Association of San Diego and a temporary location in the boathouse of the Hotel Del Coronado held the first field session in marine biology.

By 1905 researchers had outgrown the location and a modest laboratory at La Jolla Cove was built at a cost of $992.00. Known as The Little Green Lab it featured a public aquarium exhibit.

Two years later the association purchased 170 acres of property at auction from the City of San Diego in La Jolla Shores at a cost of $1,000.00. The first permanent building, designed by Irving Gill, housed the aquarium and a museum upstairs. Today this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

By 1915 the first building to house only an aquarium was built on the campus. It contained 19 tanks. Plans for a newer, larger aquarium had to be delayed until after WWII.

By 1951 The Scripps Aquarium-Museum was built and opened to the public. The building was three stories high with 18 tanks, the largest held 2,000 gallons, and museum exhibits displaying research projects. By the end of the month visitors from all 48 states had signed the guest book.

In 1986 a fund-raising effort for a larger aquarium-museum began with The Birch Foundation donating $6 million. A total of $10 million was eventually raised.

In 1992 The Birch Aquarium at Scripps opened overlooking the Pacific Ocean with fantastic views of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Pier. Since its opening 5 million visitors from across the US and around the world have stopped in to explore. The central lobby is designed around entrances to main interpretive areas:

Entrance -

The Legacy. Whale Sculpture/Fountain.

Splash Cafe.

Galleria -

Pacific Sardines Display. To provide safety in numbers, sardines school together. Sardines have been over fished in Southern California but are on the rebound.

Shark models.

Hall of Fishes -

San Diego Bay - Tanks showcase marine life in San Diego Bay.

Pacific Northwest Coast - Cooler water species.

Southern California - Warm temperature species.

Kelp Forest Tank - Amber ocean forest.

Nursery - Newborns born in the Hall of Fishes.

Tropical Seas - Eastern Tropical Pacific to the Indian Ocean species.

Baja California - Subtropical water species.

Tide Pool Plaza -

Star fish, abalone, sea anemones and more. Hands on, touch and feel with respect.

Explores Gallery -

The Climate Change - Inpact of global warming, the science of climate change.

Shark Reef - Tropical sharks.

Seahorses - over a dozen species.

Exit -

Book & Gift Shop.


Check the web site for hours, rules, and feeding times.

If you have a Bank of America debit card or credit card you get in free on certain dates with the Museums on Us program offered.

Grunion runs at Birch Aquarium run April - June.

Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:

An ice chest with food, snacks and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.

Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a bag for garbage

Take along your Kindle and cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Down load any e-books and apps that will help you.

Remember to take along a great camera. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.

Freeways, streets, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take a good GPS system with you and visit off season.

Have you been to the Birch Aquarium?

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Comments 4 comments

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Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

OOOOOOOOOO I love San Diego but I didn't know about this. Going to put it on my list on my next visit!!! Thanks for the interesting hub.

Kathy Atwood profile image

Kathy Atwood 5 years ago from California, USA Author

Have fun! Thanks Lynn...

punacoast profile image

punacoast 5 years ago from Big Island, Hawaii

I love Birch Aquarium! Had a chance to see it a year ago when I was at a conference in San Diego. Took a city bus from downtown to the aquarium. Thanks for bringing back great memories for me. Aloha!

Kathy 5 years ago

We had a great time also. The bus is a great way to get there. Thanks punacoast!

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