Elisa in The Shape of Water falls in love with a humanoid creature from a mysterious underwater world, an affection that’s perfectly understandable when we visit the lovable real-life creatures that dwell in the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
If like me you too have spent hours together on sites like https://lovefishtank.com/55-gallon-fish-tank-kit/ finding the best fish tank for your sea creatures, then I would insist you start your journey at the Southern California & Baja Gallery to get cosy with the locals—that is, creatures that live just off our SoCal shores. Pacific lookdowns and porcupine fish are among the handsome denizens here. The 211,000-gallon seal and sea lion habitat is a winner for aquatic entertainment: Inside, follow these slippery swimmers as they glide underwater; topside, watch trainers interact with these fascinating mammals. Just like Elisa looked into the eyes of the mysterious sea creature and saw her own soul, you can peer into the eyes of our distant oceanic relatives and see their curious and intelligent minds at work.
After the show, head over to the Northern Pacific Gallery to meet some cold-water critters. Furry cuties in the sea otter habitat will tug at your heartstrings. So will fluttering puffins and colorfully beaked auklets in the bird tank. Look closely in the giant Pacific octopus tank—this guy is a master camouflage artist.
The scaly creature in The Shape of Water may have seemed a monster to some in the film, but Elisa knew him to be a special and crucial part of this world. The same could be said about the sharks and rays at the shark lagoon, and various behemoths in the Tropical Pacific Gallery. Be fascinated. Befriend them! You’ll love the shapes in this water!
BONUS: Just outside the aquarium is Shoreline Aquatic Park, where you can enjoy a picnic on the grass beneath a lighthouse while enjoying a view of the natural home to the creatures you just saw. Just across the water is the Queen Mary, and all around are slightly smaller vessels to admire. It’s very easy to make an aquarium visit a very full day in Long Beach.
Take the I-710 south to Exit 1C (W. Shoreline Dr). Follow W. Shoreline Dr. 1.6 miles to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Parking is $8 with aquarium validation. No dogs.