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San Francisco aquarium – tickets, prices, what to see, Sea Lion Center


Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39, San Francisco, is home to more than 20,000 local marine animals. 

The aquarium showcases the beauty and diversity of Northern California aquatic life, and the stars include sharks, rays, octopuses, jellyfish, anchovies, river otters, etc. 

Also known as the San Francisco Aquarium, it gets half a million visitors annually.

This article covers everything you must know before booking tickets to the San Francisco Aquarium.

Top San Francisco Aquarium Tickets

# San Francisco Aquarium tickets

# San Francisco CityPass

What to expect at Aquarium of the Bay

Marvel at captivating exhibits showcasing diverse marine life as you walk through a 300-foot (91-meter) long tunnel showcasing thousands of marine creatures.

The vibrant and colorful coral reefs create a breathtaking spectacle as you see the various ecosystems on display.

Explore the mesmerizing jellyfish exhibit, where these ethereal creatures gracefully glide through illuminated tanks.

Caress live animals, including sea stars, rays, and skates, in the beautiful ‘Touch the Bay’ area.

The Aquarium of the Bay is a stunning replication of the San Francisco Bay and gives you an insight into the teeming life of the Bay without the need to dive underwater.

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Where to book tickets

Tickets for Aquarium of the Bay are available online and at the attraction.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the attraction.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the ticket counters. 

Because the Aquarium of the Bay is one of the most popular attractions of San Francisco, tickets may sell out during peak days.

Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

How do online tickets work

Visit the ticket booking page for Aquarium of the Bay, select the preferred date, time slot, and number of tickets, and buy the tickets immediately.

Once you purchase tickets, they get delivered to your email address.

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket. 

Show the e-ticket on your smartphone at the entrance and walk in.

Please carry a valid ID with you.

San Francisco Aquarium ticket prices

For the San Francisco Bay Aquarium, the general ticket for all ages between 13 and 61 costs US$33.

Children aged between four and 12 cost US$23.

Seniors above 62 can gain access at just US$28.

Infants under four can enter for free.

San Francisco Aquarium tickets

This San Francisco Aquarium ticket gives you access to all three areas of the wildlife attraction: Discover The Bay, Under The Bay, and Touch The Bay. 

San Francisco aquarium ticket

Besides the aquarium, these tickets also get you entry to the Sea Lion Center, where you can learn about the wild sea lions living in San Francisco Bay. 

Image: Hapamama.com

Re-entering is possible with this Aquarium of the Bay ticket. 

You will have access to all three areas, namely, the Sea Lion Center, the Eco Center at Heron’s Head, and the Bay Area Model located in Sausalito.

The Aquarium is wheelchair friendly.

Ticket Prices

Adult ticket (13 to 64 years): US$33
Seniors ticket (65+ years): US$28
Child ticket (4 to 12 years): US$23
Infant ticket (up to 3 years):
Free entry

San Francisco has two other aquariums. The Steinhart Aquarium, which is part of the California Academy of Sciences, is within the city, while the Monterey Bay Aquarium is 201 Kms (125 Miles) South of San Francisco.

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How to reach San Francisco aquarium

San Francisco Aquarium is at Pier 39 in San Francisco, California.

Pier 39 is a popular tourist destination along the waterfront of San Francisco and is known for its shops, restaurants, and attractions.

Address: Pier 39, The Embarcadero and Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94133. Get Directions

You can use BART or MUNI to get to the Aquarium of the Bay, two mini-bus and light-rail mass transportation services in San Francisco.

By Bus

North Point St & Kearny St bus stop is just a three-minute walk away.

Powell St & North Point St is a six-minute walk away.

North Point St & Mason St bus stop is an eight-minute walk away.

LOWL bus lines stop near the aquarium.

By Cable Car

The MUNI F line stops at The Embarcadero & Stockton St, a minute’s walk from the aquarium.

By Ferry

Pier 33 ferry terminal is just a six-minute walk from the museum.

By Car

Cars for rent and Taxis for hire are easily available in San Francisco.

Put on Google Maps to navigate to the Aquarium of the Bay.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco aquarium doesn’t have parking of its own.

But public parking is available at Pier 39 Garage, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also park at Pier 35.

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San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay timings

San Francisco Aquarium opens at 11 am and closes at 6 pm, all through the week.

The last entry is one hour before closure.

On 24 December, the aquarium is open only from 11 am to 3 pm and remains closed on 25 December. 

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How long does the Aquarium of the Bay take

If you visit with kids who tend to spend more time with the exhibits, attend all feeding sessions, see all shows, etc., you will need around two hours to explore the San Francisco aquarium at Pier 39.

Visitors in a hurry can quickly browse through the aquarium’s exhibits and attend the must-sees in an hour.

With the regular aquarium tickets, you can exit and re-enter the aquarium, which means you can even visit it twice.

Visitors to the Aquarium of the Bay usually also book a cruise of the San Francisco Bay. When you book them together, you get a 10% discount. 

Best time to visit San Francisco Aquarium

The best time to visit the San Francisco Aquarium by the Bay is as soon as they open at 11 am. 

An early visit helps you avoid the long lines, which start around noon, especially in summer, during school holidays, and on the weekends.

Animals in the touch pools are also most active in the early part of the day. As more and more people dip their hands, the sea creatures get tired.

With fewer people, you get enough time to explore the exhibits on your own and take photographs without others in the frame.

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Free with CityPass

If you plan to save some money on your Bay Area holiday, look no further than the San Francisco CityPass

With this discount pass, you can visit the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Aquarium and three other attractions and yet save 45% of your ticket costs. 

With the SFO CityPass, you get guaranteed entry to:  

  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Blue & Gold Fleet San Francisco Bay Cruise

You can choose admission to any two other attractions from the list below – 

  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum
  • San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
  • Exploratorium

Visitors with CityPass don’t need to reserve their visit to the aquarium in advance. 

They can present their CityPASS tickets at the entrance and walk in. 

Cost of San Francisco CityPass

Adult Pass (12+ years): US$84
Child Pass (4 to 11 years): US$64

Infants up to 3 get the pass for free.

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What to see at Aquarium of the Bay

At the San Francisco aquarium by the Bay, visitors get up close and personal with more than 20,000 local marine animals. 

Discover The Bay

Discover The Bay exhibit is about the ecosystem of San Francisco Bay and consists of seven different animal habitats.

The three most popular sections are the Beauties of the Bay, the Swirling School of Anchovies, and the Bay Babies.

Under the Bay

Under the Bay helps visitors explore what’s below San Francisco Bay with a fully immersive experience as they walk through 300 feet of acrylic tunnels filled with sea creatures. 

The Near Shore Tunnel exhibits the creatures that live in three to four meters (10-15 feet) deep shallow waters of the Bay. 

In here, you get to see anchovies, Rockfish, bright-orange Garibaldi, Giant Pacific Octopuses, etc. 

Alcatraz Tunnel is the second tunnel exhibit, and it helps unravel the mysteries of the deeper waters of San Francisco Bay.

Visitors get to see sharks, rays, sturgeons, and more. Don’t miss out on Sevengill sharks, the largest predatory animal in the Bay, leopard sharks, soupfin sharks, etc. 

Go With The Flow

Go with the Flow is part of the Under the Bay gallery and is full of mesmerizing jellies.

There are two massive tanks – the 725-gallon cylinder tank displaying Moon Jellies and the wall-mounted 740-gallon tank full of Pacific Sea Nettles.

Ambient lighting ensures you get in the mood for a long session with the hypnotic invertebrates. 

Touch the Bay

Touch pool at SFO aquarium

This gallery allows visitors to touch several sea creatures.

Visitors can touch sharks, rays, skates, sea stars, and anemones at the Touch Pools.

Image: Aquariumofthebay.org

The Bay Lab has many land animals, such as chinchillas, tortoises, frogs, etc. Besides seeing the animals, you also learn how their habits and habitats are affected by climate change.

At the Bay Lab Station, naturalists conduct interactions with land animals and participatory climate change discussions in which everybody can participate. 

At the River Otters Gallery, visitors can see four playful river otters – Shasta, Ryer, Baxter, and the youngest, Tahoe. 

A sign of a healthy waterway, otters are a massive hit with the kids. 

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Sea Lion Center

The Sea Lion Center in San Francisco has an interesting background.

The Sea Lion Center, overlooking K-Dock in the marina adjacent to Pier 39, is operated and managed by the Aquarium of the Bay.

The regular Aquarium of the Bay tickets get you to access the Sea Lion Center as well.

The Sea Lion Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, and educational programs start four times a day – at 10.30 am, 12.30 pm, 2.30 pm, and 4.40 pm. 

At Sea Lion Center, visitors can learn everything about wild creatures through interactive displays, educational videos, and fascinating presentations.

Besides all the learning, you can also watch the fascinating animals eat and sleep and listen to their barks.

From the Sea Lion Center, visitors can also enjoy beautiful views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

# Aquariumofthebay.org
# Calacademy.org
# Tripadvisor.com
# Pier39.com

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.


Popular attractions in San Francisco

# Alcatraz Island
# San Francisco Zoo
# California Academy of Sciences
# San Francisco MoMA
# Monterey Bay Aquarium
# San Francisco aquarium
# Exploratorium
# De Young Museum
# San Francisco Bus Tours
# Madame Tussauds
# San Francisco Bay Cruise
# San Francisco Ghost Tour
# The Tech Interactive
# San Francisco Dinner Cruise
# SFO Go Car Tour
# Legion of Honor Museum
# Walt Disney Family Museum
# Museum of 3D Illusions
# 7D Ride Experience

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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