SEA LIFE Aquarium is part of LEGOLAND California Resort, and it’s definitely worth adding to your itinerary. It’s both a fun and educational experience for young children (and adults!), who can watch, get up close to, or simply soak up fascinating facts about, a huge variety of marine life.

More than 6000 sea creatures of over 350 different species call SEA LIFE home. And the aquarium is full of interactive ways to learn more about them, including touch pools, educational talks, and 16 unique marine life exhibits.

SEA LIFE Aquarium is in an apt location, considering LEGOLAND California is situated in the beach town of Carlsbad, and this underwater world is a wonder to explore for residents and those visiting with kids.

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Know Before You Go: Hours, Tickets, Parking, Food

Kids love SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND California Resort.
Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California

location

SEA LIFE Aquarium is adjacent (and to the left of) the main LEGOLAND California theme park entrance. You’ll see it as soon as you enter the LEGOLAND parking lot.

tickets and hours

You can buy tickets to only visit SEA LIFE Aquarium for $25 per person (age 2+) or as a package with LEGOLAND’s 1-Day or 2-Day Hopper ticket options. Check their website for prices, as these vary according to the date you visit.

Opening hours vary throughout the year, according to season or special events, so it’s best to check SEA LIFE’s website directly for hours on the day of your visit.

Tip: Get a Hand Stamp for Re-Entry

Your SEA LIFE Aquarium ticket (if it’s not a group ticket) includes re-entry on the same day, but you must remember to get a hand stamp upon leaving after your initial visit. The option to re-enter is very handy for guests staying in the hotels or visiting the theme park because you never know if or when kids want to go back for round two.

We have a lot of advice you can read for saving money on LEGOLAND California tickets.

parking

The entire LEGOLAND California Resort shares a parking lot, so you’ll park in the same place for SEA LIFE Aquarium as you would for the theme and water park.

Parking isn’t included in any ticket options apart from some annual passes, and it currently costs $30 per day. Preferred Parking gets you a spot closer to the park entrance and starts from $35. Regular spots aren’t a huge walk away, though, not like Disneyland. You can buy parking in advance to save a little time at the toll booth (the price is the same either way).

where to eat

SEA LIFE Aquarium has a great restaurant located inside the aquarium called the Ocean Journey Café. It’s pretty spacious despite being called a café and has good options, including sandwiches, salads, and hot meal choices. It’s market-style, so you just grab a tray and select what you like. There are also plenty of snacks and drinks for sale.

You can access the restaurant, which is on the first floor, via the SEA LIFE gift shop or to the left side of it. You can also then enter the aquarium directly from the restaurant, but you’ll need to show your admission ticket first.

10 Fun Things to Do at SEA LIFE Aquarium

Here’s what you can do during a visit.

LEGO figures inside exhibits at SEA LIFE Aquarium Carlsbad
A LEGO fish. (Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California)

1. watch a tank feeding

Head to the Shipwreck exhibit to watch SEA LIFE’s aquarists feed shark, stingrays, and their many tank mates. Kids will get a kick out of watching the diver descend into the tank in their underwater gear. There’s only one feeding per day, three days a week, though, so check the schedule to make sure you don’t miss it.  

2. get up close at the touch pools

You actually get to reach in and touch a starfish or spiny sea urchin at SEA LIFE’s Interactive Touch Pool exhibit. There’s plenty of space for children to gather around, but be gentle and respectful of this unique opportunity to say hello up close.

3. wander through the jellyfish discovery zone

This super fun room features disco-style lighting and many floor-to-ceiling cylinder-shaped tanks containing around 100 jellyfish. Watching them dance around slow motion-style in the rainbow-colored spotlights is quite the sight to see.

4. check out Nemo’s friends

These little orange-striped clownfish are world-famous thanks to the Nemo movies, and you can see them in action at their very own exhibit.

5. Walk Among Sharks in the Ocean Tunnel

All kinds of aquatic life will surround you as you wander through this glass tunnel, but perhaps most fascinating of all is that you get a first-hand look at sharks gliding right above, up to, and around you in complete safety!

6. peer at seahorses

These incredibly delicate sea creatures are a delight to witness in their tanks at the Kingdom of the Seahorse exhibit. You’d never get to see seahorses outside of an aquarium as they’re so tiny, and you’ll be gazing in wonder as they bob around together, totally protected from the ocean’s predators.

7. Visit the Giant Pacific Octopus

Did you know that octopi have three hearts, eight arms, and a doughnut-shaped brain? Well, you’ll learn this and much more about these fascinating creatures at their exhibit. Enjoy as you get to watch them unfurl, slide around, and peer right back at you.

8. Join in a Science Demo

Children can participate in the fun and educational Science of the Sea experiment, where they’ll learn how climate change is changing our oceans.

9. go on a shark mission

Kids can get a break from the real thing at Shark Mission’s giant touch screens, where they can play games and learn plenty of facts about Great Whites and their friends.

10. take a break at seaside storytime

This is great for little ones who need to take a break from all the walking. Here, they’ll learn how they can help to keep our oceans clean, and they can also enjoy a conservation activity.

FAQs About SEA LIFE Aquarium in Carlsbad

Kids look in an aquarium tank at SEA LIFE Aquarium.
It’s the only SEA LIFE with LEGOs! (Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE Aquarium)

Is SEA LIFE Aquarium worth the LEGOLAND ticket upgrade?

Definitely, unless your kids are freaked out by sea creatures. Even if they are nervous, the interactive exhibits and huge array of fascinating animals will hopefully change their mind.

How long do people usually stay at SEA LIFE Aquarium?

LEGOLAND says an average visit is 60-90 minutes, and in my experience of going many times, I agree. Plus extra time to eat in the Ocean Journey Café.

Do you need an extra day to do SEA LIFE?

I never did SEA LIFE on the same day as LEGOLAND, as my kids were pooped after the non-stop excitement of the main park. I would recommend doing it as part of LEGOLAND’s 2-day ticket that includes SEA LIFE, and fit it in on your second day around a return visit to LEGOLAND.

Is it worth going to SEA LIFE by itself and skipping the Theme park?

Yes, I think it’s that good. But you probably won’t be popular with your kids if you drive in and say you’re skipping the main park, which is in plain sight right next door!

Is it different or better than other standalone aquariums?

SEA LIFE is definitely geared towards younger children, given its LEGOLAND association, but I give it top marks nonetheless. I haven’t been to Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, but you can read Katie’s detailed review.

can you take strollers in?

No. This is understandable, given that walkways would get chockablock with everyone stopping and staring at particular exhibits. But it’s still a bit inconvenient if you have a baby or toddler to hold or keep at arm’s length. There is a decent play area inside where little ones can get their wiggles out, though, with handy benches for parents to take a break.

is the aquarium easy to navigate?

Yes. You can get a map to follow, and the whole aquarium is set up very clearly for you to get around and see everything.

Is SEA LIFE involved in marine life conservation?

Yes. SEA LIFE hosts Carlsbad beach clean-ups, and their SEA LIFE Trust charity supports various campaigns that protect sea life and their habitats. Some of these conservation efforts are on display to learn more about at the aquarium.

Can I Visit SEA LIFE Aquarium with CityPASS or GO City San Diego Sightseeing Passes?

1-Day admission to LEGOLAND California theme park is included on select sightseeing passes like CityPASS San Diego and Go City San Diego. You can add SEA LIFE Aquarium by visiting customer service. There isn’t a price break, though; it’s basically just like buying a separate ticket, so you may as well do that! You can also add the water park as well to these sightseeing passes.

See also: Best Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

Maddy in London

Madeleine Collins is a British, San Diego-based writer and editor who has been published in Marie Claire, The Hollywood Reporter, Cosmopolitan, and Delicious magazine. She is also the founder and editor of Taking The Mystery Out Of 50, a health and wellness website for women in midlife.

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