I have never been a fan of a museum tour or an aquarium trip in my life before. But that may be because I haven't seen the best of both. I had a chance to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium few days ago and I think I loved it.
I have seen a wide variety of fishes, white sharks, jelly fish, penguins and may be a thousand more deep-sea species. I loved the way they have organized the exhibits and the way they took every effort to involve oneself personally. You can touch and feel some of the creatures, leaving a lasting impression, specifically for the children. There are cameras that you can control to explore some of the the exhibits more. You can zoom, rotate and immerse those cameras in water to get a better view of those exhibits. There is a water slide area and a section of one of the exhibits was organized to create a beach-like tidal waves for the birds in the exhibit.
To demonstrate how some fish hide from their predators, the same fish were put into two chambers with different soil/sand color and you can see how the same fish changed colors to match the background. This is just one example of how every effort was put in to easily learn and explore all the sea life. It's just not a place where everything is thrown into a big tank of water and you are asked to find out what each one is. Every exhibit is carefully designed to maximize the experience and that's what I liked the most about this aquarium.
If you're visiting California's central coast, I think you should not miss this place. It's a very fun and learning place for the kinds and adults alike. You can get the pricing, parking and visiting hours (including the best times to avoid crowd) from their website. You can purchase the tickets online and print them at home. As someone said, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water". Go and experience the magic.