pacific visions theater

Aquarium of the Pacific board vice president Doug Otto speaks in the new Honda Pacific Visions Theater.

It's going to be a special summer at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Pacific Visions, a 29,000-square-foot two-story expansion, opens to the public on Friday, May 24. Using state-of-the-art video and audio technology, much of the addition is interactive — change a wall by touching it, watch fish scurry away as you step into the virtual pool at the bottom of the virtual waterfall, make decisions about how you would handle global warming and see what happens next.

The centerpiece of the new Pacific Visions is a 300-seat theater with a 32-foot-tall screen that stretches 130 feet around the circular wall, capturing all of the audience's peripheral vision. During regular operation, the theater will show an 8-minute film with multi-sensory effects added.

"Pacific Visions is unlike any other aquarium expansion project," aquarium President and CEO Jerry Schubel said. "We are taking a unique, unconventional approach in creating a space where the focus is on the one species that is affecting all others on Earth — humans. Pacific Visions is a place where scientists, policymakers, and the public can come together to explore solutions to create a better future for all."

This experience is an unabashed call for action, but it also offers an ultimately optimistic view of humankind's future. After the film, visitors move into another gallery that allows them to explore some potential future paths.

Pacific Visions Coral

A portal in the orientation gallery of Pacific Visions offers a vision of a coral bed stretching to infinity.

Pacific Visions melds seamlessly with the main aquarium building, with the exit on the second floor looking into the Grand Hall, with the first of the three upstairs galleries just feet away. While more visitors are expected to come for the Pacific Visions experience, the added space is designed to alleviate crowding throughout the aquarium.

There are plenty of other special experiences at the Aquarium of the Pacific during the summer. There is a wide range of popular summer day camps for children ages 3 through 15:

Fish Fry Camp, three mornings for 3- and 4-year-olds and an adult; Sea Squirt Camp, three mornings for 5- and 6-year-olds; Ocean Adventure Camp, five days for 7- to 9-year-olds that includes behind-the-scenes activities; and Junior Biologist Camp, a more in-depth week for 10- to 12-year-olds. Camps run all summer. For information and prices, call 562-590-3100.

A special World Ocean Day Celebration takes place all day Saturday, June 8, with added exhibits, movies and shows exploring topics including ocean pollution and climate change. Tickets are $34.95 for adults, $31.95 for seniors and $24.95 for children 3-11. Members and children younger than 3 get in free.

The following weekend, a Father's Day BBQ takes over from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday. In addition to a barbecue lunch, there will be crafts for children. Space is limited so advance reservations are encouraged.  Cost is Adult $74/Member $59, Child $43/Member $28.

Certain parts of the aquarium offer a great view of Long Beach's fireworks for the Fourth of July, shot off near the Queen Mary. People can take advantage with a barbecue and late night admission to the aquarium exhibits. Again, reservations are recommended. Cost is Adult $79/Member $64, Child $43/Member $28; VIP — Adult $94/Member $79, Child $53/Member $38.

Pacific Visions interactive wall

A touchable interactive wall is part of the art gallery at Pacific Visions.

For a different experience, how about a yoga class in front of the 3-story tall Blue Cavern Exhibit in the Great Hall? Stephanie Serrano will an all-levels yoga class from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. on three Saturdays — July 20 and 27, and Aug. 3. Cost is $45 for the three-class series, $30 for aquarium members; or $20 for a single class ($15 for members). For information and tickets, call 562-590-3100.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas. Admission is $29.95 for adults, $26.95 for seniors 62 and older, and $17.95 for children 3-11. The aquarium's address is 100 Aquarium Way.

A full list of special events through the summer and beyond can be found at

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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