A visit to Pier 59’s Seattle Aquarium (206/386-4320, www.seattleaquarium.org, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, open limited hours Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, $15 adults, $10 ages 4–12, free ages 3 and under) will give you an appreciation for the incredible diversity of sealife swimming right below your feet.
The traditional part of the aquarium leads you past a "touch tank" filled with various tidepool creatures, and aquariums containing everything from an octopus to an electric eel. Displays tell about the creatures and how humans are affecting their survival. A tropical coral reef exhibit makes you want to hop on a plane for Fiji.
The real treat is outside, where you'll find large tanks containing harbor seals, sea otters, and northern fur seals, along with a salmon ladder and hatchery. Check the board for the next feeding time for the sea mammals and diving birds. Ducks and shorebirds occupy another noisy section, but the star feature is an underwater dome where you sit surrounded by fish from the Sound.
It’s as if the tables have been turned and the humans are in a giant fishbowl looking outward at salmon, skates, halibut, rockfish, and other creatures. The last entrance ticket is sold an hour before closing time.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition