Consider the idea of checking out the Universtiy of California at San Diego!
This might seem like a strange, 'Must See Activity,' but one of the things many people like to do while traveling is to go where tourist usually don't. Also they like to meet people in the community. This is a great place for both requirements.
The campus is open and there is an interesting area near the bookstore, where anyone can purchase books, the typical university accessories, sweats, shorts, T-shirts, pens, folders, and much more.
Near the book store is a little cafe with outdoor seating, and just a bit further on, down the path is this, The Geisel Library. The most unusual building on the campus. The atmosphere here is very exciting and I enjoy coming just to have a coffee, but most of the time I use the library for research too.
Of course, I realize that most tourists have no interest in research, but a bit of time spent here can offer the opportunity of meeting locals as well as people from all parts of the world in a vibrant setting. Come for lunch and explore the Campus and expect that most students are willing to answer questions or just have a chat.
I think I'm spoiled because I've been to a really, really nice aquarium before, but my husband and I were disappointed with this one. The exhibits consisted of mainly Pacific coastal fish where other aquariums I've been to have had more variety in fish from all over the world. You won't find any other marine life here besides fish, so if you're bringing little ones hoping to see penguins or alligators (also seen at many other aquariums) they aren't here. There are no panoramic shark tanks, either. There were two shark exhibits: One was small and featured nurse sharks and the other was outdoors and a little better than the first, but not very impressive after being to other aquariums where they provide a 360-degree view of sharks via a tunnel through the tank.
They do have outdoor tide pools, but they aren't natural tide pools (The aquarium doesn't sit right on the shore). Overall, the strengths of this aquarium are its' smaller exhibits. There is also a learning area for children on the other side of the building where we saw a few of the most interesting exhibits - different varieties of fish that blended in with their surroundings.
I would go again...just because the aquarium is relatively new and maybe that is why the exhibits are so sorely lacking. Being they are owned by a University and not a private investor and probably need the funding, I'll gladly support them in continued efforts in improvement. If you're not local, though, and don't have money to blow on something not completely worthwhile, you might want to go to Sea World instead. The admission price is steeper, but from what I've heard and observed on their website, they have more of the aquatic experience you may be looking for. The admission at the time of this review was $11 for adults (discounts for seniors and college students), $7.50 for children to teens 3-17 years old, and under 2 free. If you want to go, be there early! The aquarium closes at 5:00 every day. They also have a simulator ride which is an additional $4.00. Parking is free.
Birch Aquarium At Scripps is a great place. Coming from Kansas I did not know a lot about the ocean. This is a great place to learn about the ocean and marine creatures. Some of the things I saw are in the travelogue.
There is a museum, book shop, tanks full of fish, a touch pool out side, and a great view of the LaJolla cove. It is appropriate that this marine research facility is so close to the cove where marine creatures are protected.
Visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps.
If you want to see a smaller scale aquarium (a lot smaller than Sea World) then the Birch Aquarium is a must see. Birch Aquarium has a Hall of Fishes with 33 tanks, and outdoor plaza with a demonstration tide pool and discovery station.
Stephen Birch Aquarium & Museum
A simply spectacular setting perched on a hilltop overlooking La Jolla, this is San Diego's new aquarium.
The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's most respected research organizations and has become the country's largest, private, non-profit organization.