FAQs and Rules

UPDATED November 10, 2020 

Beginning Saturday, November 14, Birch Aquarium will be operating outdoors-only in accordance with state and county COVID-19 regulations.

Since things are changing rapidly, we suggest that you follow along on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for the latest updates and sign up for our emails in the footer at the bottom of this page to stay in the loop with updates and announcements. 

Please reach out to our Visitor Services team at aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu or 858-534-FISH if you are not able to find the answer to your question below. 


Do I need to buy my tickets in advance for a specific time and date?

Yes. Tickets must be reserved for a specific date and entry time and in advance — even for members — on our website here. There will be no in-person ticket sales. Tickets can be purchased on mobile devices, but to ensure a spot is available, we recommend reserving timed tickets in advance.

What is a timed ticket?

In order to facilitate social distancing, Birch Aquarium is limiting daily capacity and requiring all guests, including members, to reserve timed tickets before their visit.  Your timed ticket will have a specific entry time. Please note you will not be admitted before your scheduled entry time.

Why do members need to reserve timed tickets? 

Following state and local guidelines, the aquarium is currently limiting its daily capacity.  As a result of limited daily capacity, all guests, including members, need to reserve a time to ensure access to the aquarium.  So even though members are able to visit as often as they like, they must secure a specific date and entry time and in advance.

What is the capacity? 

Birch Aquarium is limiting its guests to about 21 percent of average capacity, and as state and local restrictions lift, this capacity will increase. 

What if I arrive early? 

We suggest that you proceed to the entrance no more than 15 minutes before your entry time. We may not be able to accommodate your party before your designated time. If you do arrive early, feel free to grab a coffee or pastry — or a delicious lunch — at Splash! Café, which is located right outside the gates. 

What if I arrive after the entry time on my timed ticket?

If you arrive more than 15 minutes after your scheduled entry time you may be asked to wait to enter.  Depending on your arrival time and capacity levels, you may be rebooked to a later entry time or another day.

If I arrive more than 15 minutes late and cannot enter immediately, can I get a refund?

We will do our best to accommodate late arrivals and appreciate your cooperation with our new health and safety protocols. Refunds will not be provided for late arrivals, but reservations may be rebooked to another time or date based on availability.

Can I buy tickets on site? 

We highly recommend buying your timed-tickets in advance. If you arrive without pre-purchasing tickets, you can buy tickets from your mobile device. If you are not able to purchase tickets using a mobile device, our staff can assist you to purchase tickets, however, we cannot guarantee availability. 

Is there a time limit once I enter the aquarium?

No. After arriving at your designated entry time, you are welcome to stay and explore until we close.

I have a ticket purchased or given to me before the closure. What do I do with my ticket?

Please contact us to exchange your ticket for a new timed-entry ticket. Email aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu or call 858-534-FISH.

I have a VIP ticket with a sea turtle on it, can I still use this ticket? 

Yes, if it expires in December 2020. Please contact us to exchange this VIP ticket for a new timed-entry ticket. Email aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu or call 858-534-FISH.

Do you offer discounts? 

While the aquarium is operating outdoors-only, all tickets are automatically discounted by $3. Please see our Discounts and Offers page for additional promotions, or to see if a promotion you hold is still valid. 

What if I have a Go San Diego Card? 

Birch Aquarium is currently unavailable as a Go Card destination. 

Can I buy tickets for a large group?

At this time, we are limiting capacity to keep our guests and staff safe.  Large groups will be broken into smaller groups with staggered entry times based our timed-ticketing capacity. 


What measures is the aquarium taking to keep us safe?

  • The aquarium is reopening with new pathways and new procedures to keep guests — as well as staff and volunteers — safe and healthy.
  • Face coverings are required for all guests ages 2 and above and must cover both nose and mouth at all times. 
  • Guests will be asked to do a symptom check before entering the aquarium
  • Birch Aquarium staff will also be completing daily symptom screenings, as well as frequent COVID-19 testing. 
  • Guest capacity will be limited during this initial phase, and a new one-way pathway has been created to encourage social distancing. 
  •  We have increased the number of hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the aquarium
  • The HVAC system has been upgraded throughout the the interior sections of the aquarium. 

Why do I have to wear a face covering during my visit?

In compliance with UC San Diego policy as well as state requirements, all staff and guests — ages two and older — will be required to wear face coverings while at the aquarium (both inside and out). Children under two years of age are not required to wear a face covering. Face coverings must cover both the nose and mouth at all times. 

What if I have a medical or mental health condition, or disability that prevents me from wearing a face covering?

Please contact Visitor Services before you visit at aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu or 858-534-FISH if you require a modification to the face covering order. 

What if I forget my face covering, or my face covering breaks? 

Our Visitor Services team has a limited number of disposable face coverings on hand for these situations. Our Gift Shop also sells fun ocean-themed and Birch Aquarium face coverings for children and adults (please note: the Gift Shop will be closed until October 1). 

When am I allowed to take my face covering off?

Face coverings are required at all times, except for while you are eating or drinking in designated dining areas.

What does a symptom check before entering entail for guests? 

Before you enter, you’ll be asked if you are exhibiting any of the following 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Temperature checks may be required

Guests experiencing any of the above symptoms may not visit Birch Aquarium.

What is the social distancing requirement? 

We ask that groups remain six feet apart from each other (or roughly the length of a Leopard Shark). Floor graphics have been added to help you remember. 

How is the aquarium enforcing the guest social distancing and face covering requirements? 

Birch Aquarium staff will be available to answer questions and remind guests of our new safety policies when necessary. Guests who do not comply with our policies will be asked to leave.

Will you have hand sanitizer available? 

In addition to the hand sanitizing stations the aquarium already had in place, several new hand washing and sanitizing stations have also been added throughout the aquarium. 

What are you doing to circulate air? Will you keep the doors open for fresh air to go in and not recirculate the virus? 

We have upgraded the HVAC system throughout the entire building to better filter the air. In The Hall of Fishes — the most congested area — we have also added Bipolar Ionization technology, which inactivates viruses including COVID-19 by 99.4 percent. Doors on both sides of the Galleria will also be propped open to keep air flowing.

How long will these protocols be in place?

We will continue to follow state and local regulations, as well as those set forth by the university, and will loosen restrictions as soon as it is considered safe to do so. The situation is constantly changing, so we recommend checking the website immediately before your visit for the latest information. 


Do you accept cash transactions?

For the safety of our staff and guests, we encourage electronic or credit card payment transactions, but will accept cash if no other alternative is available. 

Can I leave the aquarium and come back in after exiting?

At this time, there is no re-entry after exiting the aquarium.

If the aquarium has a one way path, can I go around a second time? 

Yes, you may enjoy exploring the aquarium as long as you like. We ask that you ‘go with the flow’ and maintain social distancing.

Can we bring a stroller?

Strollers are welcome, but you must keep them with you at all times. 

Is the Gift Shop open?

Yes. The Gift Shop is open 9:30 to 5 p.m. daily with a limited capacity. 

Are there any dining options available?

Yes. Splash! Café, which is located in front of the aquarium, offers an array of gourmet delights including a variety of hot and cold beverages, sandwiches, snacks, and more. Since there is currently no re-entry into the aquarium, we recommend that you plan to enjoy the café before or after your visit. You may also purchase food before heading inside, and eat in one of the dedicated areas. 

Can I bring food into the aquarium?

Yes, food purchased from Splash Café before entering the aquarium, or brought from home may be brought into the aquarium. We require you to eat in one of several dedicated eating areas and to practice social distancing while enjoying your food. 

Can I rent a wheelchair?

No, wheelchairs are not currently available to rent. 

Is there a private nursing room available? 

We do not have private nursing facilities. Please go to Visitor Services and we can recommend a quiet, less crowded area for nursing or other options.


What experiences are currently NOT available? 

All indoor areas — including the Hall of Fishes and Seadragons & Seahorses are temporarily closed due to the latest COVID-19 restrictions for San Diego County. 

When will the exhibits that are closed re-open? 

We will continue to follow state and local regulations, as well as those set forth by the university, and will loosen restrictions when it is considered safe to do so. 

Are any of these closures permanent? 

We love our exhibits as much as you do and are anxious to be able to open everything back up, and to be able to once again offer feedings and dive shows. We will continue to follow state and local regulations, as well as those set forth by the university, to make decisions about reopening our indoor areas, as well as high-touch, high-traffic areas. 

The playground area and the Water Tables in Smargon Courtyard have been permanently closed. 

When are your feedings or the Kelp Forest Dive Show?

Activities where large numbers of people typically gather, such as dive shows and feedings, are cancelled until further notice. 

What about special events like Green Flash and Eggstravaganza? 

We will continue to follow state and local guidelines relating to events onsite.  Announcements regarding events such as the Green Flash Summer Concert series and Eggstravaganza will be made closer to typical event dates.

Can I still touch animals?

Yes, there are several touch opportunities on Tide Pool Plaza, as well as new touch experiences on Smargon Courtyard. Please be sure to wear your mask and follow social distancing guidelines.  

Will you be offering behind the scenes tours?

At this time, behind the scenes tours are not currently available.


Was my membership extended to account for the closure? 

Yes. All memberships and guest passes active at the time of the closure were extended by four months. 

How do I know my membership expiration date? 

Your membership expiration date is on your card. If you meet the criteria for an extension, your membership was automatically extended by four months. Your current membership card is still valid for entry.

If you would like an updated card, stop by Visitor Services on your next visit, or e-mail aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu


What are your hours of operation? Are you open on holidays? 

Birch Aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Admission ticket sales end at 4:30 p.m. and the aquarium closes at 5 p.m. 
Birch Aquarium is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Closing early New Years Eve. 

Transportation and Parking

Birch Aquarium is located at 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

Public Transportation options to Birch Aquarium:

  • Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Bus Route 30 stops at La Jolla Shores Drive & Discovery Way. Walk 100 feet east to Expedition Way. Walk downhill 0.3 miles to the entrance.
  • North County Transit District (NCTD) Bus Route 101 stops at Expedition Way. Walk down Expedition Way to the aquarium (15 minutes). 
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Shuttle: The SIO Shuttle runs Monday - Friday and stops at areas between UC San Diego campus and SIO, excluding university holidays.


  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps offers 3-hour free parking.
  • Designated handicapped parking stalls are located next to the traffic circle at the front of the aquarium.
  • Additional 3-hour parking is available on Expedition Way from June 1 through September 15. 
  • Due to space restrictions, parking for buses and large vehicles, such as RVs or trailers is not allowed in the parking lot. There is public parking along La Jolla Shores Drive that may accommodate large vehicles. 


  • Please visit our accessibility page for detailed information. 
  • Due to new health and safety protocols, wheelchairs are not available to borrow at this time. Learn more on our accessibility page. 
  • Drop off is available in the traffic circle at the front of the aquarium.
  • Accessible parking is located between the traffic circle and the main parking lot. 

How long should I plan to visit Birch Aquarium? 

Most guests find that two hours is the right amount of time to visit Birch Aquarium at Scripps. 

Guest Code of Conduct

Guests are expected to follow our Guest Code of Conduct to ensure that everyone has a pleasant visit. 

View Guest Code of Conduct

Is there a place to store my belongings? 

Birch Aquarium at Scripps does not provide storage for personal belongings. 

No Weapons Policy

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is part of the University of California San Diego and adheres to University of California Weapons Policy. Birch Aquarium strictly enforces a no weapons of any kind policy to ensure an enjoyable experience for all guests and to reduce potential risks to the safety of our guests and staff. Weapons include — but are not limited to — firearms (including toys and replicas), chemical or electronic “non-lethal” devices or sprays (such as tasers or pepper sprays), impact weapons, knives or other sharp instruments. Visitors are prohibited from carrying firearms — concealed or not, regardless of whether the owner holds a permit. 

Photography and video usage

Guests are encouraged to take photos and video for personal use. Please share through social media with #BirchAquarium.

  • Flash photography is allowed inside the aquarium, except where noted.
  • No tripods.
  • Commercial photography is allowed only with prior written permission from the Marketing Department.
  • Photos taken at Birch Aquarium may not be used as stock photos, royalty free or otherwise. 

Please note that guests may be recorded by aquarium staff or media for marketing and educational purposes. Entry into the aquarium grants permission for use of these images. 

Filming with Drones & Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

The use of all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) on UC San Diego owned property, including Birch Aquarium and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and/or for official UC San Diego business must be reviewed and approved by the Department of Environment Health &Safety (EH&S) prior to flight. All drone/UAS use must also be approved by Birch Aquarium's Marketing Department. Learn more. 

Smoking policy

For the health and safety of our guests and animals, smoking, including e-cigarettes, is not allowed anywhere on Birch Aquarium at Scripps property, including outdoor exhibits, sidewalks, Splash Café, and the parking lot. 

Can I bring my pet inside? 

Only trained service animals are permitted at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. For the health and safety of your pets, we request they not be left in cars in our parking lot. If a pet is found in a car, they may be removed and held by University of California San Diego police. 

Can I bring food and drinks into the aquarium? 

Food and beverages are permitted inside Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Guests are welcome to bring a picnic lunch or purchase coffee, snacks, or a delicious meal from Splash Café by The French Gourmet. 

Is there a dress code? 

There is no formal dress code, but guests are required to wear clothes and shoes for their safety.

Do you offer Community Donations?

You can learn more on our community donation page

Can I interview a scientist or a member of your staff? 

Birch Aquarium offers several events throughout the year where guests can meet and and talk with Scripps Institution of Oceanography Scientists including monthly SEA Days and annual Ocean STEM Careers Night. You can also email Scripps Institution of Oceanography questions at Scripps Oceanography Voyager. Birch Aquarium scientists and staff are unable to participate in one-on-one interviews or answer interview questions via phone or email. 

What is your mailing address? 

Birch Aquarium has a different mailing address from our physical address. All mail being sent to Birch Aquarium should be sent to: 

Birch Aquarium at Scripps 
9500 Gilman Drive #0207
La Jolla, CA 92093

Waiver of Claims, Limitation of Liability

Participant waives the right to any claim against UC related to or arising from the acquisition of or exposure to any infectious disease. Neither UC, nor any of its campuses or medical centers, nor any of its employees or agents shall be liable for any claims of loss, expense, or damage to participant relating to the acquisition of or exposure to any infectious disease.