FAQs and Rules

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

TICKETING 

I purchased timed tickets, if the aquarium is still closed on the date of my scheduled visit what are my options?

  • Reschedule your visit for a future date (watch for updates- we cannot reschedule until we know our opening date)
  • Donate your ticket purchase to the aquarium
  • Contact Visitor Services for other options at aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu or call 858-534-FISH

I’m a member and reserved my free timed tickets, how do I reschedule my visit?

If the aquarium is not open by the date of your visit your reservation will be automatically cancelled, no action is required. You’ll receive updates regarding our opening date as well as when online reservations will resume.

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, please purchase 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? 

During this initial opening phase, Birch Aquarium is limiting it’s allowable 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 30 minutes before your entry time. We may not be able to accommodate your party before your designated time. 

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 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 member can assist you to purchase tickets. However, we cannot guarantee that there will be availability at that time. 

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? 

As a result of limited daily capacity, there are a limited number of offers available at this time. Please see our Discounts and Offers page for current available promotions or to check if a promotion you hold is still valid. 

Can I buy tickets for a large group?

At this time, we are limiting capacity to keep our guests and staff safe and any group must be able to be spaced out through our timed-ticketing capacity.  We are not able to accommodate large groups at one time currently.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

What Measures is the aquarium taking to keep us safe?

The aquarium will open with new pathways and new procedures to keep guests — as well as staff and volunteers — safe and healthy. 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 handwashing and sanitizing stations throughout the aquarium; have upgraded the HVAC system in the Hall of Fishes, and are requiring face coverings for guests ages 2 and above. Guests will be asked to do a symptom check before entering the aquarium, and Birch Aquarium staff will also be completing daily symptom screenings and temperature checks, as well as frequent COVID-19 testing. 

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

In compliance with state requirements and county public health guidelines, all staff and guests — ages two and older — will be required to wear face coverings while inside the aquarium. Children under two years of age are not required to wear a face covering.

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

Persons with a medical or mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering shall be exempt from this requirement. Please call the aquarium ahead at 858-534-FISH or email us at aquariuminfo@ucsd.edu if you require a modification to the face covering order. Examples of reasonable modifications to the face covering rule include wearing a scarf, loose face covering, or full face shield.  

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

Our Visitor Services team has a limited number of paper face coverings on hand for these situations. Our Gift Shop also sells fun ocean-themed and Birch Aquarium face coverings for children and adults. 

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, and in a designated dining area.

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 inside and out 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 may 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. 

GENERAL VISIT INFORMATION 

Do you accept cash transactions?

We encourage cashless transactions for the safety of our staff and guests, 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 inside?

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

Is the Gift Shop open?

Yes. The Birch Aquarium Gift Shop is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Store capacity is limited to allow for a safe shopping experience. 

Are there any dining options available?

Yes, there are two eateries on site that are operated by The French Gourmet. The brand new Shark Café is located on the south side of the aquarium and boasts an authentic French-inspired menu, along with stunning ocean views. Shark Café’s exclusive menu features decadent pastries, scrumptious salads and sandwiches, and delicious desserts. Seating is limited and meals must be ordered online in advance (and can be ordered up to four days in advance). Splash! Café, which is located in front of the aquarium, offers an array of gourmet delights next to the life-sized gray whale fountain. Relax outdoors during your visit and choose from a variety of hot and cold beverages, sandwiches, snacks, and more. 

Can you order meals at Shark Café while you are visiting the aquarium?

Ordering in advance of your visit is strongly recommended. You can order on our dining page

Can I eat at Shark Café without an aquarium ticket?

No. Shark Café is located inside the aquarium gates and a valid ticket is required to pick up food. Splash Café, however, is located outside the gates and is open to the general public, no ticket required. 

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 encourage you to use designated seating 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.

EXHIBIT INFORMATION 

What experiences are currently NOT available? 

During this initial opening phase, activities where large numbers of people typically gather, such as dive shows and feedings, will be cancelled. High-touch exhibit elements such as the water tables, playground and touch screens have also been removed, though many exhibits have newly-integrated QR codes to allow guests to engage in new ways from the safety of their cell phones. 

The large seadragon display in Seadragons & Seahorses is also currently down for cleaning and will be back up and running as soon as possible.

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 as soon as 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 fan-favorites such as the Water Tables 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 high-touch, high-traffic areas. The playground area in the Smargon Courtyard will not be reopening. 

When are your feedings or the Kelp Forest Dive Show?

During this initial opening phase, activities where large numbers of people typically gather, such as dive shows and feedings, are cancelled. 

What about special events like Green Flash and Haunted Aquarium? 

The 2020 Green Flash Summer Concert season has been cancelled, though we hope to be able to bring it back next year. Celebrations such as Haunted Aquarium and Seas ‘n’ Greetings are being evaluated as they related to safety guidelines. Announcements regarding those events will be made closer to typical event dates.

Can I still touch animals?

For your safety and the safety of our animals, we're keeping hands out of the water for now.  

Where are the seadragons?

Our Weedy Seadragons are living behind the scenes while we give their habitat a deep cleaning. We had hoped to have them back on display in time for our re-opening, but you can’t rush chemistry! This is part of their annual care routine and we plan to have them back on display as soon as possible. 

Will you be offering behind the scenes tours?

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

MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION 

Can I renew my membership during my visit? 

Yes, please go to Visitor Services to renew your membership anytime during your visit. You can also renew your membership online?

Am I eligible for a membership extension?

We are offering extensions to all memberships that were affected by our closure. This extension will be added to current active memberships as well as memberships that expired in March 2020 to the end of June 2020. Extensions will not apply to new membership purchases made after July 1, 2020.

How do I know my membership expiration date? 

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

If I don’t want to extend my membership, can I donate the cost back to the aquarium? 

Several members have asked if they can donate their 4 months back and support Birch Aquarium. If you would like to do so please fill out the form here to keep your original expiration date. 

OTHER QUESTIONS

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, and New Year’s Day.

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.

Parking:

  • 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. 

Accessibility 

  • 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. You can also use our daily schedule to learn more about what is happening on the day of your visit. 

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 inside 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.

UC MAKES NO WARRANTY WITH RESPECT TO THE SAFETY OF THE PREMISES WITH REGARD TO ANY INFECTIOUS DISEASE.