Although I spent most of my days indoors this year, I was fortunate enough to have visited at least two places in my city that I’ve never been to before: Birch Aquarium & Japanese Friendship Garden and Museum.
Both visits were done in late 2020 and were in accordance with CDC guidelines of wearing a face mask and at least 6 feet social distancing.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps | San Diego, California
A BIT OF BIRCH AQUARIUM AT SCRIPPS BIOGRAPHY
“Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium features more than 60 habitats of fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and beyond. An oceanographic museum showcases research discoveries by Scripps Oceanography scientists on climate, earth, and ocean science and includes interactive elements.”
Source: Birch Aquarium at Scripps
I have always wanted to visit an aquarium, and so I was stoked to have finally been able to go to one, even if I wasn’t able to get the full experience I would’ve gotten pre-pandemic. I’d love to visit Birch again once the world heals and blossoms.
For now, my experience may differ from those who were able to visit before this year, and I’m not really sure what the process or the actual visits were like during those times.
When we visited back in September, we purchased our tickets online a couple of days in advance. During the online purchase, we had to choose the time that we’d like to visit and were provided e-tickets to show upon entering the aquarium.
On the day of our visit, there were quite a couple of families around, but I don’t think it was as crowded as it usually was. We had ample room to move around, and everyone was respecting each other’s space. Showing our tickets was simple, and we were able to enter rather quickly.
Of course, we were advised that not all attractions open, such as the gift shop, and some were limited, but that was to be expected and respected. Upon entering the actual building of the aquarium, a guide is at the post, letting visitors know how the walkthrough will go and announcing other reminders. Throughout the aquarium, markers were placed on the ground for visitors to follow the social distancing guidelines. It did keep everyone organized for the most part. The only downside to this was having to wait for those in front of us if they were taking too long in one area.
Other than the technicalities, I enjoyed our visit. It was the first time I got to see seahorses, jellyfish, Nemo’s cousin, eels, and a giant turtle up close and in person. I was also excited that I got to experience seeing the giant window aquarium that I’ve seen so many others stand in front of before. I would love to see similar sea creatures, and much more, out in the wild in the future.
Japanese Friendship Garden and Museum | Balboa Park, San Diego, California
A BIT OF JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP GARDEN AND MUSEUM BIOGRAPHY
The Japanese Friendship Garden and Museum is an “expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city, Yokohama, [and their mission is] to develop a traditional Japanese garden as a center to educate, engage, and inspire people of diverse backgrounds about Japanese culture and community legacy.”
The attraction first opened in 1991, and, as of 2015, is comprised of an Exhibit Hall, Activity Center, Koi Pond, 200 Cherry Tree Grove, large azalea, and a camellia garden. They also offer a variety of educational programs, exhibits, and festivals as well as “accredited horticultural classes to enhance and deepen visitor appreciation for Japanese culture.”
My friend and I never knew about the Japanese Friendship Garden and Museum. We happen to stumble upon it when we visited Balboa Park that same day and decided to spontaneously check it out.
There were fewer people here when we visited, but we were completely fine with that. I also liked that it was an outdoor experience, so there was more room for social distancing.
My favorite scenery from the garden was the Koi Pond. There were so many of them swimming around and their environment looked so beautiful and relaxing. We stayed there for around 5-10 minutes just admiring these gorgeous fishes.
Most places in the garden were picture worthy and I’d definitely want to go back to capture more once it is safe to do so.
I know it is challenging to stay indoors while taking care of our mental health. I feel extremely grateful that I was able to experience these two beautiful places safely because as much as I would have loved to go out more this year within my city, or even travel to other countries, I understand how important it is to do my part in helping the medical staff, our community, and most especially our loved ones in defeating this pandemic by staying at home.
I’ve visited only three places, aside from the post office, grocery marts, and laundry this year. My camera roll is practically empty, other than the multitude of embarrassing at-home photoshoots (selfies) that were taken throughout the year. The majority of the featured images on my posts were taken pre-pandemic, and I’m slowly running out of the good ones that actually reflect the prompts that I write. It. Sucks.
But, I’d rather go through this giant bump on the road for a while than catch something that might possibly not allow me to even write and post at all.
I do pray that the following months will get brighter for all of us and that everyone is still hanging on and pushing forward.
Wear a mask.
Have your hand sanitizer with you.