Delight your inner oceanographer or marine biologist (you DID want to be one when you were a kid, didn't you?) with a visit to one of my favorite places in California, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Even people who feel they have seen it all may find something new to marvel at in the aquarium's darkened halls.
For me, the life-altering creature was the imagination-busting leafy seadragon - a relative of the seahorse with long undulating green leaves for limbs. I was mesmerized! Others may fall in love with the amazing array of jellyfish (who float around in one of the most beautifully lit displays I can think of - bring your painter friends to get lost in the shades of pink and blue here), or the leopard sharks who swim through the central 28-foot kelp forest tank. I am quite sure one of my aunties dreams of adopting one of the otters who swim around in the outdoor part of the aquarium. Bring your favorite child along too, as he or she will surely love getting to pet a starfish or a bat ray in the fascinating touch pools.
Do plan ahead if possible since the lines can be murder on weekends - if you buy your tickets on-line and print them out in advance, you can bypass the wait. It's also worth incorporating the aquarium into a long bike ride along the wonderful Monterey Bay Coastal Trail if you can.