After more than a year under pandemic-related closures, a zoo and aquarium in Chula Vista will reopen to visitors this weekend – and the critters are ready.
The Living Coast Discovery Center – a nonprofit zoo/aquarium on San Diego Bay – will reopen on Saturday, with COVID-19 safety modifications, of course. It’s been closed to visitors since March 2020.
With California’s coronavirus restrictions loosening and San Diego County in the orange tier under the state’s color-coded plan for safely reopening counties, museums/zoos/aquariums like Living Coast are allowed indoor operations at 50% capacity.
For now, the Living Coast Discovery Center will be open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays only, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For the weekend visits, reservations are not necessary, the center said. Admission costs $16 for visitors age 13+; kids ages 3 to 12 get in for $11, and kids age 2 and younger get in free. You can get more information on tickets here.
Private, 2-hour tours for small groups can be booked ahead of time Monday through Friday. Those private tours cost $250 for nonmembers ($150 for members) and include admission for up to 10 people. The small groups get a tour around Living Coast guided by an animal ambassador that includes up-close encounters with wildlife, such as options to feed a sea turtle or bat ray.
As for those pandemic-era modifications, the center said face masks are required for all visitors over 2 years old. Social distancing will be enforced, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols. There are hand-washing stations for visitors to use and reduced-contact payment options.
The center’s free shuttles that operate out of the parking lot off E Street will be running, but with limited capacity to allow for social distancing, so guests should be prepared to wait a little bit to board those shuttles. The ride itself is only about 5 minutes.
Living Coast Discovery Center executive director Ben Vallejos said the attraction is more than ready to reopen. For a while there during the long closure, the future of Living Coast looked uncertain.
“This extended closure has been challenging for us, and we would not be here without the incredible support and dedication of our donors, fans, members, volunteers and staff,” Vallejos said.
The Living Coast Discovery Center is located on Gunpowder Point Drive in Chula Vista, within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Sweetwater Marsh. The center focuses on wildlife found along our coast, from sea turtles and leopard sharks to reptiles and raptors like hawks, falcons, eagles and owls.