San Diego is well known for its many world-class attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and LEGOLAND California - they attract thousands of tourists to America's Finest City each and every year.

While the major attractions are well worth visiting during your time in San Diego, make sure to carve out some time in your itinerary to visit a few of San Diego's hidden gems - especially the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista.

If you're a San Diego local or someone who traveled to the city before 2010, you may remember a place known as The Chula Vista Nature Center. In 2010, the beloved local spot was acquired by a non-profit and changed its name to the Living Coast Discovery Center. Animal and ocean enthusiasts will undoubtedly have an unforgettable experience while visiting the zoo/aquarium, complete with plenty of hands-on interactions.

If you're looking for a fun adventure during your time in San Diego, but don't want to stray too far from the city, head straight to Chula Vista for an interesting and educational day getting up close and personal with animals like sea turtles, sharks, bird species and so much more. The Living Coast Discovery Center offers the ideal opportunity for visitors to learn about science and gain important knowledge about some of

What is the Living Coast Discovery Center?

A unique zoo and aquarium located only 6 miles south of downtown San Diego, the Living Coast Discovery Center offers a fun educational experience for the whole family. It is a nonprofit zoo, and the aim is to provide benefits to the species of animals and educational resources to visitors. The discovery center has been a leader in coastal environmental education for more than 30 years. It was founded back in 1987 as the Chula Vista Nature Interpretive Center.

It is simultaneously a zoo, an aquarium, and an environmental education center whose mission is, "to inspire the community to connect with and care for our coastal environment." All of the programs are based on the conservation of San Diego's unique coastal ecosystems and the species that call them home. Instead of operating for profit, the discovery center pours funds back into education programs. Around 80,000 people visit the center each year.

Species are at the Living Coast Discovery Center

There are so many critters to delight and inspire visitors on their trip to the discovery center. It's the perfect outing for nature lovers and anyone interested in conservation efforts and marine biology.

Visit Turtle Lagoon to meet the ever-popular Emerald - who serves as a greeter and an introduction to the wild species of sea turtles that make their home in San Diego Bay. There are special presentations at the Turtle Lagoon every day at 1:00 pm.

At the aquarium, you'll get to see all sorts of aquatic creatures that play important roles within San Diego's waters. You'll also encounter trout, frogs, and other freshwater creatures as well as jellyfish, octopuses, and others who call the Pacific Ocean home. Afterward, check out the reptiles like snakes and iguanas.

The sharks and rays make for one of the coolest interactive experiences at Living Coast Discovery Center. You'll have the opportunity to get up close and personal, and even touch the rays and feel their soft skin in a small pool. Nearby, a 21,000-gallon aquarium is home to sharks, bat rays, and guitarfish, along with plenty of other species.

Once you've learned all about the creatures who dwell beneath the water, move on to learn about the majestic creatures who sore through San Diego's blue skies. Hawks, eagles, owls, ducks, and more serve as ambassadors to some of the region's native species at Raptor Row.

Things to do at the Living Coast Discovery Center

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the discovery center has a variety of events and workshops throughout the year. There are often composting workshops that are open to community members, as well as educational events. Consider taking a nature walk with an expert guide, where you'll stroll along the walking trails learning about native species and conservation.

Locals with little ones might consider signing them up for a multi-day wildlife camp. For more information, check out the events calendar on the Living Coast Discovery Center website.

Where is the Living Coast Discovery Center located?

Address: 1000 Gunpowder Point Dr, Chula Vista, CA 91910

The Living Coast Discovery Center is located in Chula Vista, California which is about 19 miles from downtown San Diego. The drive takes about 23 minutes if you're traveling by car, depending on traffic. The discovery center itself is located within the sensitive ecosystem of the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. It sits right next to the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

How much are the tickets?

The cost of tickets to visit the discovery center is:

Adults: $20

Children (3-12): $15

Children (0-2): Free

Adults with disabilities (13+): $16

Children with disabilities (3-12): $11

One attendant of a person with disabilities: Free

There is a free parking lot for anyone visiting the discovery center located on the corner of Bay Blvd, and E St. once you arrive in Chula Vista. After parking, a complimentary shuttle will pick you up to take you straight to the discovery center. There is also accessible parking for people with disabilities. Simply call 619-409-5900 to inquire.

What are the hours of operation?

The Living Coast Discovery Center is open Wednesday - Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the center is open, but is reserved for private bookings. If you're interested in booking a private tour on Monday or Tuesday, check out the Living Coast Discovery Center website.

Nearby Attractions in Chula Vista

Chula Vista, which translates to "beautiful view" is about halfway between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. There are plenty of other awesome attractions located throughout the metropolitan area that can easily be combined with a trip to the Living Coast Discovery Center for a full day of fun.

Other nearby attractions you might want to check out include:

Whether you're a long-time San Diego resident, or a tourist visiting for the first time, it's worth taking a day trip to visit the fascinating Living Coast Discovery Center along with Chula Vista's many other attractions.

Happy exploring!