Location: La Jolla, California
Type of Venue: Off-site, aquarium and museum
Nearby Accommodations: Hotel La Jolla, Curio Collection by Hilton
There’s only one place in the world where visitors can peek beneath the tropical waters of Mexico, dip into the cool waters of the Pacific Northwest and get lost within the two-story Giant Kelp Forest without ever leaving Southern California. The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is the public exploration center for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, committed to sharing scientific knowledge and uncovering the magic and beauty that lie within the depths of the underwater world.
Although the Birch Aquarium operates out of one of California’s most stunning buildings, set atop a picturesque bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, the aquarium is not confined to its own walls. Through the aquarium’s partnership with Scripps, guests are given access to the cutting-edge research being done around the world by Scripps scientists to understand and protect the planet. The museum extends outdoors, offering refreshing coastal breezes and sunset views from the outdoor Preuss Tide Pool Plaza, which is home to numerous sea stars, sea anemones, lobsters and hermit crabs.
The facility features more than 60 diverse marine habitats, multiple conservation breeding programs, interactive exhibits and countless opportunities for one-on-one animal encounters. Meeting with the locals at the Birch Aquarium often means coming face-to-face with leopard sharks, seahorses, sea turtles, vibrant Garibaldi fish or the museum’s beloved giant black sea bass.
The Birch Aquarium operates as a nonprofit, with all ticket sales and facility rentals supporting the organization’s exhibit maintenance, animal care and educational programs. The entire aquarium can be rented for events and meetings, or groups are free to select specific meeting rooms and breakout spaces that best fit the size and type of their event. Six separate meeting spaces immerse meeting guests in the exciting underwater world throughout the Birch Aquarium, where meetings can range from elegant receptions or seated dinners to interactive events for the whole family. Turn the tides on your next meeting or event by booking this unique venue while supporting a good cause.
The entire Birch Aquarium facility can be rented out for up to 1,500 guests, or groups can select a space that fits their size and type of event. The central Galleria offers ocean views from within its 4,200-square-foot space, which accommodates 400 guests; an entrance courtyard can extend the gathering outdoors for an additional 300 guests. The Smargon Courtyard offers views that are legendary, but the Preuss Tide Pool Plaza offers the most stunning panoramic views of the ocean below; each of those spaces accommodates 300 guests. Groups of up to 250 guests can also reserve space in the Education Courtyard, and the Café Pavilion fits 1,000 guests.
All of the catering partners that work with the Birch Aquarium were chosen because of their commitment to the environment. Options range from passed hors d’oeuvres like stuffed mushrooms with walnuts and blue cheese to a plated affair such as saffron halibut with spring peas and leeks. Breakfast options and boxed lunches are available as well, and many events rave about the outstanding charcuterie and carving station setups during buffet-style meals. Alcohol is allowed, with bar service provided exclusively by The French Gourmet.
Meeting guests at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps are invited to tour the exhibits before, during or after events, where galleries allow visitors to come face-to-face with a rescued loggerhead sea turtle and enjoy hands-on museum experiences. Sunsets are free entertainment at the aquarium; the building’s perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean offers some of the finest views in the state. All tables, linen, chairs, flatware and other meeting necessities will be included in the catering proposal from one of the recommended caterers. Events at the facility not only help raise awareness for the Scripps Institute’s environmental work, but also fund the exhibits and education programs of this nonprofit organization.
Before and After
Custom tours and private experiences must be booked two to four weeks before events and include self-guided tours, guided behind-the-scenes tours and hands-on ocean discovery experiences during which guests can touch and learn more about tide pool inhabitants at discovery stations in a private classroom. The shark discovery experience is a favorite for groups, as it introduces guests to a live juvenile shark in a safe environment before they head out to Elasmo Beach to learn about current shark research. Evening events have the option for add-ons like outdoor tide-pool stations, high-quality photo booths, kelp tank dive shows, and scientific lectures and presentations.