When it comes to pulling out all the stops and hosting an unforgettable event or meeting at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the sea is literally the limit. On an average day, this aquarium stands apart from the typical aquarium elsewhere in the world. Set along Cannery Row in Monterey, California, the building rests on the exact spot where the Hovden Cannery once operated its sardine canning business in the early 1900s. Once the cannery closed its doors, plans were set in motion to open a world-class aquarium to highlight the special marine environment that surrounded the site.
With full tanks and open doors, the aquarium welcomed exactly 10,681 guests the first day of operation on October 20, 1984. Since that day, the aquarium has set the aquatic scene for numerous group visits, events and meetings, even acting as the underwater stage for the 1986 movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”
“Inspiring conservation of the oceans has long been the mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium,” said Christine Russo-Robertson, national sales manager for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “Not only do event attendees get to experience the Monterey Bay aquarium in ways and at times few ever can, but the money that is spent on each evening event goes back into the research of the animals and the conservation of the oceans.”
The aquarium has 34 galleries and 200 exhibits featuring more than 35,000 creatures representing 550 species of marine animals. But it’s the aquarium’s nearly 30-year reputation of taking events to a new level that has made it a highly desired venue to host everything from intimate weddings and receptions to black-tie galas and corporate evening activities. Here are a few reasons this inspired venue is a world apart from average meeting space.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers two separate wings for after-hours use, providing great undersea options for groups ranging from 30 to 2,500 guests. Events can include anything from roaming dinners, during which diners can explore the exhibits during corporate celebrations, to formal seated dinners with exclusive entertainment options for black-tie gala events. Cindy’s Waterfront restaurant has a maximum capacity of up to 150 guests; the Ocean’s Edge Gallery can accommodate up to 500 guests; and the Open Sea can comfortably accommodate up to 350 guests. Planners can also book the entire aquarium to welcome a group of up to 2,500 guests.
Taste the Sea
The Monterey Bay Aquarium allows the use of outside vendors if arranged in advance, but with a celebrity chef on staff, most planners are eager to dive in to experience this Napa Valley master’s deep knowledge of gastronomy. Chef Cindy Pawlcyn was one of the first pioneers in farm-to-table dining, and her partnership with the aquarium allows for some decadent dining options for groups. Her cooking philosophy and celebrated cuisine showcase food in harmony with the environment for everything from seasonal dinner menus to strolling dinners with hors d’oeuvres and light fare. Dinner enhancements can include a slider bar, a raw bar, carving stations or just selecting the menu from Pawlcyn’s cookbook.
At the core of the aquarium is an underlying message of conservation. From menu to venue, every meeting or event is as sustainable as it is memorable. Each gathering is carefully crafted to have as light an environmental footprint as possible. The event staff emphasizes local and organic sources for ingredients, uses renewable resources and minimizes waste. All the seafood served at the aquarium meets all Seafood Watch program guidelines, ensuring it is caught or farmed sustainably. Even the menus use sustainable and organic producers in the local region when possible, in an effort to decrease fossil fuel use, support the local economy and keep the oceans and planet clean.
Though each event or meeting at the aquarium is an adventure in itself, what happens before and after the events is nothing short of an immersion into a different realm. Along with free general admission for guests, the event staff can arrange any number of fee-based tour opportunities, from the modest to the extravagant. Options include auditorium and feeding shows, private dive shows in the “Kelp Forest” exhibit, touch pool experiences, private animal encounters and behind-the-scenes tours. Also, for every 100 guests, the aquarium provides one aquarium guide for $75, along with a complimentary event ambassador to greet guests and keep things flowing throughout the night.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Type of Venue
30 to 2,500
InterContinental, The Clement Monterey