Location: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey
Hours: Open daily except Christmas; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer and on holidays; 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. summer weekends; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter
Cost: Memberships available. Regular admission: $34.95 adults 18 and over; $31.95 seniors 65 and over and students 13-17 or with college identification; $21.95 children 3-12 and disabled; free for children under 3
More information: www.montereybayaquarium.org or (831) 648-4800

More than 35,000 animals and plants. More than a million gallons of water. Kelp forests. Jellyfish galleries. Penguins. Sea otters. The occasional great white shark. It all adds up to the No. 1 aquarium in the country, according to a travel survey, and, to one of the seven wonders of this county, according to a 2006 poll of Monterey County Herald readers.

In 1977, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was an idea, a proposal by four marine biologists at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. A year later, a larger group took up the cause, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The Packards put up the initial $55 million in construction costs and continued to be generous supporters.

The aquarium opened in 1984, fittingly on the site that once was home to Cannery Row's largest fish-packing plant, the Hovden Cannery.

After an initial splash, the aquarium has continued to grow, now covering 322,000 square feet, and to further its mission to inspire conservation of the oceans. Nearly two million people visit annually, to stick their hands in its touch tanks, watch the otters dive for food, become mesmerized by the jellyfish, and to learn more about the other-worldly Monterey Bay.