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  • Writer's pictureTravis J. Vanden Heuvel

Festival of Whales

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

The Ocean Institute participates in the City of Dana Point’s annual Festival of Whales celebration the weekends of March 4 & 5 and 11 & 12, 2017, celebrating the 46th anniversary. The event celebrates the annual migration of the gray whales off of their coast.

During the festival weekends, the Ocean Institute hosts a hands-on journey into the mysterious and captivating world of whales in our Ocean Education Center, allowing visitors to explore a variety of fascinating phenomena unique to these magnificent animals. Visitors follow the migration of the gray whales, starting in Baja, moving on to the California coast, and ending up in Alaska.

Along the way there are opportunities to investigate how whales communicate and eat, to see how changes to the marine environment affects them, and to learn about ongoing research.

Additional activities include hands-on dissections, animal feedings, driving a remotely operated vehicle, and touch tanks with sea stars and other tide pool animals. Visitors may also explore the underwater world and participate in pop-up experiments in our Headlands and Beyond exhibit.

Cost is $10 adults (age 13-64), $7.50 seniors (65+) & youth (age 2-12); Ocean Institute members free.

Cruises and sails are an additional cost.

Cruise opportunities offered in conjunction with the Institute’s participation in the City of Dana Point’s Festival of Whales celebration include:

Whale’s Tale Sailing Adventure – The Ocean Institute is offering two Whale’s Tale Sailing Adventures onboard its tall ship Spirit of Dana Point. From “Devil Fish” to “Friendliest Whale,” explore how time and discovery has shaped man’s perception of the magnificent gray whale. Participants will enjoy an exciting tall ship sail and gain new insight on man’s evolving relationship with the ocean and the whales that travel our California coastline.

Cost is $70 adults (18-54), $60 senior (55+) and active duty military with ID, and $50 children (4-17) and includes admission to the Ocean Institute. (Members receive a 10% discount.)

Whale Watching Cruises – The Ocean Institute will present a series of Gray Whale Adventure Cruises on its 70-foot R/V Sea Explorer. The cruises will give participants an opportunity to see fish, dolphins, sea lions and other wildlife along the Southern California coastline.

Prices are $45 for adult (18-54), $35 senior (55+) and active duty military with ID, and $25 for children (age 4-17). Ocean Institute members receive a 10% discount, and groups of four or more receive a 25% discount.

Cruise information may be obtained by calling the Ocean Institute at (949) 496-2274. Register online at

For complete festival information throughout the city, visit

The Ocean Institute is an ocean education center that offers in-depth Marine Science, Maritime History and Outdoor Education programs. The facility includes state-of-the-art teaching labs, the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center, two historic tallships, and an oceanographic research vessel. Immersion-based field trips range from one-hour science labs to multi-day programs at sea. All programs are designed to maximize immersion, spark curiosity, and inspire a deep commitment to learning. Ocean-based exhibits are open to the public seven days a week. Visitors can explore the underwater world while participating in fun activities designed to indulge ocean curiosity. Throughout the year, the Ocean Institute also offers organized family programs, summer camps, cruises, tallship sails, and other unique events including our annual Toshiba Tall Ships Festival and the Festival of Whales.

Address: 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, CA 92629 Website: Phone: (949) 496-2274

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