Parking: $5 per vehicle when kiosk is attended
$4 per trailered vehicle; Buses: $25/per bus.
Wednesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm (Mar-Oct); 10am - 4pm (Nov-Feb)
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's Day
1252 McKay Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
Toll Free: 888-EBPARKS (888-327-2757), option 3, extension 4520
Crab Cove Naturalist Programs
Join us for our monthly programs!
About the Visitor Center and Aquarium
On June 1, 2022 the Crab Cove Visitor Center was renamed in honor of former Park District Board Director Doug Siden.
The Visitor Center celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019. Since the Old Wharf Classroom opened in 1968, we have been connecting people with the marine and shoreline life, as well as Alameda history. The Visitor Center officially opened on July 4, 1980. You can see bay creatures in the 800-gallon aquarium system, use interactive stations for varying age groups to view microscopic animals, build a crab from the inside out, or get a lug worm's view of the mudflats. You'll see amazing depictions of the underwater world of San Francisco Bay. At the Visitor Center you can also plunge into San Francisco Bay without getting wet, or travel back in time to Alameda's colorful past.
These entertaining educational opportunities all have a serious purpose--to increase public understanding of the environmental importance of San Francisco Bay. There is strong emphasis on the interdependence of marine life and shore life and on the urgency of preserving the marine and estuarine environment.
Dedicated to interpreting relationships between people and the earth's marine environment, this center attracts visitors from all over the Bay Area.
A focal point for this educational effort is the Visitor Center's Old Wharf Classroom. There, in a picturesque setting, youngsters and adults alike can learn about such topics as shoreline wildlife and the food chains that sustain all living creatures.
The waterless plunge takes the form of a display case showing a cross-section of bay, with lifelike models of shoreline and underwater animals. Adjacent rooms contain aquariums and lots of interactive exhibits.
Education continues just outside the center, where the Crab Cove Marine Protected Area, at the foot of McKay Avenue, was designated the first California estuarine marine reserve. Its mud flat and rocky shore area are important wildlife habitats. Collecting or disturbing creatures in this protected area is forbidden, thus preserving a unique shoreline environment for study and education.
Tides change daily, so it is best to consult a tide chart to plan your visit for the appropriate date and time. You will be able to see most intertidal life at a tide that is 2.5 feet or lower. NOAA tide website (Alameda, CA - Station ID: 9414750)
Naturalist-guided programs for school groups and other organized groups are available Wednesday through Friday by advance reservation. See the Field Trips page for details or call Visitor Center at (510) 544-3187. Weekend programs provide exciting opportunities for you to learn about Bay ecology and the local area; go to our program guide web page to download our monthly program guide to see a list of upcoming activities.
- Doug Siden Visitor Center at Crab Cove and Aquarium - Full Color Brochure [PDF]
- Doug Siden Visitor Center at Crab Cove and Aquarium / Robert W. Crown State Marine Conservation Area - Interpretive Panels
KQED Quest, East Bay Regional Park District, and the Encyclopedia of Life Pilot Project: Improving Science Learning through media creation and global partnerships.
The Encyclopedia of Life, KQED-Quest, and the East Bay Regional Park District have partnered to pilot a collaborative program using media to enhance environmental education experiences for youth visiting Doug Siden Visitor Center at Crab Cove and Aquarium.
Three 5th Grade classes from Arroyo Seco Elementary School in Livermore, CA. visited the Visitor Center and Aquarium in the Spring 2010 to participate in the Bay Lab Field Trip Program. Each student was given the task of becoming a Citizen Scientist observing the diverse ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay.
In the Aquarium Study and Media Portion of their visit, students were asked to observe four species commonly found in the Bay and draw and record their observations. Additionally, students participated in Seine Netting in the subtidal zone, Quadrant Studies of Mudflats, Mud Investigation, and Salinity Studies.
Following the student's visit to the Visitor Center and Aquarium, staff from KQED-Quest and the Park District used the student's recorded observations and drawings to create short media pieces featuring their observations.
Up until the late 1930s, the area now occupied by the Visitor Center was part of a thriving resort community featuring bathing spas and an amusement park. Later, during and just after World War II, it was the site of the U.S. Maritime Service Officers School, a training base for Merchant Marine commanders. What is now the Visitor Center building was the base infirmary.
Our "Memory Lane" self-guided trail leads you from the time when only California Indians lived in the area through the Victorian era and military history. The tour is available on your mobile device or pick up a brochure in the Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center and Aquarium is a Certified Green Business. To learn about the program and its requirements, visit: https://www.acgov.org/sustain/what/greenbusiness/
The California native plant garden surrounding the Visitor Center and Aquarium is an Advanced Certified Wildlife Habitat. Learn more about the program and how to become certified.
The following facilities are accessible to wheelchair users: Neptune reservable picnic area, Crolls Garden reservable picnic area, Rocky Shoreline Tide Ramp, Visitor Center, and the bathhouse.
Wheelchair accessible parking, and paved trails are also available. Accessible restrooms and drinking fountains are temporarily unavailable.
Beach wheelchairs, intended to provide a means for wheelchair users to travel across the beach, are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. They require an assistant to push and are not intended to enter the water.
To arrange for use of a chair, call the Visitor Center at (510) 544-3187, or the Crown Beach park office at (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4522. Arrangements will be made to bring the chair out to the beach. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare the chair. Staff will give a brief orientation to the chair and arrange a time for the chair to be returned