Whenever we have conversations with people looking for suggestions on things to do in the Philadelphia area, the Adventure Aquarium comes up every single it. It's doesn't matter if you're looking for things to do with adults or kids, winter or summer, on a weekday or on a weekend - the Adventure Aquarium is always recommended as a place to visit. And there's a reason for that. Not only is so interesting and fun that people always remember it (even years and years later!), but it always seems to be the right answer about where to visit no matter what the question is.
Personally, we've been going to the Adventure Aquarium for years now. Counting back it seems that we average about one trip every month! Even for Daily Vacationer, it seems to be the perfect answer every time we're deciding where to go. The Aquarium is not a "huge" aquarium when compared with other ones throughout the nation, but it's also not a "small" one. It's the kind of size where you can easily "see" the whole thing in a couple of hours, but if you want to stop and read and experience everything, it can take a whole lot longer (like 12 trips per year apparently). It's also mostly an indoor venue, open year-round, and entirely handicapped and stroller accessible, so on those hot days in summer and cold days in winter, it's still a great place to go (and don't rule out spring and fall either - we like to duck outside on nice days and spend time with those penguins!)
The Adventure Aquarium is broken up into fours zones. Follow the map and the signs to get through the zones in a way that makes sense (and makes for less clogging up in the smaller areas of Zone A). If you are arriving in the earlier hours of the day, it makes sense to do Zone A first and Zone D last. Zone A gets the most crowded as the day goes on and some people never even find Zone D (it's across the café by the way - just look at your map!), plus it's much bigger, making it easier to get through at the more crowded times of day. If you arrive later in the day, work your way backwards (but still follow the walking directions on the map, for those of you who take things literally) starting with Zone D and waiting for Zone A to clear out a little toward the end of the Aquarium's day.
Zone A begins with the Irazu Falls. Having a irrational fear of big fish in smaller bodies of water - rivers, streams, public pools, our bath tub - these giant monsters floating by in that small space creeps us out every time. Judging by the comments from others (especially about that really long one!), we are not the only ones who get a closer look just cause it gives us the willies. Zone A continues with turtles, crocodiles, and a cool hallway with some pretty crazy sea creatures from seahorses and lobsters to eels and barracuda. You then come around the corner to discover the Ocean Realm. Set up like a theater, this giant window into one of the Aquarium's largest tanks looks like it just can't be real with giant sea turtles, massive stingrays, fascinating sharks, and countless fish going by. Pretty much every time we go, we hear a child point out the "giant tv" and then freak out in excitement when they discover that those are real animals going by. The Aquarium has daily live shows with volunteer divers interacting with and speaking to the audience from inside the tank (and if you're looking for Scuba Santa at Christmas time - this is where he's going to be).
Megalodon jaw and then a closer look at sharks in the Shark Lab. Stop and climb into the middle window in this space - it bubbles out right into the giant tank! Exit the Shark Lab for one more look at the Ocean Realm. The sea turtles seem to love hanging out right here (plus they are the only things moving slow enough for clear pictures), and the divers will also make a stop here after their show. Touch-A-Shark is also in Zone A, and really needs to visited by everyone. (Nothing quite says Aquarium experience like touching a real shark).
Camden Children' Garden).
Upstairs, Zone C has been remodeled in recent years as a fun and interactive space for kids. With something for everyone, we've seen kids of every age exploring this area from crawlers up to older school aged children. But just because it says "Kids Zone" doesn't mean adults should miss seeing Zone C. This is where they keep the "prettiest" fish - eye catching vibrant colors in just about every tank. Plus if you're looking for the amphibians (stop and read about the Suriname Toad - whoa!), the dwarf crocodile, want to touch the lobster, horseshoe crab, and starfish, and experience other things only in this area, you really won't want to dismiss it at the "kids area".
The Adventure Aquarium always has something fun and exciting going on. It's never the same experience twice. With new renovations constantly taking place, special traveling exhibits (likes last year's Frogs: Natures Messenger or the upcoming Dinosaurs of the Deep), new animals arriving, being born, and growing, and seasonal events (like the Rudolph-themed Christmas Celebration), you're going to want to come back again and again. Do yourself a favor and purchase a membership. Discounted parking, free admission, and complimentary 4D Experience tickets are just some of the benefits. The Aquarium is also available for event rentals from birthdays to corporate events.
So as an answer to: What is there to do in the Philly area? What should we do this weekend? Where should I bring my grandkids? Where should I bring my grandparents? What can we do now that it's so cold/hot out? What place is worth a membership? Where should we go today? - the Adventure Aquarium is always the right answer!
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