I love aquariums. I feel as though they transport you to an entirely different world. Exotic animals, beautiful colors….I remember going as a child and being mesmerized. Luckily for us North Cackalacky residents, we have not 1 but 3 aquariums in our state!
And when it comes to our NC Aquariums, between all of us bloggers & correspondents at MiCHill, we have been to 2 out of the 3. Not a-one of us has been to the Roanoke Island Aquarium! What is that?! Road Trip 2011 or Bust.
Pine Knoll Shores:
I visited this aquarium years ago, pre-Baby, and had a fantastic time. This aquarium is located near Atlantic Beach. Both DH and I thought that the Aquarium was very friendly touring, but also full of things to look at. There are over 40 exhibits here & five galleries. It kept us entertained.
The Aquarium is all one level. It is part of the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area, which includes 2 nature trails. One is part of the Aquarium admission and easily accessible with a stroller. Sarah C. thinks the other trail is more like a “kid on the back” kind of hike.
Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium does have a touch tank.
DH and I went on a rainy day at the beach in the summer. So it was busy. But the aquarium seemed capable of handling it.
Sarah C. actually visited the beach during the off-season with D. And it turns out that off-season means the return of Toddler Time on Wednesday mornings at Pine Knoll Shores. The program starts at 10am and is free with admission to the aquarium. D was 14 months when Sarah C. visited, but that was actually a little young so you might want to hold this for older kids. The program began with each child getting a name badge (a drawing of a turtle with a line beneath to write their name and a small piece of yarn to hang it around their neck) to color. A staff member then read an aquarium related story to the group (ours was about a turtle, seeing a theme?) and then the group participated in a craft project. It looked like a lot of fun but D was off to the touch tanks to check out the horseshoe crabs and starfish before the story ended. If this sounds like fun for your family, be sure to call ahead and verify the day/time before you head out and note is only offered during the off-season.
There is a Dairy Queen at the aquarium (yay!).
The Fort Fisher Aquarium is very close to Wilmington. During a summer beach vacation over in Ocean Isle, a bunch of us took the kids here (via ferry from Southport, which makes a nice little additional adventure) as a break from the sand and sun.
Honestly, we were a little surprised at how small this aquarium felt to us adults, but it clearly was huge to the toddlers we had in tow. The Fort Fisher Aquarium focuses on Cape Fear waters and marine life.
There was a kids-time here as well. Two divers got into the very large shark tank (really, this shark tank is the center and piece-de-resistance of the aquarium), were mic’ed, and answered kids’ questions. Same as Sarah C. experienced, though, this seems most suited for older children. Our toddlers were much more interested in the nearby steps.
There was a touch tank, which was a joy.
It didn’t take us too long to get through this aquarium. Due to it’s small size it makes for easy maneuvering, but it certainly isn’t going to be a full day experience. The kids seemed to enjoy the first exhibit, the conservatory, the most. Here were large alligators, frogs, snakes, and turtles. The Fort Fisher Aquarium also houses a very rare albino alligator, named Luna.
Very few concessions here, so I wouldn’t plan on eating at this aquarium. They offer an outdoor stand that sells items such as hotdogs and chips, but not much selection & only open on the weekends during the off-season. Luckily Wilmington is nearby and Southport is just a ferry ride.
All aquariums are free on Veteran’s Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Admission prices are $8 for adults, $6 for kids ages 3 -12, and free for kids 2 & under. If you have a membership to the NC Zoo, you can use it to visit the aquariums as well and vice versa.
Either way, the aquariums are worth a visit. I can’t wait to finish out the trifecta and head to Roanoke Island soon.
374 Airport Road
Manteo, NC, 27954
1 Roosevelt Blvd.
Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512
Toll Free: 1-866-294-3477
Fall-Winter 2010-2011 Free Programs:
900 Loggerhead Road
Kure Beach, NC, 28449
Toll Free: 1-866-301-3476 Programs: http://www.ncaquariums.com/