The restrooms are on the bottom floor. You pay and enter on the top floor. If you have drunk a large coffee during the last 100 miles before reaching Newport Aquarium, stop at a restroom in the shopping mall area. We were in such a hurry that we missed some of the upstairs exhibits and on the way out, we should have used the restroom again, but didn’t because we forgot it was on the lower level. Fortunately the children made it to ChickfilA.
We took tour number one led by Big Bro, which lasted about an hour and a half. The children hopped from exhibit to exhibit, missing some and spending lots of time at others. The smaller fish tanks didn’t catch their interest much. They moved in on the tide pool, the special Splash and Bubbles Show with its view into the big shark tank, the frog bog with a play structure and a live action Frogger game, the tunnels under the shark tank, the gi-normous, 14 foot, 800 pound alligator, the Shark Central petting area, and the shark bridge.
We didn’t even take a breather before we set off on tour number two led by Li’l Sis and me with Big Bro chomping on the bit, especially in the seahorse room! But this time we found the statues there. We visited all the special places they loved on the first tour and added the albino alligators, the penguin viewing room, the shark weight comparison chair, the gila monster, the sea turtle life cycle, the shark teeth touch table and the poisonous frogs. This tour also took an hour and a half.
By this time we were starving. I had forgotten the lunch we packed in the frig at home, so we went to Sharky’s Cafe and bought a pizza and Slushees which the children devoured like little sharks in a feeding frenzy. There wasn’t a place to eat a bag lunch anyway and we would have probably gone back to the car to eat and keep warm if I hadn’t left our meal behind. The pizza was delicious, but pricey. At least I had plenty of snacks which helped.
After eating, we had an hour and a half left for tour number three. Again we had to hit all those highlights from the first tour. But this time I knew the penguin feeding time was coming up. We arrived at it early, which worked really well since they started early. One of the staff alerted us to the possibility. Two speakers took turns informing us about what was happening. The children didn’t get bored at all and took in a lot of facts even though they are 3 and not quite 5. Very impressive. We slid past a few missed items such as the chambered nautilus, the sea horse statues, and real divers doing tank clean up and repairs in the shark tank. Wow! They waved at us. We found out that all the divers are unpaid volunteers.
Li’l Sis’s favorite part was the tunnel with sharks swimming overhead and all around us. She found the muted blue light and soft waves calming. Big Bro loved petting the sharks and the stinging sea anemone, horseshoe crab and starfish. Being a totally different personality, he found that exhilarating. I was most impressed by the Newport staff. They were well informed and engaging. They obviously loved their jobs–working with the animals and the public. I was also glad that evolution was not force fed at every exhibit. It was there, but not as overwhelming as in many science museums.
Since the grandchildren didn’t return with me, I couldn’t follow up with the books I have about ocean life. We’ll talk about it when they come back to visit and reminisce about our trip to the aquarium.
They both fell asleep for the last leg of the journey home. I suppose they dreamed of the ocean. I hope so anyway.