With the kids off from school this week, I used the last bit of my vacation time to plan a few different activities. Today, as a surprise to them, we set off to visit Adventure Aquarium, otherwise known as New Jersey’s State Aquarium. Given the kids’ unabashed love for all things animal, and the fact that we had never been before, I knew they’d be happy with the choice.
The only drawback to visiting this particular aquarium is that it’s about two hours away. These are those special moments when I sorely miss having another driver in the car with me.
And I don’t mean the backseat kind.
The Aquarium is very easy to find, and super close to CocoKey. I had originally wanted to add the aquarium to our weekend when we were down that way back in October, but since we also went to the Philadelphia Zoo, there was a limit to how much I could feasibly squeeze into an overnight.
There is a dedicated parking lot for this aquarium, and it’s $10 (cash and credit cards accepted as payment when you exit). There are some other lots nearby, but I’m not sure if they are designated for other uses. And, to be quite honest, Camden is not necessarily a town where you want to be wandering around unnecessarily.
You can buy tickets online, and I would suggest it. It saves you waiting in line (outside) to buy your tickets. By having them in hand, you can head straight inside, get your tickets scanned, and get started right away.
The aquarium is divided into four different zones (A, B, C, and D), which, in theory, is good. Especially if you start with Zone A. We somehow started with Zone D, which conveniently leads you to the gift shop, restaurant, and exit once you’re finished with it, so we had to do a bit of backtracking.
Because we have sort of been making the rounds of aquariums and zoos this year, we tend to look for what sets this one apart from the others we have seen.
The Adventure Aquarium had two hippopotamuses, which was really cool. They were surrounded by tons of little fish pecking at them, and one of the other aquarium guests said that the fish were cleaning the hippos by eating off the outer layer of skin and dirt.
But equally fascinating to watch.
But mostly ick.
This aquarium also had an awesome shark tunnel that you could walk through … the sharks swam over you and all around.
Which prompted a few questions from Madeline on if the glass was strong enough to prevent the sharks from eating it.
She fears very little, but has a ton of respect for what sharks are capable of.
This aquarium also had this very fun shark cage simulator. You walk into this little room and the attendant draws a curtain to close it off. There is a huge screen that shows a shark coming at you, and as it bangs towards the screen, the floor shakes, simulating you moving on the water.
We haven’t seen anything like that anywhere else and although it was just a few minutes in duration, it was a highlight.
The aquarium also had this scale that you could step on and it would tell you your weight, and how it corresponds to the weight of sea animals. The kids were both in the same range as a juvenile shark ray.
The decor in the aquarium is pretty fun – there is an area that is very beachy (as shown pictured above), that was complete with the sounds of the waves, and there is another area that was decorated to look like a ship wreck.
As I mentioned, there is a food court with plenty of seating, so if you need a quick snack or light lunch, you’re all set. The aquarium is currently decorated for the holidays, and there were plenty of photo opps throughout, and even a random staffer here and there offering to take pictures. That being said, they definitely had less available staffers to assist guests than the Norwalk or Jenkinson’s aquariums did, and two that we asked questions of didn’t have the answers (and they were simple “where is Zone B” questions). There were a bunch of staffers in the beginning lobby area, but having more spread out to assist throughout the aquarium would have been helpful.
In addition to the penguin that you could get up close and personal with, you could also pet the string rays (and we saw our first ever leopoard-spotted one there), make reservations to go diving with the sharks, and watch a show in their theater with Scuba Santa. The bathrooms were large and well maintained, and there are elevators throughout the building to help those with small children or who have a harder time getting around. The gift shop had a reasonable assortment of souvenirs, although Nick mentioned that he thought they were overpriced. And when a ten-year-old notices, that should tell you something. I usually give the kids a $10 budget at a gift shop, and they definitely had a hard time with that one here. Most of the stuffed animals were in the $17-25 range, which I think is a tad excessive. The postcards, on the other hand, which is my favorite souvenir next to pressed pennies, were a bargain at 3 for a dollar. (And yes, we found two pressed penny machines at the aquarium, so I was a happy camper!)
All in all, a pretty grand day, and a good place to visit while on break.
Hungry for more aquariums?
You can check out our review on the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut right here, and Jenkinson’s Aquarium here (just an fyi, Jenkinson’s is still currently closed while they continue to repair and restore from Hurricane Sandy damage).
If you’re looking for something else in the area to keep the kids busy during the holiday break, check out Liberty Science Center’s 12 Days of Science – there’s truly something for everyone.
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08103
*Apologies for the pictures being a tad smaller than usual. Playing around with a new app that I love, and figured out the sizing after I downloaded all these.