Review: Adventure Aquarium

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday, and the long-standing plan was a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Unfortunately, the rain took care of that idea so I opted for the semi-new Adventure Aquarium in Camden instead.

It was fairly easy to find with the directions from their web site, but the layout is somewhat confusing. I realize they want the nice looking side to face the river so people in Philadelphia think “Hey, let’s go there!” but it’s very difficult to see where the entrance is from the (overpriced) parking lot. There are a few non-descript buildings, a very large Spongebob banner and something about ticketing. They really need a few signs for the entrance, and to make the back more appealing. That is what customers see first, and it’s disappointing.

Although I’m about 20 years too old for it, I insisted we get combo tickets with the Spongebob 4-D ride included. Please heed my warning about this one: don’t bother. We had to arrive early to wait in line, wasting time better spent at the exhibits. Once inside, the theatre looks like a smaller version of the one at Six Flags, Disney or Universal, with the motion seats and big screen.

We donned our giant plastic 3-D glasses and it was awful. The seats were poorly made and incredibly loud. So much so that they drowned out the movie! The film itself was cute and fun but way too short and really did not take full advantage of the 3D technology. I would like my $5 back.

That said, the rest of the aquarium was great! We took our umbrellas outside to visit with the penguins who were all out enjoying the cool rain. The seals were quite entertaining, beautiful and social. The indoor exhibits are all very well made, including a gigantic tank with faux shipwreck and huge column of breathtaking pink glowing jellyfish.

Like overexcited little kids, we both got the cuffs of our sweaters soaked while petting sharks and rays. The baby sharks are adorable. Their grown up counterparts are also quite striking in the new Shark Realm. I bonked my head on the very thick clear tunnel walls while gawking at the dozens of huge sharks all around us. It was somehow beautiful, peaceful and a bit unnerving all at the same time.

The Adventure Aquarium is definitely worth the trip and $17. Skip Spongebob, though, and be prepared to deal with the expected small children and parents using strollers like battering rams in the crowds.

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