Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park
Grand Avenue at Robert B. Cullum Blvd.
#The redesign of the Fair Park Aquarium, renamed the Children’s Aquarium, changed it from a place only notable for its Art Deco exterior to a place where kids (and adults) can get close to -- even interact with -- the resident animals. On our recent visits, a shallow, open-topped tank near the entrance housed horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs. Kids -- with hands properly washed at the adjacent water faucet -- were encouraged to touch the crustaceans, while staff members occasionally lifted them out of the water for closer inspection and explanations of their behavior and ecology.
Even the traditional tanks are designed to enhance children’s appreciation. A tank full of jellyfish lets kids chance the light settings to demonstrate the transparency of these invertebrates my daughter’s twins learned about from the movie “Saving Nemo.” And the oh my gosh octopus tank has an internal extension that let them see just how the suckers on its tentacles worked. (Put your hand in to understand the magic and give the octopus an up-close look at how humans work.)
But the centerpiece was the shark and stingray feeding. Feeding demonstrations for everything from the resident American albino alligators to zebra sharks take place daily at 2:30 p.m. but the boys wanted sharks, which get fed Sunday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. This isn’t just throwing fish kibble in a tank. The sharks and stingrays are released into huge glass-sided, open-topped pools in a shaded outer area of the aquarium -- Stingray Bay, past the restrooms. Aquarium staff members wade into the pools to hand feed rays separately and -- best of all, visitors may also feed them.
The rays’ barbels have been clipped for the safety of visitors and the aquarium sells paper cups of scallops to would-be ray feeders. Although visitors must lean over the side instead of wading in the pool, the animals are fearless and will take the offered food right out of your hands. I‘m guessing that probably doesn‘t happen when the alligators or snapping turtles are fed.
With the enhanced aquarium come, of course, higher admission prices. Adult tickets generally are $8, kids 3-11 $6, free to children age two and under. The aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on Thanksgiving and Christmas -- great for those times it’s too hot to play outside. See http://childrensaquariumfairpark.com/ for complete admission prices, feeding schedules and more.
I don’t usually blog about commercial venues, but another hot weather favorite in our family is Studio Movie Grill’s summer matinee series for kids. One dollar a kid! (Two dollars per adult.) See www.studiomoviegrill.com/SummerSeries.php/ for showings.
(Next Monday: First Monday Trade Days in Canton)