I have really, really fond memories of aquariums. I love being able to look at the beautiful fish and sea creatures close up, without worrying about sea snakes.
[It’s true, I’m petrified of sea snakes in the ocean.]
But, I have to admit, aquariums are one of those things that just aren’t as great as an adult as they were as a kid. They are still cool, but after snorkeling and seeing so much wildlife in the wild, they’ve lost a bit of their intrigue for me.
I headed to the Shedd Aquarium after a meeting, during lunch time. Shedd is known for being one of the best aquariums in the United States (though I still think I’m a bit preferential to Baltimore). I was so sick with a vicious head cold that staring at fish seemed like a better alternative than making small talk, at least for an hour or so. Fish won’t judge my Rudolph red nose and wads of Kleenex, at least. Plus, the view of the lake and the city is gorgeous.
Don’t get me wrong–Shedd is well done and impressive. I realize there is a lot of controversy over captive wildlife these days, but I do believe there is great value in aquariums and zoos as educational tools–so many kids fall in love with animals or become really interested in the ocean, and learning visually is way better than reading a book. In addition, Shedd does some really fascinating research on things like growing coral (below), which is critical for protecting/rebuilding damaged ecosystems. They also do a great deal of conservation work in the Great Lakes.
I forgot how expensive museums/aquariums are these days…it was $30.95, for me, an adult, without any of the special exhibits (e.g., amphibians). I guess I’ve become accustomed to the free-ness of the Smithsonians. I don’t doubt the money goes to a good cause, and they do offer special deals for Illinois residents on certain days, which is nice for local parents/kids. It also wasn’t busy over the lunch hour on the day I went (Monday).
Their Wild Reef exhibit was definitely my favorite (pictured below). Watching sharks swim by really never, ever gets old. Wild Reef focuses on the oceans surrounding the Philippines, and has all the tropical, beautiful fish that I dream of snorkeling with one day! Plus, they have other exhibits showcasing the waters of the world; I always like when there is such a wide variety of animals–from those found in mangrove forests to the Indian Ocean.
Based on the expressions and enthusiasm of the kids in the aquarium, I can guarantee it is a hit with those wanting to see fish, sharks, and otters up close. As an adult, I’m glad I went–but I think I’m all good on aquariums for a while. I’d rather spend my time planning a exciting trip to go snorkeling, I think.