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I actually took my daughter and two other children (a friend of my daughter’s and her toddler brother) to the Vancouver Aquarium about a week ago, during spring break. I know, I know, friends and strangers alike were questioning my sanity, but it actually turned out well, and fun was had by all.
The key that made this venture bearable was the fact that we are all members of the Aquarium. When we first arrived (which was within an hour of the opening), the line up was huge. I initially thought we would have to find something else to do, which would have been tricky since the kids were excited to visit their favourite areas of the aquarium. But, we quickly realized that there was no line up at all, for members. We breezed right in.
We first took the elevator down to the frog area and the lower gift shop/coffee shop. The girls each had a few dollars to spend and both picked out a beautiful piece of jewelry featuring frogs. We checked out all the different frogs from different areas of the world, and then made our way down the big ramp to the underwater viewing area of the dolphins. This was a good place to have a snack while we watched the dolphins play.
Back up to the main floor and the Tropic Zone. There is much to see here including the shark tank, which also has a giant sea turtle and several manta rays. We checked out the various different displays of smaller fish, sea horses, and strange sea worm type things that burro into the sand. The girls regularly stopped to use the different interactive computer displays.
We then entered the Amazon area. This is one my favourites and it didn’t disappoint. The only thing that kept us from staying in this area for an hour or two is the fact that it is very hot and steamy. Not unlike the Amazon rain forest, I’m sure. The first part features a floor to ceiling tank with huge groupers and other extremely large fish I can’t name, a relatively new bat cave (with a camera that visitors can use to zoom in), and piranhas. The atrium area is next featuring flamingos, turtles, butterflies, a sloth, and many more beautiful winged creatures. On this visit there were several bright purple birds similar to parrots, but bigger. After the atrium we walked past the tiny monkeys in the trees, called marmosets. So cute! Then on to see the caimans. They are from the same family as crocodiles or alligators, but are slightly smaller. They aren’t always the most interesting to watch, unless you are lucky enough to see one swimming or climbing. This last section of the Amazon area also has large tanks with huge cockroaches. Always give me the shivers.
After the Amazon area we headed into the BC area. The octopus, sea stars, anemone (you know, Nemo’s house). The jellyfish displays are so cool, showing different types of jellies and also the lifecycle, from eggs to babies to adults. The 4-D movie is at the end of this area, but we didn’t take it in on this visit. Off to the kid’s play area called Clownfish Cove. This is a great spot for parents to take a seat and let the kids play. It’s enclosed, and has lots of fun things to play with, including the stuffed seal animal clinic, where little ones can give x-rays and give animal examinations. The girls stood in line for arm painting and the toddler and I did some sea star colouring. We also sat and finished our bag lunches here.
We didn’t take in any outdoor shows on this visit, as these viewing areas seemed to be the most crowded. It’s not easy to wheel a stroller around when you can’t get close to the viewing rail. We browsed in the gift shop on our way out and called it a day. It was a very enjoyable visit and I’m happy to report that going to one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist destinations during spring break was a good choice. For locals, especially if you have children, the cost of annual membership is a great deal.
Editor’s note: the Vancouver Aquarium Membership also allows for a discount in the gift shops and the cafe that’s near the Beluga enclosure. For locals it brings pricing a little more in line with reality.