Imagine exotic fish cruising gracefully over your head.
You observe as they go in and out of a myriad of brilliantly colored coral.
No, I’m not talking about diving. Fortunately, you can experience all these marvels if you go to a decked-out aquarium.
The Alabama Aquarium can delight the hearts of casual aquarists and marine fanatics alike.
You don’t need to go to an unknown vacation destination to feel close to underwater nature.
And if you happen to be on holiday in this area, you can enhance your holiday by sneaking in some education.
With so many activities to do in Alabama, why go to an aquarium in the first place?
I’m glad you asked!
Why You Should Go To A Public Aquarium
Aquariums have a magical quality that draws the attention of both youngsters and adults.
For some, going to an aquarium could be just as exciting as going to an amusement park.
Sure, it may not be as animated as riding a roller coaster.
Still, something about being immersed in a foreign environment can be just as thrilling.
Here are the reasons why you should include going to the aquarium in your itinerary:
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1. It’s an activity that parents can enjoy with their children.
We like doing stuff with our kids, but let’s face it: it can get boring sometimes.
Fortunately, going to an aquarium is something that adults can enjoy too!
If you have children, taking them to an aquarium could pique their interest in the world around them.
After all, it’s made up of 70% water.
While they can watch videos of aquatic animals, their habitats, and behaviors, nothing beats seeing them in person.
Many aquariums in the US even offer touch tanks or pools where guests can get up close and personal with the animals.
This is an excellent approach for children to learn about new species while reducing their fear of unfamiliar stimuli.
Plus, experiencing something new with your child beats watching their favorite movie for the nth time.
2. Aquariums offer tranquil environments.
Listening to the sound of running water and observing fish gently glide by has a calming effect on people.
It provides a rare chance to disconnect from the rigors of daily life and simply unwind for a few hours.
I’m sure you’re aware that we’re continually assaulted with stimuli and information in today’s society.
City folk, in particular, are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature.
A day spent meandering through an aquarium can help us feel more connected to the world and boost our mental health.
It’s also an excellent learning opportunity.
Most public aquariums have displays dedicated to the local watershed or coastline ecosystem.
These displays help us learn the area’s ecology and illustrate how we may be better environmental stewards.
3. It is a bonding activity that can help the family get to know each other better.
Public aquariums provide a fantastic avenue for family bonding in addition to teaching us about various aquatic habitats.
As you go through the exhibits, you can ask each other fun questions.
Exhibits often include information that describes the animals on display, which is an excellent way for kids to expand their vocabulary.
These displays can also be a source of inspiration for passionate aquarium keepers.
Public aquariums tend to have more natural-looking settings for their creatures.
It should give them an idea or two on how to decorate their tanks at home.
4. It appeals to different types of learners.
Each kid learns uniquely, yet an aquarium appeals to a wide range of learners at once.
The vivid colors of the corals and the fish in them will entice visual learners.
Tours and scheduled talks will grab the attention of auditory learners.
On the other hand, tactile learners will have a lot of fun engaging with the displays.
Kinesthetic learners will spend a lot of time roaming around and investigating the aquarium’s numerous features.
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How To Prepare For Your Aquarium Visit
It’s best to plan to get the most out of your aquarium visit.
Check the aquarium’s website for parking, discounts, wheelchair access (if needed), special events, and food options.
You’ll also want to check on its peak visitation times to avoid large crowds.
Maps of these facilities are frequently available, which you can use to mark specific exhibits you don’t want to miss.
Many aquariums also provide unique activities for children, such as behind-the-scenes tours.
Lastly, please remember to allow enough time for your visit and dress comfortably.
Aquarium trips can turn into all-day affairs that involve a lot of walking.
Overall, a trip to a public aquarium is guaranteed to be a memorable and instructive experience for you and your family.
Aquariums In Alabama
Despite having more mammal, bird, reptile, and fish species than any other state east of the Mississippi,
Alabama maintains only a few zoos and one aquarium despite its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.
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Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Call: (251) 861-7500
Visit: 102 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island AL 36528
The Alabama Aquarium set up by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, originally known as “The Estuarium,” is a fun, educational setting that highlights:
- Mobile Bay
- Mobile Tensaw River Delta
- Northern Gulf of Mexico
- Barrier Islands
The 10,000 sq. ft. Exhibit Hall, the Living Marsh Boardwalks, and a 7,000-gallon stingray touch pool are all part of the experience.
There are over 100 species on show in this facility’s 31 tanks, which hold over 30,000 gallons.
Aside from animals, The Alabama Aquarium exhibits the estuary’s plants, other natural resources, and neighboring marine ecosystems.
This aquarium will provide you with more knowledge of the interactions in Mobile Bay, the US’ fourth-biggest estuary system.
The establishment does so with gorgeous visual exhibits and stimulating interactive displays.
Please note that all unvaccinated visitors are required to wear a mask when touring the aquarium.
Inside, guests are required to practice social distancing.
If you decide to visit the aquarium, you will have to purchase your tickets online before arriving.
Your designated visitation time will be indicated on your ticket.
Adults will have to pay a $12 admission fee, while kids below 18 will pay $6.
And remember, no pets are allowed in the Alabama Aquarium except for service dogs.
Other Events Held By The Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Marine Educator-led Aquarium Tours
A guided tour provided by DISL’s Discovery Hall Programs’ Marine Educators will help you get the most out of your visit.
A maximum of 15 members can be in a group.
It’s $50 in addition to the aquarium’s admission fee.
You can extend your visit outside of the aquarium by participating in one of their other Discovery Hall Programs, which are:
- Ocean Explorer Saturdays
- Scout Badge Program
- Science Fridays
- Family Camp
- Summer Programs
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Three family-friendly trips are available at the Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
The tours take guests into the environments researched by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s marine scientists, students, and researchers.
Please note that a guardian must accompany a kid under 18.
Salt Marsh Excursion ($12 per person, reservations are required)
Salt marshes aren’t just dull stretches of grass; they’re intriguing coastal wetlands that play a crucial role in the estuarine system.
You can dress up as a marine scientist and gather various specimens and samples if you join.
Of course, all creatures will be released back into the marsh.
You’ll learn about the importance of salt marshes in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as how they help sustain the seafood we eat.
If you sign up, you will meet with the rest of the party at the Alabama Aquarium.
Please be aware that things will get wet and muddy, so dress accordingly.
You will have access to showers and changing facilities after the marsh trip.
RV Alabama Discovery Excursion ($30 per person, reservations are required)
Come along with a certified Lab educator on a two-hour boat ride around Dauphin Island to understand how estuaries like Mobile Bay nourish the seas.
Mobile Bay is a thriving breeding ground for a diverse range of creatures.
A quick trawl will yield a sample of these species for you to study.
A plankton tow will reveal the microscopic organisms at the bottom of the food chain.
Gulls, sharks, pelicans, and dolphins are a few animals that may be viewed from the boat.
The minimum age to participate is eight years old.
Please note that a guardian must accompany all kids at all times.
What to wear?
Your safety necessitates the use of appropriate footwear. Closed-toe, closed-heel shoes are recommended.
Please be aware that you will not be permitted to board the boat unless you have appropriate footwear.
Beach, Dune, and Maritime Forest Excursion ($12 per person, reservations are required)
The coastline is a thriving habitat with a dynamic dune system and unique plants and animals.
Higher altitudes are covered in lush forests.
If you join this excursion, you’ll stroll through the coastal forest before heading to the beach and dunes.
You’ll learn about the plants that Europeans and Native Americans used and the advantages of a healthy dune system.
You’ll witness various coastal wildlife, including osprey, dolphins, and alligators.
You’ll dig and hunt for ghost and mole crabs that live under the surf zone.
Hand nets and critter containers will be handed out so you can look at the creatures up close!
The Boardwalk Talk series takes place on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 11:15 AM. It’s completely open to the public.
These talks are currently virtual (because of the pandemic) and broadcast live on the DISL YouTube channel.
Graduate students, educators, researchers, post-docs, technicians, and aquarists will offer talks.
You will have the chance to engage in a dialogue with them.
These casual discussions cover a wide range of scientific issues.
Alabama Aquarium Volunteer Program
The Alabama Aquarium is a fantastic place to volunteer for folks who appreciate meeting new people and sharing their passion for the environment.
You can speak with the public about ever-relevant marine issues and tour school groups around the exhibits.
You can even show curious students how ticklish horseshoe crabs are!
All volunteers will receive intensive training, the opportunity to meet visitors from all over the country, and various incentives.
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The Alabama Aquarium is modestly-sized, but it is packed with value and information.
The staff is friendly and is ready to suggest the following activities you can enjoy.
With their excellent mix of brackish, saltwater, and new species, it’s best to take your time and enjoy the exhibits they’ve prepared.
If you’re able to, take your kiddies along and introduce them to the wonders of nature. Have fun!