Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sea Life in Michigan - Metro Detroit's New Aquarium

We've made a few family road trips over the last few years to enjoy aquariums including the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and The Greater Cleveland Aquarium and recently added the brand new Sea Life Michigan aquarium which just opened a few weeks ago to the list.  What was nice about visiting #SeaLifeMichigan was that it was a fifteen minute drive from our home compared to a half day drive to Chicago or Cleveland.  While it was -5 degrees on our car thermometer  as we pulled into the parking lot at Great Lakes Crossing mall, where the aquarium is located, when we entered the building we were immersed into a tropical wonderland for our kids to explore that featured more than 20 displays, 5,000 sea creatures, and 120,000 gallons of water.

The outing began with our kids being provided a fun cardboard divers mask to wear and a dive log book, which they needed to get stamped at 9 educational stations located throughout the aquarium, as we waited to enter the air lock to be transported underseas.  Children who get all 9 stamps receive a souvenir pin they can pickup at the gift store. Once we entered the airlock there was a nice animated video featuring the Sea Life mascots providing an overview of the aquarium.  I found it to be an entertaining and educational video that also kept my twin 6 year old's attention throughout it.  In addition to providing an overview of what you'll see as you venture through the aquarium, the video also does a nice job of creating a gap between groups of visitors as a way to keep traffic moving through the exhibits.

If you have young children, toddlers through elementary school age, your family will enjoy that there are all sorts of pop outs accessible to kids to give them unique, up close views of the fish and sea creatures.  Our kids were really excited to pop in and out of the many alcoves situated in the various habitats.

Many of the views that were at an adult level didn't just look out, but also up.  In this exhibit, not only did we enjoy seeing fish swim around in front of us but when we looked up we also saw a sting ray and shark swim over us.

The aquarium has a nice touch tank filled with a variety of starfish, shrimp, sea urchins and other creatures kids can pet and touch and dedicated staff working the exhibit providing interesting tips and facts while encouraging everyone in the audience to participate.

Following the touch pool is a waste level observation tank filled with  black tip reef sharks and cownose stingrays which gives you a great up close view of the fish swimming around but while we thought it may be another touching opportunity unfortunately it was warned no hands allowed in the water.

 Exhibits vary from showing off sturgeon native to Michigan's waterways to a tank filled with the tropical fish that look like  Marlin, Nemo, and Dory from the movie Finding Nemo.  Other exhibits feature turtles and jellyfish.  Sting rays are everywhere and really are the main feature of the place.  They have some giant sized sting rays that are much more impressive than any of the sharks they currently have on display.

The tour wraps up going through an impressive walk through tunnel.  A huge sting ray dove past us and buried itself in the sand right before us making our whole family exclaim WOW!  This space seems a little empty though as all of the sharks on display are pretty modest in size.  I'm not sure if they will grow over time or maybe larger ones may be transported later when the weather is warmer as the facility opened in winter in Michigan or that may be what you get.  Sea Life Michigan doesn't have the whales or dolphins of Shedd or the goliath grouper and large sharks of Greater Cleveland so don't go there expecting that thrill but it does provide an intimate up close look at aquatic life that is a nice for a family outing.  We walked through the aquarium in a half hour at an average pace - visitors are welcome to loop back and go through again or keep their tickets and return later in the same day for another view.

We visited Sea Life Michigan at 4:30pm on a Wednesday and when we wrapped up there walked across the hall for dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe.  Wednesday is "Kids Night" at the Rain Forest Cafe from 5pm to closing which features discounted children's meals, appearances by their mascot Cha! Cha!, plus FREE balloons and face painting.


Whether you live near Metro Detroit or are just in town for a visit, taking a drive over to Great Lakes Crossing to enjoy Sea Life Michigan will make for a fun time...especially if you make a family outing of it on a Wednesday night.

DISCLAIMER:  While the publisher of this blog occasionally receives complimentary benefits or compensation associated with reviews this particular review was completely paid for out of his own pocket at his own expense.  Opinions are completely his own and this post was not sponsored by Sea Life Michigan or Rain Forest Cafe.

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