Friday, August 28, 2015

Sea-ing the new Toledo Zoo Aquarium is Fin-tastic

When our family heard that the Toledo Zoo's Aquarium was open after having been closed for two and half years for an expansion and renovations we just had to make a road trip to go check it out.  This new $25 million investment in the exhibit has transformed a 46,000 gallon aquarium that had mostly displayed local freshwater varieties of fish into a 178,000 immersive underwater experience where people can view more than 3,000 creatures from a variety of ecosystems.

One of the key additions to the renovated aquarium is its interactive touch tank and ocean lab area.  Children and kids at heart of any age can experience touching sting rays, sharks, crabs, and sea stars.  There is a large open tank you can walk around and simply place your hand in the water to pet something.  The sting rays will actually seek out submerged hands to get a nice rub against.

There is also a second tank area where you can walk up to get a close up view of creatures like crabs and sea stars plus give them a pet if you'd like.

My daughter really enjoyed a display they had with jelly fish.  It featured a control panel where you could switch the coloring of the lights in their tank allowing visitors to illuminate the jelly fish in different shades of colors.  My kids were just wowed by this and I do have to say it was a stunning sight to behold.

My son's favorite part of the ocean lab was a wheel you pushed to open and close the jaws of a Great White shark demonstrating the pressure of its bite.  That's definitely not something you would want to experience in real life.

The heart of the new aquarium facility is its brand new 90,000 gallon Pacific Reef tank.  Prior to the renovation, the largest tank in the aquarium has held 7,600 gallons of water to highlight the scope of this exhibit's expansion.  The Pacific Reef tank is full of colorful coral and fish plus of course what people come wanting to see at an aquarium, sharks.

The touch tank and ocean lab section isn't the only interactive aspect of the aquarium.  The Pacific Reef tank features daily presentations at 11 am, 1 pm and 3pm where trained divers give feeding demonstrations and wear microphones so they can talk to people who are watching them.  During our visit the diver swam up to where my kids were my kids were viewing her and begin communicating and interacting with them.  It was really a memorable moment that my children have brought up quite a few times in conversations since our visit.

The renovation has expanded the saltwater displays in the aquarium from 37% of its space to 87%.  In addition to the touch tanks and the Pacific Reef tank some other new displays include the aquarium's second largest tank which highlights the Gulf of Mexico and features a rays, a sea turtle, and sharks, a Kelp Forest with leopard sharks and bat rays, and a view of the Deep Sea with giant Japanese spider crabs.

Freshwater fish haven't been forgotten or tossed aside in the renovation either.  There are displays highlighting South America's Amazon and Asia's mangrove forest underwater ecosystems.  Of course the aquarium needed to preserve its local educational aspect as well so there is a Lake Erie Islands & Ohio Waterways display as well featuring fish that range from tiny minnows to incredibly large growing sturgeon. The alligator turtle was quite an impressive sight as well and not something I'd want to bump into while swimming in a river or lake.

One final note - you're going to want to bring your swim suit with you to this aquarium.  No you won't be swimming with the fishes but the Toledo Zoo has added a very nice oceanic themed splash pad and playground behind the aquarium for families to enjoy during their visit.  Yes that's a whale spouting out water at you and a crab you can swing from!

We really enjoyed sea-ing the new Toledo Zoo Aquarium and had a fin-tastic time!  If you happen to be visiting Toledo or not too far away to make a road trip, A Geek Daddy highly encourages you to pay it a visit.

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