Our kids love animals. They love seeing animals, playing with animals, sleeping with animals – you name it – if it has to do with animals, they're game. So it's not shocking that we spend a lot of time at the local game farms, zoos and aquariums on or near Long Island, NY.
One of our favorite places to visit is the New York Aquarium, in Brooklyn, NY. It's a little bit of a hike for us, so we always head out early, but it's well worth the trip – especially during the winter months when we've been cooped up inside for way-too-many days in a row.
Last year, our visit actually coordinated with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club's annual New Year's Day swim, which was just wild! (As a side note, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest "winter bathing organizations" in in the United States – and they swim in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island every Sunday from November through April. Brrrrrrrr!)
However this year, our son asked if we could go to the New York Aquarium on his birthday. We were hit with a bout of rainy weather this August, and he was bored to bits! So we happily packed up the car and braved the torrential downpours for our little man – and as luck would have it, the rain cleared up just as we finished the inside exhibits so we were able to enjoy the outside ones too!
If you've read our previous Out & About posts, you know that we usually try to give you some pointers about the places we visit instead of just prattling on about the exhibits. So, without further ado, here's what we've learned over the years about going – and enjoying – the New York Aquarium.
Planning Your Visit:
The New York Aquarium is a fairly small aquarium, which is why we love visiting it. The amount of exhibits is just right for younger children with shorter attention spans. Our four year old daughter recently reverted back to being carried everywhere – yet, she didn't ask to be picked up even once (!) during our trip – unless it was to see something up close. 😉
With that said, if you're planning to spend the day in Brooklyn, you will need to find other ways to occupy your time. Our family completed all of the exhibits, went to the gift shop, and had lunch, all within 4 hours.
However, Coney Island is right next door. As you leave the New York Aquarium you can immediately access the beach and "The Boardwalk" directly from the parking lot. Luna Park, home of the Cyclone, is also right next to the aquarium. So you have more than enough to do for a full day's worth of activities!
When To Go:
I have to say that I've never really encountered a "bad" time to go. We usually arrive in between 10:30 – 11:30 AM and that's always worked for us. Besides, the walking areas between exhibits are quite spacious, so even when the aquarium is packed, you can still move around with ease.
During the summer, beware of camp day trips. We caught the tail end of one, and they can be a bit on the noisy side. During winter breaks, they're also packed – but can you really expect anything less?
P.S. Don't forget about the "Friday Afternoon Special"! Admission on Fridays (beginning at 3:00 p.m.) is by pay-what-you-wish donation. Every dollar you give supports our work in caring for animals here in New York and around the world. Recommended donation is $5 per person.
Usually, I advise parents NOT to eat the food at most places. But on this visit, I just tossed some snacks in the car and prayed that we would find something edible – and non-greasy – to eat. I am happy to report that at the SeaSide Café you can find semi-healthy, non-fried food to eat.
Our kids were happy to order peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with milk (ahem, and a package of Skittles that their father snuck onto the tray), and we were able to order turkey sandwiches with lettuce and tomato. Gourmet dining? No. But will it keep everyone's sugar levels from crashing? Yes.
You can buy your tickets in advance online and avoid having to stand in line. Plus, if you order them online, you Save 10% and they're valid through January 1, 2013 (so you can watch the Polar Bear Club swim on New Year's Day too).
This year, in an effort to be as cost-conscious as possible, we gifted ourselves a Membership to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Our membership grants us access to the New York Aquarium, Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Pros: friendly staff, ample exhibits for your animal-loving kids: sea otters, sea lions, walruses, black footed penguins, tons of jellyfish (which are really cool!), sharks and loggerhead sea turtles.
Cons: can get crowded on school breaks, too small to spend an entire day there.
Parking: We have never had an issue with parking – ever. The lots always have open spots to park. But, it costs $13/car – so make sure to factor that into your overall spending plan.
Admission: Open to the public daily, 365 days a year, from 10:00 a.m.— 5:00 p.m (most days).
Location: The New York Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue & West 8th Street in Brooklyn, New York 11224.
Do you have your own tips to share about New York Aquarium? Please share them with us in our comments section below!
Thanks for reading,