If seeing hippos up close is on your family’s bucket list, you’re in luck because the only aquarium in the world where you can see them is the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. If that’s not impressive enough, there’s more—this aquarium (ranked top ten in the country by USA Today) also has the largest collection of sharks in the Northeast, and they have two species of warm-weather penguins. On a recent visit, we had a fantastic day of interactive fun, from the shark bridge to the Shark Tunnel to over 15,000 aquatic animals. Ready to spend a day here? Scroll down for what you need to know before you go. And while you are in Camden, don’t miss the Battleship New Jersey. (featured photo credit: @vikki_1110)
A Day at Adventure Aquarium
Visit with the hippos at Adventure Aquarium
Walking into Hippo Haven was a memorable experience, and the size and sheer presence of the hippos is a feeling we won’t forget. The two residents—Button and Genny— come in at a whopping 3,000+ pounds each, and we could see them at angles both above and under the water. Encountering these Nile hippos was a one-of-a-kind treat, and my kids (us, too) were in awe of such beautiful creatures. Though we didn’t have time, we could have upgraded our tickets and stepped behind the scenes to immerse ourselves in a Hippo Encounter (next time!).
See sharks in a whole new way
My son and daughter both said the sharks were a must-see, and there were a few unique ways to see them. We started with a mesmerizing walk through the 40-foot shark tunnel—it’s an experience that put us right in on the action, and it felt like the Sandbar, Sandtiger, and Nurse Sharks were coming right for us. It was a spot we couldn’t just walk through without oohing and ahhing at every predator that swam by—we stayed for a little while because there was so much to see. What came next, though, was even more impressive. We hopped onto the longest, V-shaped rope shark suspension bridge in the world, hovering above the 21-foot-deep Shark Realm exhibit. My kids were braver than me and walked the 81-foot walk over 550,000 gallons of water without trepidation, making for the most memorable and exciting experience. After that, we couldn’t miss the Touch a Shark tank, where the kids could pet a Bamboo Shark in the water—they were thrilled!
Lots of Penguin Fun
We thought we needed a little break, so we headed to Penguin Park, which has a soft play area in the outdoor part of the aquarium. As the kids played on the equipment, we couldn’t miss the African Penguins waddling, swimming, and playing in their outdoor habitat. Back inside, we saw the smallest species of penguins in the world, the Little Blue Penguins, also known as “fairy penguins” for their slate-blue plumage and small stature. They’re native to southern Australia and New Zealand, and Camden Adventure Aquarium is one of the few aquariums where you can see these adorable birds in the U.S. We learned that they are a diurnal species, and they spend the most significant part of their day swimming and foraging at sea. They also preen their feathers to keep them waterproof by rubbing a tiny drop of oil onto every feather with a special gland above their tails. The kids were interested in learning more about these curious-looking birds and liked watching them waddle around.
More Under the Sea Adventures
As we made our way through the aquarium, another highlight was the Ocean Realm exhibit, which had 760,000 gallons of seawater and over 400 types of animals, including stingrays and a hammerhead shark. We also couldn’t miss watching the Amazon come to life at the Piranha Falls exhibit, where piranhas swim, and a “storm” happens during the exhibit to demonstrate how sea life copes with swirling waters. At Pirates Passage, we saw tropical fish and eels, but our favorite was the delicate seahorses. The round windows in Sea Turtle Cove gave us a glimpse into the lives of sea turtles.
The kids were hungry, and we found many options, including sandwiches, salads, pizza, and hot dogs. We decided to eat outdoors at the Flying Fish Beer Garden (only open during the spring and summer), where we ordered giant, warm, and crusty Bavarian pretzels that were big enough to fit in their own mini pizza box—it was definitely a favorite for us all. The view of the Philadelphia skyline was another treat we discovered from sitting at the Beer Garden. If you prefer to eat indoors, there is a large cafeteria area with lots of space, and mobile ordering is available at both restaurants, too.
Reach out and touch the sea life
It’s easy to see why the touch tanks were a big hit with our family—as the Bamboo Shark swam by, the kids were thrilled to reach out and pet the sea creature. The Grotto exhibit also had an area with sea apples and scarlet cleaner shrimp. At Stingray Beach Club, we entered a tropical oasis where we got up close and personal with the stingrays and touched their backs—another highlight on a terrific day under the sea. As we emerged into real life, we realized we were hooked on Camden Adventure Aquarium and started talking about our next visit before getting into the car.
What to know before you go
Exploring the aquarium takes about 2-3 hours, and you can purchase tickets or the silver, gold, or platinum membership to enter the aquarium. You can enter the aquarium up to 30 minutes before and after your scheduled time, and reservations are encouraged. General admission is $29.99 and up, and the memberships are $64.99 and up. Strollers and wagons are welcome, but they cannot be larger than 31×52; there are also baby-changing stations and a nursing room. The aquarium is sensory-inclusive, with sensory bags, a designated quiet area, and a weighted lap pad. There are special events like Scarecrows of the Sea in the Fall and Christmas Underwater during the holidays, and during certain times of the year, real-life Mermaids swim in the tanks along with the 15,000 creatures. Don’t miss their new Virtual Reality Experience, where you can “dive” into the ocean to see squid, whales, or even a mermaid.
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08103
What do you plan to see first at Adventure Aquarium?
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