Being at the Newport Aquarium can trick you into forgetting that you're miles away from any coast. With penguins parading at the entrance and sharks available for petting, this is not your average fishbowl.
Back in 2001, the Aquarium was the first attraction at the Newport on the Levee complex, and almost every year since then it has upgraded or expanded. The centerpiece is the 385,000 gallon Surrounded by Sharks tank; this all-angles exhibit is home to tiger, nurse, and zebra varieties of shark, several species of stingrays, and the unusual combination of the two - a shark ray. Yes, it is a real and naturally occurring animal, though very rare, and the Aquarium has two of them in a unique breeding program. This tank, viewed from inside a clear acrylic tunnel running directly through the waters, also hosts a Loggerhead Turtle and numerous other sharks and fish. Seeing them above, below, and beside you, is truly awe-inspiring.
For hands-on animal encounters, you have many choices. The Shore Gallery and Shark Central both have touch pools housing crabs, starfish, sharks, and more. The Penguin Encounter allows you to touch these adorable birds, and lorikeets in the Rainforest exhibit will swoop down and eat from your hand.
Some aquatic life, however, is best viewed from a distance. The alligators in Gator Bayou are fascinatingly and uncomfortably close, and an entire room is dedicated to the most Dangerous and Deadly things underwater. The newest exhibit is Bizarre and Beautiful, featuring a large octopus that proves all urban legends correct by squeezing through surprisingly small tubes.
Summer is a popular time at the Aquarium, particularly with Family Hours which allow two kids in free with every paying adult. Buying tickets in advance is probably a good move to avoid timed ticketing during the busiest hours. And make sure you check the policy online - during certain busy times strollers may have to be checked. But even if they are required to power themselves, kids will come out smiling (and probably with a new list of pets they want) and adults will have to be pulled away from at least one mesmerizing tank themselves.
- 9am to 7pm, 365 days a year
- Adults: $22
- Children (ages 2 through 12): $15
- Children under 2 are admitted free
- Annual passes are available, and discount tickets are available at any Kroger location.
- Summer Family Hours: Between 4pm and 7pm Sunday through Friday, two kids get in free for every full price adult (Memorial Day through September 3rd)
- Penguin Encounters: $25
- Location: One Aquarium Way, Newport, KY
- Phone: 859-261-7444
- Website: www.newportaquarium.com