Friday, January 28, 2011

Penguins Rock!

Last week, our family was treated to a visit at the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. It had been two years since we went last (this was Brooke's first trip), and we had yet to see the penguin exhibit. There's something intrinsically suave about penguins, don't you think?

We began our tour as usual passing the piranha tank, blue frogs (gotta love those), and pencil eels (no, we're not getting those, Bobby). The massive salt water tank with loads of fish was a big hit with our nearly 2-year-old Brooke; lots of pointing and squeals. The seahorse tank with three bizarre looking species drew the boys like a magnet. The jellyfish, poisonous creatures, and giant crabs were also met with, "Woah, look at that!!!!"

Our favorite feature of the aquarium up to now has been the shark tunnel. I love how you can see the shark tank from two very different perspectives (from above and enclosed in the tunnel). We had to go through the tunnel a couple of times, of course.

As great as the shark tunnel is, I'm afraid it's been surpassed by Penguin Playland. The digs for these African Penguins are the coolest, for sure. They can hang out on rocks, swim in a 40,000 gallon tank, or go outside (though none were out there that we saw). And you don't just watch them though one plate of plexi-glass. You can crawl through a tunnel to watch them swimming all around you and then pop up in the middle to see them inches away.

What my boys really latched onto is that each penguin has a name and name tag. The game quickly became, "Where's Mike? Mike, where are you? There he is! Where? Aw, I missed him!" When I saw the tunnels, I went right in and didn't notice the sign "Kids, check out the tunnel!" until afterwards. Sure glad I'm a kid at heart!

I hope you enjoy the short video about Penguin Playland below. It's well worth the trip! I would suggest planning a visit on Valentine's Day when tickets are HALF OFF! Just use the promo code: LOVE. On any other day, buying online before you go saves you $2 a ticket, and kids under 2 are always free.

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