We had seen lots of TV ads for low admission prices at the National Aquarium Fridays after five, so we decided to give it a try. I went online to buy the tickets, and made sure to choose the package that included the dolphin show. I have many fond childhood memories of time spent at the aquarium; even though Elena won’t remember this trip, I hope this becomes a small part of our family culture. I do remember one “dollar day” promotion, when we must have spent hours in line waiting for our chance to get in, but am thankful I don’t have to relive that familial bonding experience, thanks to on-line ticket sales.
We had a hard enough time just getting to the aquarium that it’s a good thing we didn’t have to wait in line once we got there. Rush hour traffic was crazy for the first several miles, and then we had to put up with a construction project on the main road to the aquarium. I was worried that we wouldn’t make it to the dolphin show in time–and it was an hour after we had planned to get there. A phone call to my sister, who used to volunteer at the aquarium, helped us find parking nearby, and we made it just in time.
At the dolphin show we sat up front, in the splash zone, but didn’t get wet. We did have a good view of the dolphins both above and below the water, so that Elena could say ‘hi’ whenever they went by. On our way in, I tried to be cute with Elena when we were walking by the show host, so that she would be chosen as the one who got to pet the dolphin, but she’s still too young for that.
After the dolphin show, we took a brief break for dinner in the food court. All the vendors were closed, but that was okay because Jenny had smuggled our chicken salad and crackers in Elena’s diaper bag. As she says, it’s generally okay to take food everywhere, as long as you have a toddler.
We didn’t spend too long on dinner, because we had lots to see. Elena loved it all. She couldn’t get enough of looking at fish–from the first exhibit, which contained fish from the mid-Atlantic coastline, all the way through to the shark tank.
The whole place was absolutely packed, no doubt because of the low prices and heavy promotion. But Elena knew just what she wanted–she maneuvered and squirmed and pushed her way right up to the front of every tank so she could look at and say hi to the fish. I took on the role of tour guide/bodyguard, trying not to lose sight of her or block other people’s view as I pushed in behind her and looked at the fish with her. Jenny stayed back as the photographer; she was also carrying our bag, which made it a little harder for her to get through the crowds.
Despite the hustle and bustle, Elena behaved herself very well. Whenever I said that it was time to go to the next tank, she was happy to move on; she must have realized that there would be plenty of interesting things to look at everywhere, so she couldn’t get attached to any one thing. By the time we got to the rainforest at the top, several of the little kids near us were fast asleep, dead weight in their parents’ arms, but Elena was still going strong. We saw some birds up there, but the sloth must have been asleep and in hiding, so we didn’t get to see him.
At last we came to the giant oval coral reef and shark tank. Elena might have enjoyed this one the most because it was so big and there were places where she could sit down and look right in, without having to stand on a step or ledge. I showed her all the fish that I found hiding in hard-to-see places (my best find was a puffer fish), but I think she liked the big fish most of all. Sharks are really scary looking–I had forgotten how fierce they are. At the end of our tour around the shark tank, Elena was ready to make her way to the great egress. On the short walk back to the car, we did see one exasperated set of parents waiting out their son’s tantrum, and were again happy that Elena had such a good night.