Beating the Heat at the Cleveland Aquarium

The Cleveland Aquarium opened back in January after a massive revamp of the FirstEnergy Powerhouse

After spending all afternoon in the sun yesterday for a wedding rehearsal and bbq, I think it really struck me for the first time how incredibly hot this summer is going to be.

It took every ounce of self-control to not go running into the nearby river to cool down. I can’t imagine what the day would have felt like had we not been so close to the water.

Scott did not have this internal conflict because he doesn’t like to swim. He completely agrees that being near water helps keep down the heat, but for him there isn’t much to do except stare at them. So the question becomes: on a 90 degree day, how do we both find cool water that’s interesting to be around if you’re not in it?

Easy!  Go to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium!

Aquarium exhibits are nicely incorporated into the historic Powerhouse while still maintaining much of the building’s brickwork and passageways

Scott and I have been eager to see what Cleveland’s Aquarium offered since it opened in January.   However, because I tend to avoid attractions (and the crowds that accompany them) immediately after they open, I waited until very recently to take a trip to The Flats and visit it for the first time.

I’m not going to lie – as much as I love Cleveland, the only times I visited the Flats and the Powerhouse previously were when I was dragged there for something with work. But thanks to the Cleveland Aquarium, I actually had a reason to want to go.

While Scott was most excited to see the aquatic life (especially the turtles!), the biggest draw of the Aquarium for me was seeing how they transformed the historic Powerhouse building.

Working with the Cleveland Aquarium, Marinescape – who has developed 23 major aquariums throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Russia- revamped the entire Powerhouse to bring their first aquarium to North America.

MarineScape’s designs include an underwater tube where you can get close to the sharks and other aquatic life (we even caught a few photo opps with the scuba divers)

I was not disappointed in seeing how they incorporated the Aquarium into the old building. Within the Powerhouse they squeezed in over 70,000 square feet of aquarium space, including 10 exhibition areas with 30+ tanks and Marinescape’s Seatube – a clear, 145’ walk-through tunnel.

Tanks are tucked inside recessed archways, and exhibits move through long, brick passageways and coalmining tunnels. Even the building’s smokestacks are incorporated into the design with a glimpse of the sky through one of the exposed stacks and ”sky lobsters” (my term – not scientifically accurate at all) in another.

I loved this unusual view of lobsters in the Aquarium’s smokestack tank

Our visit started in the Ohio Lakes & Rivers exhibit, where they showcased walleye, dace, slider turtles and other aquatic life that can be found in our backyard waterways. From Weird & Wonderful to the eels in the Florida Keys, the other exhibits showcased more exotic fish.

My favorite part, though, was the slightly daunting but impressive underwater Shark Tunnel.  I really enjoyed how immersed you are within it and we had a bit of fun with the scuba divers who wanted to get in on the photo-taking action.

Overall Scott and I enjoyed our experience and found it relaxing and comfortable.

For instance, I was happy to see they added a few benches as well as an assortment of Adirondack chairs in the rays’ touch tank area after a friend of mine visited opening weekend and reported she couldn’t find a place to sit.

The staff was also very helpful and patient with visitors – especially when it took  me 5 attempts to pet the rays thanks to my squeamishness.

The Ohio Waterways exhibit where we learned about what’s swimming beneath the surface in Lake Erie and our local rivers

I think the only thing we wished is to have been able to spend more time there. It takes only an hour to an hour-and-a-half to get through the variety of aquatic life found in the Aquarium. However, seeing as it’s not even a year old, there is time for the Aquarium to continue to grow its offerings.

The plus side is that because of its close location to downtown, Ohio City and Gordon Square, you can make a day of exploring Cleveland by squeezing in a few other attractions after a morning at the Aquarium.

Admission costs $19.95 for adults; children 2 through 12 cost $13.95, which is a few dollars less than most aquariums. While parking is $3 Monday through Friday ($5 on the weekends), there is some free street parking in the area.

The addition of seating areas like this one at the touch tank make it easier for anyone who needs to rest during their visit

The best deal, though, is the Annual Pass, especially for a family of 2 adults and 2 children. At $130, this Family Pass is the route to go if you plan on attending at least two times a year. A single pass for one adult is $50; couples are $90.

In addition to unlimited admission for one year, passholders get express entry, extended hours, discounts on aquarium programs, and invitations to pass holder parties, exhibit openings and special events. The Nautica Queen also offers a 10% discount on cruises and Just Add Water provides a free Discover Scuba Experience for passholders.

During our visit we got to see the Aquarium’s not-very-camera-shy baby alligator; numerous programs are offered that allow guests to meet and even sleep with some of the fish

Although the Aquarium opened only six months ago, they’ve already started hosting a handful of programs which is what will have me coming back.

Free animal encounters and feeding times take place throughout the day in the shark, freshwater and touch tanks. For an extra $10 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, guests can tour behind-the-scenes with an expert aquarist to see the food prep area, water quality laboratory, and dive zone and learn how the Aquarium cares for marine and freshwater species.

My favorite (and possibly the creepiest) fish I saw during our visit to the Aquarium

And it’s not all educational programs (though there are plenty of them!). On the first Monday of each month, the Aquarium offers Toddler Time for passholders, featuring activities with the Aquarium’s Pygmy and Sharky mascots, snacks and story time with Captain NEO.

At their Red, White & Brew party on the Fourth of July, guests of all ages can enjoy the Aquarium’s exhibits followed by entertainment, beverages, and a great view of downtown’s fireworks. The Aquarium has also hosted fishing clinics for dads, yoga in front of the Shark Tank, and their Zzz’s with the Sea overnights.

Did I have fun during my first visit to the Cleveland Aquarium? I think this picture of me right after I got a high-five from a ray answers that.

When I first moved to Cleveland five years ago, I kept hearing about the city’s previous attempts to bring an aquarium to the city.While I think there is room to grow with it, I’m glad to see we finally have one that uniquely uses its space and gives new life to a piece of Cleveland history.  Just consider the Family Pass for your best deal.

Disclosure: A guest and I were invited to attend a Bloggers Breakfast and tour the Aquarium in exchange for sharing my opinion about my visit. All opinions expressed here are 100% my own.

3 thoughts on “Beating the Heat at the Cleveland Aquarium

  1. Karen At Home

    Love all the pictures, so many good ones! Glad to see I made one of them:). Looking forward to meeting you at the next event!

  2. Pingback: Cleveland Aquarium’s Shark Weekend + a Giveaway! « Clue Into Cleveland

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