Photo Credit: SnapperCR29

Pulling up to the Virginia Aquarium, my family and I were beyond excited. Unlike other aquariums we had visited, the Virginia Aquarium has a direct link to the surrounding beach and marine areas. While there wouldn’t be killer whales, there were dozens of animals that were native to the area and allowed my family to get a better idea of what was swimming around in the waters off the coast.

Our first stop and first animal encounter was right out front with the Harbor seals. Harbor seals are frequently seen off the coast of Virginia and thrive in the North Atlantic waters. My son ran along the big tanks tracing the seal’s path. The Virginia Aquarium has five Harbor seals, with a huge habitat right out front, giving visitors an up close look at these gentle animals. If I hadn’t promised the sting rays, the kids might have been okay with that being our entire aquarium experience.

Once inside, we quickly found our way to the Chesapeake Bay Touch Pool. Mimicking the waters under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the touch pools allow visitors an opportunity to get to know these unique marine creatures more intimately. Rolling up our sleeves, we plunged our hands into the pool and waited for the stingrays, horseshoe crabs and sea stars to come swimming by. The kids giggled and screamed as the sting rays gracefully brushed up against their hands, the perfect photo opportunity.

The sharks were calling our name next. It wasn’t long before my son was humming the theme song to Jaws, which echoed throughout the entire exhibit hall.

Lastly, I arranged for a unique sea turtle experience that took my kids behind the scenes. Reasonably priced, this experience gave the kids a one of a kind and personal experience with the sea turtles. They were able to see them from above, feed them, and learn more about the sea turtles with the one on one trainer and student interactions. My kids were so excited to be learning about animals and marine life that occupied the waters that they played in on the Virginia Beaches.

After a full day at the aquarium, my kids piled into the car, recounting each exhibit and experience. ‘Did you see the seals? They live around here’ one asked the other. "Well, my favorite animal was the sea turtle, he was so cute." The other one answered. While it wasn’t a day at the beach, I was happy to show my kids a part of Virginia Beach that was both educational and fun at the same time.