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Daytripper:The New York Aquarium
03/04/2009 - By Teja Anderson

Daytripper:The New York Aquarium

The New York Aquarium holds a special place in the hearts of children and adults alike, as well as conservationists everywhere.

As the only aquarium in New York City, and part of the largest network of metropolitan wildlife parks in the country, the New York Aquarium’s main goal is to  educate and awe its visitors while saving wildlife and wild places around the globe. The Aquarium is driven by a vision of a world where people understand the critical role the oceans play in human survival and the sensitivity of aquatic resources. Their educational programs strive to encourage  people to place a high personal priority on the protection of marine and freshwater ecosystems and the rich diversity of aquatic wildlife that they sustain. You and your family can have a lot of fun while learning how to be conservationists! With exhibits featuring more than 8,000 animals, the  aquarium offers diversity, superb viewing, and world-renowned scientific expertise that assure you will have a rewarding experience and gain knowledge on how you can make a difference in the ocean world around you. Learn about animals living as far away as the Southwest coast of Africa  and the Arctic to those found locally in the Hudson River.

There’s always something new to see at the New York Aquarium. A good place to start would be the Sea Cliffs, which is home to Brooklyn’s biggest baby, Pacific walrus “Akituusaq,” her doting mother “Kulusiq”or “Kulu,” and her closest acquaintances. Kulu has been protecting and  snuggling her calf from his earliest moments. According to senior veterinarian Paul Calle, “The most remarkable thing about the birth was that immediately Kulu was a spectacular mother. Within seconds she was already caring for the baby and attentive to his needs.” Kulu arrived (as a baby  herself) at the New York Aquarium in the spring of 1994. A team of aquarium staff had traveled to Alaska to rescue orphaned Pacific walrus calves off the waters of St. Lawrence Island. The calves’ mothers were casualties of a subsistence hunt, and the youngsters could not survive on their  own. The rescue squad returned to the aquarium with the big babies in tow. They named one of the females Kulusiq – iceberg in the native Alaskan Yupiq language. The male, who would later sire Kulu’s baby, was called “Ayveq,” meaning walrus. The aquarium staff raised the orphans by  hand for the first 8 months, with bottle-feedings and lots of human company in and out of the water. Later, the little ones joined two older walruses in the Sea Cliffs exhibit. This social group proved to be just the right mix in which the “newbies” could thrive. Kulu’s son Akituusaq is known  as “Brooklyn’s Biggest Baby,” but his Yupiq name translates to “gift given in return.”

Another aquarium celebrity is California sea lion Duke, a rising star at the Aquatheater; he loves to show off for a crowd. During training demonstrations, you might see Duke doing an acrobatic backbend, dive-bombing in the pool, barking on cue, or shimmying to music. When Duke first  arrived at the Aquarium in 2005, keepers knew instantly that his enthusiastic nature would make him a great personality, and indeed he thrived on learning new behaviors. By the summer of 2006, this natural star had earned a solo role in a portion of the demonstration designed just for him!  Duke also serves as an ambassador for his species, teaching Aquatheater guests about his wild habitat and the sea lion’s role in the web of life. You can learn about some of the sea lion’s favorite foods – like herring and squid – and how sea lions themselves are the favorite foods of some of the  ocean’s top predators… like white sharks. Duke and his keepers also demonstrate how you and your family can impact this food chain and how, by making smart seafood choices, you can help protect the ocean’s wildlife. You can catch one of the daily feeds for walruses, sharks, penguins,  and sea otters by checking the schedule when you arrive at the front entrance.

The New York Aquarium has thousands of animals in naturalistic habitats, so while it might not be possible to see them all in one day, you can check their website for their top “must sees,” or tailor your visit to meet your family’s personal interests. A kids’ favorite is the “Alien Stingers  Exhibit,” which features the bizarre, mysterious, and amazingly alien world of cnidarians (pronounced ny-dare-ians). The cnidarians group is made up of sea jellies, corals, and sea anemones. Did you know there are approximately 9,000 different species of cnidarians? Did you know that corals  and sea anemones are animals? Find out what sea jellies, corals, and sea anemones have in common. Most people are afraid of jellies, having been stung here at the Jersey Shore or just seeing them as lifeless blobs on the beach. But here you can find out how amazingly beautiful jellies are.

If sharks are your thing – and they are always a crowd pleaser – the Aquarium’s 90,000 gallon shark tank will thrill you! You’ll find sandtiger, sand-bar, nurse, and white-tip sharks swimming alongside stingrays, fishes, and sea turtles. There’s so much to learn a lot about these amazing  animals.

Another favorite is the Octopus Exhibit. In nature, octopuses spend much of their time during the day curled up in their den. When fully grown, a Giant Pacific octopus might weigh up to 100 lbs. and stretch its arms up to 30 feet across, yet he can squeeze through openings as small as a soda  can because he has no bones! They are so agile that you can even witness New York’s Giant Pacific octopus open jars with fish treats inside.

Who doesn’t love seahorses? And so “Seahorses!” is now a permanent exhibit at the Aquarium. Did you ever hear of the leafy sea dragon or the weedy sea dragon? They are unique seahorses with delicate camouflage shaped like seaweed, but words can’t really describe their bizarre yet  beautiful appearance. These amazing creatures can be seen along with many others. Discover the unique role reversal seahorses have when it comes to parental care. So, whether you’re getting wrapped up in the tentacles of the jellies in the Alien Stingers exhibit, being awestruck by the  walruses in the rocky coastline of Sea Cliffs, or cheering on the California sea lions during their Aquatheater presentations, you’ll always be close to some of the world’s most amazing wildlife. You’ll also see that their organization has depth beyond the great exhibits. They are a science-based conservation organization with more expert researchers in the field than any other. By visiting the Aquarium, you’ll also be helping further their science and conservation mission…helping to make a difference.

Getting There:

Take the New Jersey Turnpike to the Goethals Bridge (Exit 13) to the Staten Island Expressway (I-278). Take the Staten Island Expressway (I-278) east across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, to the Belt Parkway East to Exit 7S (Ocean Parkway South). Follow Ocean Parkway to Surf Avenue. You will see the signs to the New York Aquarium.

The New York Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue and West 8th Street, Brooklyn, NY.

Parking is available. For further information please call 718-265-FISH or visit their website:


The New York Aquarium is open 365 days a year. Hours through April 4th (winter season) are from 10 am – 4:30 pm. Check the website or call for seasonal changes. Last entry is 45 minutes before closing.


Tickets for adults are $13; children age 2 and under are admitted free; children ages 3–12 are $9; and tickets for seniors are $10.

Group rates are also available. A Friday Afternoon Special is offered from 3 pm until closing; it is a pay-what-you-wish policy.

Please remember that every dollar you give supports the work in caring for animals at the New York Aquarium and around the world.


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