One of the very first destinations that we stopped at on our first year out, was the Oregon Coast Aquarium, in Newport, OR. Since that time we have measured all other aquarium visits against it, and I have often wondered if its high ranking in our esteem was partially influenced by it being our first ever aquarium visit!
This year, we returned to the OCA, and I was anxious to see if it would measure up to the rose colored glasses that we remember it with. And it did!
Because our visit was just over 5 years ago, the younger kids don’t remember it; Emma was 4, Savanna was only 2, Molly 2 months, and Caleb wasn’t even around yet. I was anxious to share the OCA with them especially, and even though we found ourselves a bit more knowledgeable about sea creatures than we were that first time out of the mountains, we all loved the Oregon Coast Aquarium the second time around as much as we had the first!
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is great for all ages! There are both outdoor, as well as indoor exhibits, and we have learned so much each time that we visited the aquarium!
There are fun, hands-on activities for the littles, and they always include beautiful, live ocean creatures! Caleb really liked the mock submarine that he could go inside of…
There are so many indoor tanks full of sea dwelling creatures! We all love to watch the different animals!
One of our favorite places in the OCA is the touch tank! Full of creatures that you might encounter while tide pooling on the Oregon Coast, this table is the perfect chance to see them up close and to learn about them and their habitat from the knowledgeable docents that man the table.
Both times these volunteers were excellent – coaching the kids on how to touch the animals without hurting them, telling us about the animals and answering tons of questions that we had about the coast and its wildlife.
This trip we were especially fascinated by the numerous sea urchins they had in this tank. Such interesting creatures!
The kids got such a kick out of the sea urchins moving their spines to feel the kids’ fingers when they would touch the urchins!
I loved all the beautiful colors in the touch tank!
Sea anemones are so interesting also – and we love to check out the ones at the aquarium touch table because the ones we see tide pooling are always full of sand. We can see how anemones work much better through the ones here at the aquarium!
While we were checking out the touch table, one of the volunteers asked if the kids would like to help her feed the fish in one of the tanks. The kids enjoyed feeding the fish and watching the ensuing whitewater over the food in the water!
In that same tank, there are several underground telescopes, and you can watch what’s going on under the water, from a fish-eye view…
And who isn’t fascinated with jelly fish! The only ones we see in nature are dead ones washed up on the beach, so we like to see them in action here…
Along with the touch tank, another unanimous favorite is the Passages of the Deep exhibit.
In Passages, there are 3 huge fish tanks. And visitors can walk through each one, with 6 inches of acrylic the only barrier between you and the ocean living there…
The littles love the view screens that are built into the floor of each tank!
Each of the 3 huge tanks features a different group of sea creatures. The tribe’s favorite is definitely the shark tank! Caleb too! Of course, Caleb is pretty sure that any fish over about 2 feet is a shark! When the boys were catching salmon farther up the coast, he would yell,”put that shark back!!!”
After you work your way through the 2 tunnels in Passages of the Deep, there is a great gift shop with a fun photo op…
and penny pressing machines! (which we love!)
Pressed pennies make the best souvenirs for our traveling tribe! They are lightweight, don’t take up much space, and are unique to each location that we visit.
After checking out Passages of the Deep, we took a walk outside and were just in time to watch the staff feed the river otters…
There are numerous opportunities, each day, to watch the staff feed the aquarium animals. They also give a talk at that time about the animals that they are feeding. The schedule is consistent, so we took a picture of it on our way in so that we could reference it throughout the day to make sure we didn’t miss any of the feedings that we wanted to see!
After we visited the out side grounds and exhibits, we went back in to check out the kids’ play area. We had purposefully skipped it earlier as Caleb loves them and we knew that we would have a hard time dragging him away from it once he was playing there.
And we were right. He loved it.
There were magnetic fish that he could catch from his fishing boat…
which the boys then unloaded off the boat for him…
where they were next taken to the market to be sold…
Caleb really gets into his play. He has this incredible imagination, and lives his make-believe…
While the entire aquarium is great for kids, there are a few other places, besides the fish market, that are just for the younger group! The kids enjoyed checking out the Coral Reef Challenge, digging in the sand for rocks and shells,
cleaning up the ocean of things that are not supposed to be there.
There is also a fun theater area where the kids dressed up as sea creatures and made up plays (generally about the circle of life)…
In this area, the kids picked up some fun little activity books called ‘the Sea & Me’ (they did the word finds mazes,and other activities on the drive back to the campground).
Then we walked through more exhibits – we find ocean dwellers so fascinating – so many unique, exotic, and colorful species!
I’m pretty sure that we would love snorkeling – can you imagine seeing this in ‘real life’???
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is consistently named among the top 10 aquariums in the nation, and for good reason. The exhibits are exceptional, the staff knowledgeable and friendly, and the grounds are well maintained. It is a joy to visit.
The OCA is located in Newport, Oregon, and is right off of the 101. It is open every day except Christmas; we chose to visit during the week while the crowds were a little smaller. Be sure to check out their calendar of events here – they have tons of extra shows and behind the scenes peeks going on, so check out what they are offering when you are in the area to help you decide what day would be the best for your family to visit!
I love that the OCA offers a family membership that includes up to 6 children, and that you can add more children on at a price that is reduced from the normal ticket price! This can save you quite a bit if you are traveling with a large family, or if you would like to visit again while you are in the area!
The Oregon Coast Aquarium really is an excellent stop for learning about and enjoying the ocean life that is on and off of the coast that you are visiting in the area! We appreciated our tide pooling excursions so much more once we had visited the aquarium and knew more about the ocean life that we were looking for and observing!
You can find out more about visiting the aquarium on their website at aquarium.org, and check out their great facebook page (but be warned, you will want to visit after seeing the pics from the aquarium!). Check it out – the Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of our choices for top stops for families!