The last big stop on our staycation was the Idaho Aquarium.
Before I get into this, I'd like to reiterate a point I made in my post talking about our trip to Zoo Boise. The Idaho Aquarium has been in the works for quite some time, and financially it's been nothing but an uphill battle. There have been countless fundraisers and pleas for donations to the public, and in all honesty I'm really happy for the people involved that this dream has become a reality. Sadly though, lots of people who insist that Boise is the type of city deserving of high quality, tourist-drawing destinations are the same people who won't do anything to help bring these places into the area. When Melissa and I decided we wanted kids we didn't just complain to the city, we took action. So we're faced with this issue. It's great that we have an aquarium, but you can't do much without proper support and funding. I feel bad to some extent, but my point is that I understand their situation and I did keep that in mind during our trip there.
So just like my Zoo Boise post, this story got interesting right as we entered the parking lot. I'm really going to try throughout this post to not be overly mean, but the aquarium is located right by our local mall, across the street from a Sheriff's office, and shares a strip mall with two bail bond places and a mattress place. Seriously. That was the location that people scouted and haggled over. Architects spent days drawing up detailed plans that had been discussed with the aquarium staff to ensure things were laid out in a specific way. Construction workers spent weeks building the inside, sculpting the fake rocks to make the fish feel comfortable when they were added, and adding giant filtration systems so that fish that don't even exist yet would someday be added and be able to survive in the water they use. I just don't understand what drew them to that spot. Maybe it was close to someone's house.
Next comes the price. I've said several times that for us, we live by the idea that ticket costs for our family only need to be justified by the ability to get our money's worth out of the visit. I hope that makes sense to other people. Fourteen dollars for an hour long trip to the zoo is not too bad. For the aquarium, prices were $9 each for Melissa and I, $6 for William (12 and under pricing) and Carter was free (2 and under pricing). $24, and ya know, that's really not expensive. The problem for me was what we got out of that $24, and it really didn't seem like much.
So, the inside. Right off that bat it was pretty clear that they were fishing (PUN!) for a certain audience. When you walk into this very warehouse style area you are instantly greeted by a large open-top tank filled with all the familiar fish from "Finding Nemo." Okay, ha ha, I see what you did there. It kept both boys in total amazement for what felt like a while, but we found it a challenge to keep up with William. The large tank was made as a feeding area. For an additional three dollars you could get food to feed certain fish, and the tank was very low to the ground to help with that. Low enough, you might say, to entice a very excited toddler to jump in and swim with his favorite fish in the world. So we found ourselves in deep water (PUN!) trying to battle between moving on to the other tanks and William so desperate to stay and jump in with "Nemo."
With such a grand entrance, it was unfortunate that most of the tanks within the aquarium walls are no bigger than anything you'd buy for your own home, and more than a few house the famous clown fish. There was another larger tank filled with small sharks and sting rays, another area that we found difficult to get William to leave. We found that even though it was not exactly crowded within the aquarium, the sharks and rays tank was the most interesting thing and was therefore quickly overwhelming for the boys. There was actually a really neat area for starfish made out of an old boat, but while Melissa and I thought it was interesting, the boys did not.
The two bigger tanks held the attention of the majority of the people, the majority of the time, and why shouldn't they? The alternatives just couldn't compete. There was also an octopus, a few reptiles, and a new puffin area, but none of them could pull people away from the two bigger tanks. There was also, according to their website, supposed to be a loggerhead turtle which was nowhere to be found. They are also trying to raise money for a 130,000 gallon tank to be filled with sharks and rays that people will swim with, as well as a seal at some point. Honestly, I can't imagine where that is going to fit because at a normal walking pace I could go from start to finish in two minutes. Considering the adult price is two dollars more than the zoo, that hardly seems worth it, someday perhaps. They don't seem to be using the right bait (PUN!) to get people in the door.
How about something positive...
A very unexpected, very cool thing happened as we were milling around the exit area trying to decide how many times we should go back to the beginning and start the process over to make the trip worth it. There is a sort of learning area at the end with lots of books and a desk are where kids can color in books that have fish that surprisingly were not clown fish. As I was making a mental note that the last fish tank held lion fish, meaning we start with "Finding Nemo" and end with "Deuce Bigalow" a staff member rounded up kids who might have been there as a group, and read them all one of the books. I really liked that moment.
So will we be going back? Again, like the zoo we don't really have options for this type of entertainment. When the boys are a bit older and understand they can't just jump in with the fish it will be easier, of course it will also be more expensive when we have to pay for Carter. As the aquarium continues to ask for money and have fundraisers it is possible that things make great forward strides. Till then, we watch "Finding Nemo" all the time and we can get our fill of clown fish that way.