By Amy McCollom
My family kind of likes sharks. We also like to watch all sorts of fish and sea life swimming around, as long as we’re on the other side of the glass aquarium, television set, or movie screen. We have no desire to be mermaids, scuba divers, or snorkelers. We have watched too many episodes of “72 Most Dangerous Creatures In The Ocean” and other shows like that, and we have seen all of the Jaws movies.
With that said, we decided to visit the St. Louis Aquarium this past week. If you go, put on your walking shoes and because of COVID, order your tickets and time slot online before you go, as it is a must. (Also, most things to do in St. Louis right now requires the same procedure of ordering tickets or time slots online because of COVID restrictions including the zoo, museums, and Grant’s Farm, so be aware.)
When you arrive at Union Station, the site of the new Aquarium in St. Louis, you drive through a gate where you press a button for a time-stamped parking receipt. You need this to get out, so keep it safe; do not set it near a weeping drink where it will get wet or bleed through the paper (oops).
There is a Build-A-Bear Factory right across the street from the parking lot, and the sign for it is loud and proud, so you and your little ones won’t miss it. It’s worth a visit. You can bypass all of the over-priced gift-shop garb at the end of the tour and probably save money in the long run with a trip to the Build-A-Bear Factory. We did, and it was great!
When you walk up to the entrance of the Aquarium, you pass by pools teeming with large koi fish, and there are vending machines where for a quarter you can feed the fish with a handful of something that resembles rabbit pellets. The fish go crazy for it.
There are restaurants around the boardwalk, and assorted vendors of things, small fair games, and even beer vendors down further past that. And we haven’t even gotten to the front doors yet. It’s a very busy place.
Once inside the Union Station doors, there is a restaurant on your left, escalators in the middle, bathrooms and ticket kiosks to the right and straight ahead is the entrance to the Aquarium. There was a line, of course, as we had tickets for the 11:00 entrance. The experience was pretty cool, with lights, fish, a “moving” train ride through the history of St. Louis, and then pathways through areas where windows of fish appeared for our viewing. It would have been nice if some of the windows were bigger because people kept putting their children in the windows, then no one else could see the fish, which started to aggravate me a little.
There were places through the walkway where fish swam directly above you, and then there were larger room-pods that would open up where the aquarium was rounded to feel like you were in a bubble. I loved watching the sharks! There were several kinds; Leopard, Hammerhead, Black-Tipped, and baby sharks. Also many types of fish were swimming together in harmony.
There were also special species of fish, like piranha, puffer fish, and octopus, and leafy seadragons, to name a few. At the top level, there were opportunities to actually touch or pet different kinds of sea life such as urchins, sting rays, starfish, oh, and have your fingers nibbled on by “doctor fish.” It was very cool. Like all classic “rides,” the end of the aquarium tour exited into the gift shop, which we took a look at and quickly left. We had lunch at a little shop up on the second floor, which was set up more like a fastfood restaurant. The noise of the metal chairs pushing against the concrete floor there was teeth-grinding, and it was loud, but for a quick bite, it worked.
At 1:00, there was a fire show outside in the main open area near the koi pond. We saw the flames from the second story window of the restaurant where we had our lunch. Down stairs, there was also a rope climbing challenge that hung all above the first floor, and there was a mirror maze. Outside there was also the giant St. Louis Wheel. I had no intentions whatsoever of going on that, even though some of my kids tried to convince me. If you like heights, then have at it. Overall, it was a good adventure.
In my opinion, it felt more like a “ride” or a “show” than a real aquarium, and I felt kinda rushed through. It was noisy and there were too many children in my way, too many strollers, and it was really kind of dark in there, and narrow.
Perhaps I’m getting to be a grumpy old lady, or maybe I’m calling a spade a spade. It was a fun day, though, because I shared it with my family and I wasn’t sitting at home on the couch. And I petted some cool fishy things. And I went to Build-A-Bear.
And we stopped at a great restaurant in Troy on the way home called Fire-N-Smoke. And that’s all, folks.