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New Guys in TownApril 5, 2010 at 8:44PM
There's something refreshing about watching kids see stuff for the very first time. It never really gets old, so with some new guys in town we headed out with the kids to take a look. Who are these guys? The new Gentoo penguins at The Living Planet Aquarium. My kids had never been to the aquarium here in Salt Lake so it was new stuff all around for us: Utah rivers, lakes, and wetlands, the amazing ocean wonders (including a touch pool), the South American experience and Penguins!When we got to the Aquarium we started off following the crowd into the Utah area. In there we discovered all kinds of stuff about Utah and wetlands. Since my kids are small we didn't have the opportunity to read much of the explanations and interesting facts about the animals that are by each tank. Ooohs and aahhs over each different kind of fish and amphibian were followed quickly by, "What's that one over there!" They paused for a second to take a turn sitting on the giant frog and 'driving' the brine shrimp research boat before heading out of the Utah area. If you have sharp eyes (and patience) you can try to find the bull frogs in the wetlands area.Next up, was the ocean wonders. Our smallest one has been enchanted with sea horses lately -- she calls them "ponies" and she got a good look at big and small ones. I couldn't believe how tiny the dwarf seahorses were. The coral reef tank really caught both the kids' eyes and they stood there pointing out colors and fish for a long time. We reached the touch pool right at feeding time. It was a real treat to watch the manta rays gobble up shrimp. The kids were too shy to touch, but I reached in when one came close and was surprised at what it felt like. Who would have thought they feel like jello.After I touched the ray, our oldest stopped being shy but was disappointed that the ray didn't come back near enough to touch. To keep disappointment at bay we headed to the bio-facts station. Here they have starfish, shrimp, and crabs in tanks and you can get really close to see them and touch them. Two kinds of starfish and a couple of horseshoe crabs were available for touching. This time he didn't hesitate too much, but of course I had to touch first. When the youngest saw all the touching she wanted in on the action, but not-quite-two years old isn't old enough to touch the anenomes.Before we headed out of the ocean wonders area it was time to go see the sharks. Having watched shark week on the Discovery Channel, our kids were a little apprehensive about seeing the sharks. "If they have sharks there I'm gonna be scared!" was the comment from our oldest as we were driving down. He was hesitant to approach the tank but as he got closer he got much more excited. Having the sharks trapped behind a big pane of glass made them much less scary.Last on the list was the South American experience. Right as we entered a giant tank stopped us in our tracks. Not only did it have really cool fish at eye level for the youngest, but an enormous anaconda was curled up above the water. Right around the corner was the coolest and most anticipated exhibit. The penguins! A giant wall of glass greets you as penguins dive and splash, flashing by quicker than you can blink. Then one will stop and stare at you for a second. "Gwins, gwins!" Both kids were entranced.When we got a chance to step up on the step stools to get a higher look the oldest was even more excited to see them waddling around on the land and diving off the rock into the pool. After about 10 minutes we finally got them to give way and let someone else have a turn at the glass. Opposite the penguin pool you can see how you measure up to the penguins. Apparently my kiddos are the same size as an emperor penguin and a gentoo. Frogs, pirahna, snakes, eels, and other river giants rounded out the South American exhibit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5_4J7kouKU This is definitely someplace I'll be back to with the kids. We spent just over 2 hours there, but weren't able to take it all in. Being indoors, it makes a perfect stop for a cold, wet day or a hot summer day and it's included on the Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass.