I’ve had the idea to go to visit the Newport Aquarium with Dylan for awhile now, but when they started advertising FREE kids’ admission through February 28, I knew we just had to take advantage of the savings and finally go! So instead of being stuck in the house on Friday, I made a game-day decision to head down to Cincy for some fun with my little guy.
Let me tell you – he absolutely LOVED it. At 3 years old, I wasn’t sure how into it he’d be, but it wowed us in so many ways!
First, before you go – check out some ways to get discounted tickets. I took advantage of their Winter Family Days promotion (ends February 28) and was able to get Dylan in for free! The promo is good for up to two kids with each paying adult, which is a great deal considering he’d normally cost $15.99 to get in. (Children under age 2 are always free.) My adult ticket was $23.99, but I found out later (oops) that you can get $2 off an adult ticket, and $1 off a child’s ticket buy purchasing them in advance through Kroger. You can find this and several other special offers on their website here, so check it out before you plan your trip. The Aquarium also offers annual passes and the option to pay for additional experiences, including Penguin Encounters and Backstage Animal Experience Tours. These sounded fun, but we opted out of them this time.
Another thing to consider before you go – the Newport Aquarium has a stroller calendar and only permits the use of them on certain days. We went on a Friday and it wasn’t too busy to navigate a stroller at all. There were also several places to park it as you went into certain exhibits, and I never felt like it was in the way. (Dylan did a lot of walking, but it was nice to throw our coats, water bottle, snacks, and more in it!) However, they’re usually not permitted on the weekends when the Aquarium is much busier. Be sure to check out the stroller calendar before you go. (Did you know they also offer backpacks and baby carriers to loan free of charge? Nice!)
The website also says that they have a Timed Entry policy and that your entry time is printed on your ticket. Luckily, we were able to buy tickets and walk right in because it wasn’t too busy. However, if you go on the weekends, you may have to wait a bit before you enter if it’s crazy. (Annual passholders and their guests can enter at any time.)
We parked in the Newport on the Levee “Park N Pay” lot located directly under the plaza. This was by far the easiest way to get to the aquarium with little hassle and lots of open parking spaces. We took the elevators directly up to the top floor where the aquarium is located, and right in the middle of all the fun of Newport on the Levee. Don’t miss some great shopping and restaurants while you’re there! And because they’ve eliminated toll booths in the parking garage, don’t forget to take your ticket with you and pay for your parking BEFORE you get back on the elevators to head home. Pay stations on two levels make it easy to pay with cash or credit card. We parked for about four hours, and it was only $3. Not bad for the convenience!
The Levee offers amazing views of downtown Cincinnati, so it’s fun to spend a few minutes before or after visiting the Aquarium just walking around and taking in the views!
We decided to purchase tickets at the door, and there wasn’t a line at all, which was great. However, the Newport Aquarium offers the option to purchase tickets through their mobile app, website, or through retailers such as Kroger (as I mentioned).
Then we walked in!
Dylan loved this HUGE “wishing whale” right as you walk in. I let him throw in a penny for good luck (and he then proceeded to try to climb the “rocks” to get closer to the water – of course). A nice Newport Aquarium employee event offered to take our picture in front of the whale with my phone!
As soon as you enter, there are so many kinds of fish and underwater life to see. Dylan loved waving to the fish. 🙂
There are a few opportunities to touch ocean life up close, which was so fun! Dylan loved this wiggly anemone and was amazed by the horseshoe crabs.
We stuck around for part of a shark and sting ray show…
… then explored some amazing tunnels. There are several, and they’re all incredible.
There were so many fish that were just amazing!
Gator Alley was so cool. We caught a glimpse of Mighty Mike! He was terrifyingly HUGE.
Dylan didn’t quite measure up to Mighty Mike’s length. 🙂
And these two white alligators… So creepy just hanging in the water like that!
Next up was the Frog Bog. Between the live frogs, huge indoor jungle gym, Frogger game and frog statues to play on, it’s safe to say that your kids will have you stuck here for a LONG time. (I speak from experience.)
After he was good and sweaty and exhausted from all the Frog Bog play, we headed over to the Canyon Falls exhibit. It was so warm and had a great outdoor feel, even though it was all enclosed. Dylan waved to an adorable otter…
… and got to touch a really cool turtle!
Then it was on to more incredible sea life…
The Jellyfish Gallery was incredible!
Finally, we took a little break in Sharky’s Cafe. This is a great spot to have a snack or eat lunch when you’re about 3/4 of the way through the aquarium. The cafe offers pizza, hamburgers and fries, fish sandwiches (ha), and even Skyline Chili. There are plenty of grab-and-go snacks available too, but sadly not many of them are very healthy. (Think candy bars, bagged chips, fruity drinks and ice cream.) If you’re wanting to eat a little healthier, I’d suggest packing some fresh fruit and snacks of your own from home. I did this, but of course, Dylan only wanted a bag of Doritos from the snack area. So there ya go.
Right after the cafe is a kiosk where you can purchase a souvenir photo. Ours was taken right as we entered the aquarium, and was superimposed from a green screen onto a variety of backgrounds. Of course, it’s a whopping $23 if you purchase the photo with the fancy frame, but I opted to get the generic cardboard one. It was still $15! Steep, but hey – it’s one of the few memories I’ll be able to make with Dylan before the baby comes this summer. Of course I look humongo-preggo in this pic, and my face is blotchy from all the pregnancy puking I did the night before, it’s still kinda cute, right?
After that, we entered Shark Central where we had a chance to touch some sharks…
Then, we were just in time for the penguin show in the Penguin Palooza area, which Dylan actually got kinda bored of right away. I was hoping to see some action from the penguins (maybe feeding them or seeing them swim and play), but the show mostly consisted of an employee dressed like a penguin interacting with characters from Happy Feet on a television screen. So after we got a good look at the cute penguins (who were mostly just standing around), we moved on.
He loved playing with the interactive Penguin Playground wall…
… and looking through the “bubble windows” at more sea life, which made you feel like you were truly up close and personal with them.
Finally, we went up to the second floor for the grande finale – the Shark Bridge!!!
I was really wondering if Dylan would get scared to cross, but he wasn’t nervous at all! I was so proud of him, although I have to say I didn’t think the bridge was too scary. I was more scared about dropping my phone in the water trying to get this shot than I was actually being bitten by a shark!
After crossing the Shark Bridge, we reached the end of the aquarium… and thus, the gift shop.
Among all the crazy tchotchkes and apparel, he chose an “ooey gooey frog” that’s squishy and sticky. Of course. Here he is with it right before we left:
After I handed him the frog after paying for it, he kept saying over and over, “Mom, this frog is so awesome” in the most serious voice. I’m glad he loved it so much. 🙂
After we left the aquarium, it was a windy but really nice day outside, and we walked around Newport on the Levee a little bit. We saw a man driving a little kiddie train around the plaza, and of course, I shelled out $3 to let Dylan have a five-minute ride. He chose to ride in the caboose with another little boy. The ride was such a huge hit!
Overall, I’d have to say that our visit to Newport Aquarium was a HUGE success. Dylan kept talking about it all evening and can’t wait to come back again. The drive was a little long, but all the fun we had made it SO worth it.
Do you love visiting the Newport Aquarium too? I’d love to hear about it! And I hope if you’ve never been there before, this little post will inspire you to check it out soon with your kids (especially when they’re able to get in free for another week)!
Thanks for reading! 🙂