Technically, we may not live close to the real ocean. But, we are lucky enough to have access to the wildlife found deep under the sea. New to southeast Michigan in 2015, SEA LIFE Aquarium in Auburn Hills bring the big blue sea to metro Detroit – and lots of educational opportunities, to boot. Here, get a few quick facts on this family attraction and why you should visit ASAP.
Animal 101: Lionfish and sharks and octopuses – oh, my! Find these and tons of other deep-sea critters at this awesome Auburn Hills aquarium that opened in January 2015. At its heart is a 120,000-gallon ocean tank with a 180-degree tunnel that lets kids “ooh” and “ahh” as sea life swims by.
Critter count: This fished-filled experience checks in at 35,000 square feet with 250 different species (5,000-plus total creatures) in 22 themed tanks that transport families to underwater worlds to see and learn about the animals that live there.
Blacktip reef sharks: A highlight, these tropical beasts glide around a “shipwreck” (spot the giant Pacific octopus here, too). “It’s a really nice wide-viewing area perfect for kids to get up close,” says marketing manager Debbie Gibb. Watch sharks swim in an overhead “Ocean Tunnel,” look for their “black tipped” fins and learn why they’re no threat to people.
Custom-made for kids: Get hands-on at the “Interactive Touchpool,” where kids pick up hermit crabs, touch sea stars, pet sea urchins and more. At the end, there’s a soft play area. Ask about the kids’ quiz and activity trail, too.
Much more: There’s a harbor of lobster and angelfish, a jellyfish area where kids can change the color of the tank (and jellies), seahorses and cownose stingrays, and a 360-degree tank of pilchard fish that swim one way and change direction suddenly.
Michigan edge: One very local touch – this marks brand’s seventh U.S. location – is a fresh-water exhibit similar to the Great Lakes, Gibb says.
Insider insight: “It’s really kid-friendly,” Gibb adds. “Some of the tanks are built at a lower level for kids, and there are some where kids can pop up and put their head right in the middle of the tank.”
Take a picture: Cameras are allowed; just be sure not to use flash in the designated “no flash” areas.
Company and cause: This spot is one of 42 total all over the world run by England-based Merlin Entertainment. A portion of proceeds from ticket fees goes to help the company’s conservation programs and charities.
Location: Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, 4316 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills (near Rainforest Café)
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays; last entry one hour prior to close (hint: get weekend tickets in advance; can sell out!)
Cost: $23.50/ages 13-plus, $18.50/ages 3-12, free/kids under 3