10 of the Best NC Aquarium Adventures Ever
One of our favorite places to go here on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina is the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The aquarium is not far from your Emerald Isle rental and only about 15 minutes down the road on Highway 58, which is the main thoroughfare along the island. It's mesmerizing to watch the jellyfish float by and stare at the seahorses as they seem to magically move through the waters. Beyond all the standard exhibits from the coast to the piedmont to the mountains—there is even more fun to be had. Adventure abounds here and there's a lot to see, do and learn. We don't want you to miss out anything, so we're highlighting 10 of our most favorite aquarium adventures. Try one or try them all!
1. Free Programs
Every day at the aquarium, you're going to find a lot free programs that are included in your admission and that add to your aquatic adventures. From live feedings and dive programs to animal encounters and creature connections, these live shows are scheduled throughout the day for your learning pleasure. Be sure to check out the free programs offered on the day of your visit before you start moving through the aquarium so you know what times and where to be for the ones that are of interest to you and your family.
2. Touch Tanks
There's nothing better than hands-on learning and kinesthetic experiences for kids and kids-at-heart. The touch tanks offer the opportunity for just that. Feel the sleek smooth back of a stingray as it swims by. Pick up a horseshoe crab and examine it up close. The touch tanks are a crowd favorite and memorable experiences that will keep you coming back for more. Fair warning: your kids may not want to leave the touch tank once they get there, so plan accordingly!
3. Sea Turtle Rescue Station
This is a new addition to the aquarium and one that's sure to please. Kids love putting on a lab coat and heading in to the sea turtle rescue station where they can pick up an injured sea turtle (not a real one, but close!) and bring it into the lab where they will be led through the various stations to examine, diagnose and help rehabilitate the turtle before releasing it back into the wild. The computerized stations are very realistic and the ability to push buttons, use medical instruments, and help a sea turtle back to recovery are really engaging and fun for all ages.
4. Little Minnows Play Area
Dress up like a shark. Play under the jellyfish tentacles. Chase the other little fishes around the play area. Build a fort. Read a book together. This spot is designed for the littlest ones in your family giving them a place to do some free play and use their imaginations. The Little Minnows Play Area is matted for safety and allows smaller children to roam, build, play and explore. Just look for the giant frog near the entrance to see if your kids are within the height limits for this area.
5. Live Diving & Feeding Programs
Talk to divers in the 306,000-gallon Living Shipwreck exhibit, see what happens at feeding time in various other exhibits, or watch the otters when they come out to play. Experience all of the fascinating free diving and feeding programs that happen on a daily basis here. Explore the underwater world without ever having to get wet!
6. Special Events
Special events are another addition to the aquarium's lineup of family adventures. Some special events are free with your admission like Shark Week, animal awareness programs, and special admission-free days like Homeschool Day and Veterans Day. Other special events at the aquarium require a small fee but are still a great value like the Kids' Night Out, Trick or Treat Under the Sea, and the Surf Fishing Workshop Weekend—and are worth every penny.
7. Tours & Adventures
Just when you think there couldn't possibly be any more adventures to embark upon, there are! Indoor and outdoor programs are offered throughout the year for all ages and interests. Behind-the-scenes tours, aquarist adventures, and aquarium close encounters are part of the inside experiences you can have while kayaking excursions, stand-up paddleboarding lessons, seafood catching classes, and sea turtle treks are a few of the outdoor excursions that are also offered.
8. The Marsh Boardwalk and Alice Hoffman Nature Trail
If you think the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is just an indoor experience, think again. There are some awesome outdoor parts of the aquarium you really don't want to miss including the Marsh Boardwalk with its beautiful views of the water and wildlife, and the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail that meanders through the maritime forest which is a looping trail under mile long making it kid and family friendly.
9. Tree-Mendous Nature Play Area
The kids won't want to miss this playground near the start of the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail and right off the marsh boardwalk where they can enjoy two slides, a climbing net, a treehouse platform, a swinging bridge and tons of other cool stuff to inspire physical activity and creative outdoor enjoyment. It's the perfect place for them to expend some energy. Parents love the shady area to relax and watch all of the outdoor action.
10. Birthday Parties, Sleepovers & Weddings
You may not know that the aquarium is a venue for other events for your family including birthday parties, sleepovers with friends, and even weddings. It's a unique place to have fun and make some amazing memories that will last a lifetime. Come celebrate by the sea!
What's your favorite nc aquarium adventure?
We want to know! Our comment section is always open and we love hearing from our readers.