Daughter had been wanting to go to the London Aquarium for ages (really, ages), and I finally took her over summer break. We tried to go once earlier, but if you don’t get there bang on time when it opens, you can be stuck waiting in a very long queue, only to have to nudge people out of the way when you are inside. So we went early and during the week, which doesn’t actually stop the throngs of tourists, but we were able to get in quite quickly anyway.
The worst part of the London Aquarium is the entrance fee, ouch. I paid twenty-five pounds for the two of us to get in, which is about forty-three US dollars, but it would have been cheaper if I had one of those 2-for-1 vouchers that are available at some of the train stations (I know Southeastern does this, at least). For those of you who don’t live in London, twenty-five pounds for two people to get into an attraction is outrageous, even in London, unless you’re a tourist (then it seems to be normal, but I digress).
Once we were inside, we had a great time. There is a path to follow, but there are so many kids that it is okay to cross back and forth, i.e. going through it all and then back-tracking to do it again. We didn’t get to see the octopus or the sea cucumber, as they were both hiding, but we did get to talk to the expert at the Shark Walk for about ten minutes. We also didn’t see any of the feedings, but that was more me avoiding crowds than anything else. There is also a craft station about 3/4 of the way through, which was a nice break, and it had a variety of things to do (mostly coloring and stenciling, but you could also pay to do a sand craft, I think).
The second worst part of the visit, and my biggest complaint, is the store that you have to walk through in order to get out of the aquarium. I hate that. Really, after forking over twenty-five quid to start with, you can bet I’m not parting with more money at the end, especially not for some cheap toy that you can also get at Sea World and any other ocean attraction. I was a bit disappointed too, because the children’s books they had about sealife and oceans weren’t that good either, and that was the one thing I might have considered getting.
However, it was well worth the trip. I can’t say that this is something that we are going to repeat anytime soon, given the cost, but both Daughter and I had quite a lot of fun, and it is a very family friendly place. Daughter also learned a few things about oceans and oceanlife, but we put a bit of work into getting ready for our aquarium trip (see below). So, I think if you need to keep a child entertained in London for two-three hours, and you don’t mind splashing out a bit of money, the aquarium is well worth a visit.
For those who are interested, I turned Daughter’s interest in sealife and the aquarium into a theme cycle. We read lots of picture books with sea themes, like The Rainbow Fish, and we also read a few non-fiction books about sea life. We had been at the Horniman’s the week earlier, where they have a small aquarium, so we spent some time there making general observations and thinking of questions we wanted to answer. I also picked up some of their worksheets, so Daughter worked on those the few days before we went down to the London Aquarium. After our trip, Daughter put together a memory book about what she had seen and wanted to remember. She drew the pictures, and then I wrote down the passages she dictated to me. We also followed up with a Discovery channel show on sharks and a few more worksheets from the aquarium. It was worth the effort, because Daughter was able to talk to the different experts available at the aquarium and ask them questions that she wanted answered. We might do one final activity, writing a story about fish or the ocean, but only if Daughter is interested.