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We have been in Virginia for almost two months now and it has been quite the adjustment. My husband has duty every three days. For those of you who do not know what duty means, it means that he is at work for 24 hours and then, he usually has to work the day after as well. Three-day duty is miserable because there is no real normal day. It is a day of duty, then a day of being tired from duty, then a somewhat normal day but, he has to get up at 4 am the next the morning to get to work for duty. It is a vicious cycle. Thankfully, he does have weekends off as long as he does not have duty on one of those days. This means, every 3 weeks he has both Saturday and Sunday off. Those are the best weekends in my opinion. My husband’s last submarine there were two crews. This meant that he had periods of time with no duty days. I think the hardest part has been wrapping my head around the fact that this will be our lives for the next three years. There is no doubt that it could be far worse but, it is still an adjustment. Although his work schedule has not been ideal, I do have to take a moment and give my husband praise. He placed in the top 99% of advancement exam. This means that he is going to be promoted in July. I am super proud of him.
I feel extremely fortunate this memorial weekend because my husband had Friday, Sunday, and Monday off. On Friday we went on our first real outing in Virginia. We ventured out to the Virginia Beach Aquarium & Marine Science Center instead of going to the park or the pool like we do normally. I had never encountered a combined aquarium before but, it was nice to be able to learn about different parts of the ocean and the sea creatures.
I have to praise this Aquarium on the unique features that they do have. They had an area that you could crawl under and then stand to look inside the tank. My son is in the fast crawling stage, he loved having a reason to chase Dad as we all crawled underneath the tank. I am not a huge fan of Aquariums that have a forced path and is this aquarium definitely falls into that category. I will tell you that it is not as bad as the Houston Aquarium. The path is wider and has little side areas that you can go learn things. I do recommend going in the morning to beat the traffic.
We were slightly disappointed that it did not have as many sea creatures as we expected. However, we could just be spoiled by the Seattle Aquarium and the Chicago Aquarium. Although this aquarium is not on the same level as the other two, they did have a few sea animals that I had never seen before. Their sea turtles were amazing. I do not recall being to an aquarium that had such beautiful turtles that swam all over the place. It was nice that you could see the turtles from all angles because of how much they swam around. I really enjoyed how many different turtles they had throughout the aquarium. They even had a replica turtle that was laying its eggs. Right below the turtle sculpture, there was a display of what turtle eggs would look like. I found it fascinating but, I may be biased. After all, sea turtles are my favorite species.
I was a little disappointed by the lighting in the aquarium because the lack of lighting caused my son to not be engaged as much. However, the big tanks were amazing and he loved looking at them. There is something special about watching a child be excited about what they are viewing. Personally, it makes the experience more enjoyable for me. My favorite part of aquariums will always be seeing my son’s face light up as he sees the animals swimming by.
I feel like this aquarium did cater to a variety of age groups. They had a decent number of interactive exhibits that taught you about the ocean. It was cool to see how the size of the sediment affects the time it takes for the sediment to settle. There were quite a few fossils and rocks to look at as well. Also, they had exhibits explaining different parts of certain sea creatures.
We walked to the second building instead of driving to it. I found it to be a fairly short walk and there were things that you could stop and do if you chose to. If you are an adventure junkie, you will love the obstacle course that you can choose to do. They had ziplining, nets to climb, platforms to walk across, and quite a bit of other stuff. Some of it is fairly high but, do not worry, you are attached to the course so that you cannot fall. This requires a reservation but, looked like it would be well worth the money.
Our son had been doing fairly well considering we had already been there for two hours. Thankfully, he napped on our way there and we stayed in the car until he finished his nap. Naturally, we have something happen to give us a chuckle or a “are you kidding me?” I went to the bathroom and my husband went to change our son. (Major props to facilities that have changing tables in the Men’s bathrooms). When my husband came back out, he informed me that our son’s outfit was wet. Keep in mind, our son was still in this same outfit. I found a onesie in the diaper bag and just changed him next to the bathroom because I did not feel like going back in. Did we have a bag for the wet clothes? No. Luckily, we were next to the gift shop and were able to get a bag to put his clothes in.
We walked through this building, which was much smaller, and came across a play area for kids. There was another mom with two kids. They were probably five and nine-months-old. The younger of the two did not know how to crawl yet but, we thoroughly enjoyed watching our son trying to play tag with him. It was really cute seeing him try to have the other kid play. After they left, our son played with some of the construction site trucks that they had. It was nice to give him a break but, putting him back in the stroller was a different story. I will tell you, this area was fairly dirty. When I wiped his hands with a wipe, there was visible dirt on the wipe.
Whenever I am startled, I usually have a rather big reaction. We walked around the corner to find a bird room. The bird said “Hello” as I was walking into the room. I yelled because I was caught off guard. I am not a fan of birds and to have one unexpectedly talk to me freaked me out. We read his description and he could say what, whoop whoop, hello, and imitate a siren. We did think that was pretty impressive for a bird.
On our way out, we did stop at the gift shop and found a touch and feel book. It also is a hardback book, which is always a bonus in my book. Those are my favorite for our son. We got him this book, Pout-Pout Fish Undersea Alphabet. I was happy to find a sea creature one for him because he seems enthralled by sea creatures. It kept him entertained for most of the walk back.
If you are considering going to the Virginia Aquarium, I will leave you with this. I would say that they have a wide variety of animals but, not nearly as many sea creatures as we expected. The seals exhibit was under construction and the otters were hard to see because the water was so dirty. Perhaps that attributed to our opinion but, they do an amazing job incorporating learning about the ocean. I would go to this aquarium again because it was fun but, it definitely is not an amazing aquarium. They do have temporary exhibits that cycle through. If you are curious, they have a dragon one currently until September 2018. That was incredibly cool to look at. We thoroughly enjoyed escaping real life and getting to spend time as a family for the first time in a couple of months. I hope you are able to do the same if you choose to venture out to this Aquarium.