During the holiday season, if you are looking to spend some quality time with your kids, why not head over to the local zoo or aquarium? If you are looking for places to go with kids in upstate NY or Albany area, the Via Aquarium is a must visit destination. It is located in the Rotterdam mall in Schenectady, NY. There is a huge a collection of marine animals that will captivate any visitor’s imagination.
- There are a number of hands on areas for children to interact with the sea creatures.
- There are massive tanks with sea creatures from all over the world.
- There is also an “ocean” tunnel that will make a visitor feel like you are under the sea.
Zoos and aquariums are not just for elementary school kids to learn more about the animals. For preschoolers and kindergarteners, they are great places to learn as well.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing the aquarium director Tom. Even as a frequent visitor, I found out a lot of useful information that I did not know about the aquarium.
What are the best attractions of the Via Aquarium?
Our most popular attractions are certainly our hands on exhibits. The 3 Touch Tanks, invertebrates, Koi Pond, and Stingray Bay have always been a favorite for guests. The water table has been a huge hit since it was installed, and the River Game and Sand Table are still popular with guests.
I’d say our most unique exhibit is probably Tokyo Bay. Seeing the Japanese Spider Crabs in real life is really cool.
What are the latest events happening at the Via Aquarium?
The biggest thing going on right now is our Amazon River renovation which we unveiled late in October. This included new fish and our first amphibian exhibit with Poison Dart Frogs! We are still adding animals and are working with the NY DEC to get a caiman to go in the tunnel.
We also have some after hour craft events like our latest Paint and Sip as well as a Make Your Own Ornament night.
What’s your favorite aquatic animals at the Via Aquarium?
It’s funny because I’ve always loved lobsters and crabs as food, but now that we have the Spider Crabs and some really crazy lobsters, like Big Mama our 70 year old 10lb female, I’ve learned how much I love them as animals too. I know they aren’t as popular as sharks or piranha, which I also love, but I’ve really become fascinated by crustaceans.
How to connect with the Via Aquarium for the latest news and events?
Our Facebook page usually gets updated first, then our Instagram and Twitter. Bookmarking viaaquarium.com certainly helps!
We have started a newsletter back up, and right now it is mainly going to our Members. But once we have the routine down, we will open it up to whomever signs up for it.
What’s the best way to learn more information about the aquatic animals at the Via Aquarium?
Taking your time in the aquarium. We try to pack in as much information as we can on our digital signage. Not just facts about the animals or the ecosystem, but fun tank trivia too. Of course you can always ask a staff member! We may look busy running around from one thing to the next, but we all LOVE the animals and are VERY HAPPY to stop and share our love and knowledge with guests.
What’s the one funny incident that is the most memorable for you working with the aquatic animals at the Via Aquarium?
For myself, it was prepping for Fins and Frights in 2017. We were switching our Adirondack Tank to “Camp Crystal Lake.” That tank was VERY cold, in the low 50s, so no one really wanted to go in. I figured I’d drop the décor and hope it landed right, if not I’d jump in really quickly and adjust it. Well I dropped it before I had planned and I went to grab it before it got too low. The trout swarmed and one bit my finger well enough to draw blood. It was certainly memorable and funny after the fact because it wasn’t an animal you would generally expect to bite. So when guests ask if I’ve ever been bit by a shark or the piranha, I laugh and say “No, but a trout got me real good once.”
For kids who are interested to learn more about aquatic life, what are some resources that you recommend?
I know they aren’t too cool anymore, but libraries are a great source of information. The internet is great, but not every source is credible, even Wikipedia can be openly edited and contain false information. Books tend to have more consistency behind them.
Like I mentioned before, talking to our staff, we got into this because we love it. We get excited to share our passion.
There are also local groups out there that parents can find through Facebook that help connect children to events and activities surrounding aquariums or museums.
It also never hurts to have a home aquarium! That’s how pretty much all of us started.
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