Just 11 miles north of Sandbridge Beach, VA, you'll discover the Virginia Aquarium & Maritime Science Center. Here you'll find a magical world filled with fascinating sea life, from sharks and rays to seals and sea turtles.
What's more, you can visit any day of the year - except Thanksgiving and Christmas - between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. And, for a reasonable charge per person, you can explore two spacious buildings plus extensive outdoor habitats, where you'll encounter more than 12,000 animals representing over 700 species.
It's huge fun for the entire family. And, of course, it's also highly educational - but in a cool interactive way that will delight even the tiniest children. So, it's well worth the easy trip up from your Sandbridge Beach rental.
A Wide Variety of Things to See and Do
As you'd expect, the Aquarium specializes in denizens of the deep, which swim, slither, dart, and wriggle through more than 800,000 gallons of fresh and salt water.
But, at the same time, it also offers awesome special exhibits spotlighting exotic habitats such as Israel's fabled Red Sea and Southeast Asia's "Ring of Fire."
Start by Exploring the Year-Round Exhibits
These ongoing displays include:
- Wetlands and Watershed - an immersive exhibit teeming with birds, fish, and turtles native to inland rivers
- Restless Planet - featuring lush recreated habitats representing far-flung locales shaped by volcanic activity
- Offshore Gallery - highlighting the amazing creatures that lurk just beyond Virginia's shore
- Shark Exhibits - showcasing everybody's favorite ocean predators (yes, you'll see real sharks up close!)
- Sea Turtle Exhibits - bringing you these beloved endangered creatures, which can grow up to 3 feet long and live as long as many humans do
- Chesapeake Bay Exhibit - offering eye-level glimpses of the colorful fish that throng the Chesapeake waters
- Harbor Seal Exhibit - just outside the North Building - where adorable whiskered seals glide gracefully through their habitat
Plus, Take Advantage of Opportunities to Go Even Deeper
Along with the Aquarium's year-round displays, you'll find various special options for fun-filled interactive learning. Be on the lookout for:
- Aquarium Animal Ambassadors: If you spot an employee handling a slithering snake, don't be alarmed. That's just one of the Aquarium's Animal Ambassadors. These highly trained experts are on hand every day to answer your questions and give you more insight into the animals they care for.
- Aquarium Divers: Notice somebody snorkeling amid the critters in one of the major aquariums? They're probably there to perform regularly scheduled maintenance. Be sure to wave. And, if you have any questions, chat with a nearby Aquarium Educator.
- Gallery Programs: See a small crowd gathered around an Aquarium Educator? Head on over and join them! You'll be treated to a fascinating Q & A session. And you'll get to ask your own questions about the marine life surrounding you.
- Grab, Go, Show Bags: Keep your eyes peeled for Aquarium employees toting large beige messenger bags. They're stationed throughout the premises, waiting for visitors just like you. Ask them to show you what's in their bags, and they'll gladly comply. You'll learn a lot about ocean life through their lively show-and-tell!
- Watershed Warriors: Visiting during the summer? Head outdoors to the Aquarium Marsh Loop, where specially recruited students stand ready to provide interactive lessons on everything from sea soils to sustainability. Rest assured they'll adapt their absorbing talks to everyone in your party, including the littlest listeners.
Immerse Yourself in a Virtual Pod
Can't get enough of interactive learning? Hunker down for an immersive VR experience, complete with surround sound and multi-directional movement. You'll feel as if you're being transported to enchanted new worlds. Yet, all the while, you'll be safely ensconced in a comfortable Virtual Pod. It's a blast for the entire family (ages 5 and up).
Ramp Up the Fun with Guest Quest Scavenger Hunts
Want to get your kids more engaged with the Aquarium's educational exhibits? Encourage them to take advantage of Aquarium Guest Quests. These guided scavenger hunts send kids through the Aquarium's galleries and exhibits in search of specific critters such as:
- The fish of the Chesapeake Bay, from Tautog and Tarpon to Striped Bass and Northern Puffer
- Sharks and Their Kin, including rays and dogfish - Kids get to figure out which ones use side fins and which use front fins to move forward
- Arabian Angelfish, Redtail Butterflyfish, and other denizens of the Red Sea...and more!
More Magic Awaits You Outdoors
Just outside the Virginia Aquarium's South Building, you'll find The Adventure Park, where you and your family can experience thrilling ropes-course climbing and tree-to-tree ziplining amid spectacular woodland scenery. Participants must be at least 5 years old, and children between 5 and 6 must be accompanied by an adult (with a 2-to-1 child-to-grownup ratio).
You don't need to be an Aquarium visitor in order to climb and zipline. But why not combine the experiences for a full day of family fun?
Then Wrap Up Your Day with a Relaxing Dinner Back at Your Sandbridge Beach Rental
After all that excitement, you'll relish the chance to unwind and recharge in beautiful Sandbridge Beach. We bet even the kids will appreciate the beach's peace and serenity!