Something people don’t tend to worry about when going for a dip in the gigantic freshwater lakes that surround Michigan is having a close encounter with a shark.  Did you know though that sharks now call Michigan home?  Don’t worry they aren’t swimming around the state’s rivers and lakes.  Rather, sharks along with more than 250 other ocean creatures are on display at the Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium.

Located in the suburban Detroit community of Auburn Hills at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, Michigan’s largest indoor outlet mall, the aquarium is open seven days a week.  It opens daily at 10am closing at 9:00pm Monday – Saturday and 6:00pm on Sundays.  Last admission to the attraction is one hour before its closing time.

A trick my family likes to do to maximize our viewing experience by having a minimal number of other guest around us is to visit Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium on Wednesday evenings.  That is KIDS NIGHT at the Rainforest Café situated next to the aquarium which provides parents with meal discounts and special activities for their children.  We enjoy a nice family dinner then wander over to the aquarium during the last few hours it is open.  This is a great way to avoid crowds!

When visitors first arrive at Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium they are ushered into a room that mimics a submarine ride to the depths of the ocean.  The aquarium’s mascots provide guests with a fun orientation about their upcoming undersea adventure.  This animated opening sequence also includes video segments which highlight the ways the facility aids in conservation and preservation efforts for aquatic animals and environments.  Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium appears to put a lot of effort into not just being an entertainment destination but also an educational resource for the people who visit.

As the hatch opens at the conclusion of this presentation, you enter an area that features some of the native fish that inhabit the Great Lakes.  Here you’ll get a chance to see a lake sturgeon up close.  These fish have been swimming in the lakes and rivers around Michigan since prehistoric times.  Sturgeon are known as the “Giants of the Great Lakes” because they can grow to 7 feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds.  The ones on display at Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium are obviously considerably smaller in scale.

After the freshwater display there are ten more exhibit areas that focus on salt water environments.  A nice aspect of the design of the aquarium that parents will appreciate is there are numerous viewing spots and displays that are at children’s eye level.  There are lots of places where kids will get a good view without having to ask mom or dad to pick them up for a look around.

Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium also features a variety of nooks and crannies for children to explore that provide them with interesting and unique perspectives.

The aquarium also provides a hands-on experience with its interactive touch pool.  Does your family have the courage to slip their hands under the water and touch some of the amazing creatures that live in the rock pool that include sea stars, urchins, and slipper lobsters?  Go ahead and reach in!

To help encourage kids to do some learning while exploring the aquarium, they are provided a dive guide that asks them questions about the exhibits.  When children discover the answer they can stamp their book at designated stations along your route.  Earn all the stamps and they’ll receive a free souvenir to take home with them to mark their accomplishment.  Don’t miss out on doing this!  Kids have a lot of fun with it plus the activity helps them get more out of the exhibits beyond just viewing the fish.

We always enjoy watching the stingrays swim about in the Stingray Bay Exhibit.  Look carefully though and you’ll notice they aren’t alone in the tank.  There is a really impressive eel living with them that many people don’t notice because he often blends into the display’s environment.  Getting an up close look at this eel is one of the highlights of a visit so don’t miss out on your chance by rushing through this exhibit.

Another highlight is the Jellies Exhibit.  The jelly fish on display are really spectacular to see.  Plus there is a visually stunning feature to the exhibit which changes the lighting to a variety of different colors including orange, green, and blue.  The coloring variations provide an art gallery like experience to take in.

Of course you’ll want to see the sharks while you are there!  Check them out in the aquarium’s huge 120,000 gallon salt water ocean tank.  There are six species of sharks, which include blacktips and bonnetheads, that call Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium home.  Also make sure to keep an eye out for Benson and Carr in the ocean tank.  These two green sea turtles were rescued after having run ins with boats and their injuries prevent them from being returned to the wild.  So the aquarium cares for them now.

General admission to Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium is $23.50 for adults (13+ years old) and $18.50 for children (3 – 12 years old). Children under 3 are free.  You can save $5 per ticket, with some restrictions, when you buy them online so take advantage of that discount.  Plus purchasing online guarantees you can visit when you want to.  Some days sell out and walk ups will be turned away so make sure to buy your tickets in advance.  Also if you live in the area and are interested in visiting the aquarium throughout the year there is an annual family pass that provides unlimited entry and other special perks.

I’ve touched on just a few of the great things to see at Michigan SEA LIFE Aquarium.  My family has really enjoyed our visits to the place and I’d encourage you to experience all the aquarium has to offer for yourself.  For more information, please visit www.visitsealife.com/michigan

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