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SEA LIFE Minnesota Review of Underwater Adventures Aquarium

Discussion in 'United States' started by geomorph, 23 May 2010.

  1. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    This average aquarium is located in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb 8 miles South of downtown Minneapolis and 9 miles Southwest of St. Paul. It is located in part of the basement of Mall of America, the country’s largest indoor shopping center that surrounds an indoor amusement park. The aquarium’s odd claim to fame is that it is the largest underground aquarium in the world. Who cares? There is also a banner in the lower lobby that proclaims it as the ‘World’s Largest Shark Exhibit’. Whoever conceived that claim needs to travel more. Their website also says that they have the world’s largest jellyfish collection. Do not believe everything you read. Despite these ridiculous claims and its mostly commercial feeling, it is a nice experience located on two levels along an exhibit path composed of both large and intimate tanks of both fresh and saltwater habitats. Its entrance is inside one wing of the mall on the ground floor, where escalators lead down to the ticketing lobby and exhibit path entrance. The path descends down to a second basement level during its course for most of the exhibits, where it eventually ends at the escalators back up to the lobby and mall. Most of the graphics are very basic, and of course all the exhibit lighting is artificial and rather dark. It has a nice collection though and most of the tanks are attractive.

    The entrance from the mall:
    [​IMG]

    The first exhibit area is a large room with 6 small exhibits called Touch of the Wild Woods, although no touch tanks are present. The room is nicely detailed with simulated rocky ledges and trees and shrubs and real waterfalls to recreate a native woodland, with a dark atmospheric ceiling and lighting. The path descends through its course in the room as it goes past the exhibits. First is a small open-top pond with koi and a sign that is typical of the scatterbrained educational messages here: the koi are typical of many backyard captive habitats, and koi are related to Asian carp, which is an introduced species that often jumps in lakes and hurts people in their boats. Huh? The exhibit recovers quickly from this stupid inclusion with a small open-top habitat for Eastern box turtle. Then a small naturalistic open-top tank with a clear railing for underwater viewing is next, called Fishin Hole, filled with sunfish, largemouth bass, and common snapping turtle. It is similar to the next two: one called Reptile River with red-eared slider and painted turtle and some unidentified fish, and one for alligator snapping turtle. Last is an average rectangular terrarium for gopher snake. The room ends inside a snowy cave to lead to the next exhibits.

    Exhibit path in Touch of the Wild Woods:
    [​IMG]

    The next four exhibits are the main attraction of the aquarium; each is a different theme and size, but they all have the same depth (about 10 feet?) and are all viewed through a standard clear tunnel that is quite long as it angles through its course. The tunnel features a moving walkway on one side, like a conveyor belt, that is flush with the rest of the tunnel floor so that visitors can choose to stand and experience the exhibits at a steady pace, or step off to explore at their own pace. I have seen this same system at Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco and in part of Ocean Voyager at Georgia Aquarium. The barrier walls between the exhibits are relatively thin, so that the tunnel seems continuous and there is little transition from one to the next, just a small sign above announcing the next theme. The aquarium has made a common mistake here: graphics are brightly backlit and positioned on the railings, tilted up toward the tunnel. This creates distracting glare, and is probably worse here than anywhere I have seen. Graphics should be unlit in this type of viewing area, with the tank lighting from above providing the only light for the signs, especially if they are as basic as many of these. My love affair with tunnel windows ended long ago, and the fact that this is the only way to view these four exhibits is disappointing. The first one is called Fishermans Hollow and is the second largest of the four. It provides a good transition from the native woodland, and is filled with North American fish including lake sturgeon, walleye, American paddlefish, alligator gar, longnose gar, blue channel catfish, bass, common carp, Northern pike, and muskie. Their tank is filled with logs and some vegetation with a sandy bottom and rockwork sides. The first part of it is also covered with a simulated frozen surface, a unique touch I have not seen before. The next exhibit is Wild Amazon, the smallest of the four and a below average collection and presentation for this common type of exhibit theme. It is rather bare, with some masonry rubble and twigs and a big wagon or ship wheel prop mysteriously thrown in. Species here are freshwater stingray, arapaima, tiger shovelnose catfish, piranha, Midas cichlid, black pacu, flagtail prochilodus, and silver dollar. The largest tank is next, Shark Cove. It is an exhibit with rocky sides and a small simulated shipwreck, with a sandy bottom. Although it is a nice active tank and filled with a nice collection, its relatively shallow depth for this type of exhibit limits its ability to impress. The tunnel makes two right angles as it goes through this habitat. It contains sharks: nurse, wobbegong, brown, blacktip reef, and sandtiger. It also contains giant shovelnose guitarfish, green sawfish, and Southern stingray. Other non-shark fish include great barracuda, red drum, grouper, queen triggerfish, crevalle jack, remora, sergeant major, and sheepshead. Rounding out this selection are loggerhead and Kemps Ridley sea turtles. Rainbow Reef is the last of these four tunnel-viewed habitats and is a bright tropical reef cave of cownose ray and some other unidentified rays as well as porcupine pufferfish, angelfish, rabbitfish, lookdown, blue tang, yellow tang, unicorn tang, clown triggerfish, and hi-fin snapper.

    Shark Cove tunnel:
    [​IMG]

    The next room is a small one with two small tanks with a tropical reef theme that makes sense following the Rainbow Reef exhibit. One is a long rectangular standard tank for live coral, and the other is a round tank for small reef fish including clownfish, puffer, royal gramma, bannerfish, blue tang, and chocolate chip sea star.

    Seahorse Kingdom is the second best exhibit area, a series of two small rooms with a vague temple theme. The first room has 5 half-round nice small habitats for Pacific, longsnout, lined, sea pony, and potbelly sea horses. The second room is a nursery, with four average rectangular small tanks. Currently they hold pregnant longsnout, baby lined, and juvenile lined seahorses; the fourth one is for brine shrimp for feeding the sea horses.

    Seahorse exhibits:
    [​IMG]

    Jellyfish Discovery is an especially dark series of three small rooms. The first has wall graphics and an abstract oval wall tank for Pacific sea nettle. The next has about 8 round tall columns with slowly changing lights for various small species; the room is surfaced with angled mirrors that create a fun disorienting panorama of jellies into infinity. This is followed by another room with large graphics on the walls.

    Jelly exhibits in the mirrored room:
    [​IMG]

    The final room is the lower lobby with escalators that ascend back to the mall and has several small features. There is a small tidepool touch tank, a submarine simulator ride vehicle, a pirate ship play structure, a photo pick-up counter, and finally a small exhibit alcove called Claws with fun crustacean cartoon-like graphics on the walls. Claws has a round rocky touchtank as well as a too-small wall tank for giant Pacific octopus and two tiny tanks for harlequin shrimp.

    Touch tank in Claws exhibit area:
    [​IMG]

    Underwater Adventures Aquarium is ranked #27 of the 43 aquarium facilities I have seen; most of those below it are aquarium complexes in zoos which typically are smaller than complete aquariums. None of its exhibits make my top 25 individual fish exhibits. Still, it is a nice experience. However, adult admission is $19, which is $8 overpriced. Coupons or online purchase reduce the price a little. I have posted additional pictures in the gallery.
     
  2. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    This aquarium has been purchased by Merlin Entertainments Group and is currently being rebranded as a SEALIFE aquarium, officially opening in March 2011. Their website says that they will remain open during much of the rebranding, and that they are changing some of the displays and adding more inhabitants. They do not say what the name will be...SEALIFE Minnesota? SEALIFE Mall of America? This will be the chain's third aquarium in the US, the first to be a renovation of an existing facility. Their fourth location is being built in the Dallas-Fort Worth Texas area and will open later this year.
     
  3. Baldur

    Baldur Well-Known Member

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    I was in Minneapolis in October. As the basement of Mall of America is a transit center for the city buses, I found myself at the mall often. It was tempting to visit but I just couldn't bring myself to pay $19 for entry to a tiny aquarium, especially not while the outstanding Minnesota Zoo, one of my favourite American zoos, prices itself at $16.

    I have been to almost 140 zoos so I was experienced enough to see through their claims of largest this or that, which was yet another reason why I didn't want to support them.
     
  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    Merlin really are trying to take over the world. They have just also bought a number of the Village Roadshow facilities in Australasia including the Sydney Aquarium, Manly Oceanworld and Kelly Tarlton's
    http://www.zoochat.com/24/merlin-buys-village-roadshow-attractions-australasia-193836/
     
  5. Tarsius

    Tarsius Well-Known Member

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    They bought the Sdney Aquarium ? Oh No.....What come snext, they buy Georgia Aquarium and remodel it into Sealife Atlanta ? Sealife is like a pest.....Time, to wipe it out....
     
  6. Baldur

    Baldur Well-Known Member

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    I never thought that I would ever agree totally with Tarsius, but amazing things have happened in the new year! :D
     
  7. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    The official name of the rebranded aquarium is SEALIFE Minnesota and will open on March 11th 2011.
     
  8. Gforrestersmith

    Gforrestersmith Well-Known Member

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    They actually had American Alligators, Yellow Footed Tortoises, Green Tree Pythons, and Piranhas; Where are they and What Happened to Them?