Visit An Aquarium

Family Travel Friday

Destination: Aquarium

Book Cover: Swimmy
Book: Swimmy by Leo Lionni (1963)

By Jennifer Close

The mystery of the ocean never ceases to amaze children and adults alike.  There is lots of information about the ocean, but there is still so much exploring to be done.  I have been fascinated with the ocean, its inhabitants and geography, since I was a little girl.  My children are just as fascinated with the ocean as I am.  We make regular visits to the beach where we almost always spy crabs, fish, and jellyfish.  If the sun is bright and high in the sky, we wander down the pier so that we can walk over the ocean while watching the water to spy the occasional stingray or turtle.

Aquarium, New Orleans
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans

Visiting an aquarium is a good way to get an up close look at sharks, turtles, fish, seahorses and more without having to get your dive certification!We have visited aquariums in Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Atlanta, and Myrtle Beach just to name a few.

One of our favorite aquariums (and one we return to year after year) is the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas overlooks the Mississippi River and is just a walk away from the famous Steamboat Natchez, Café du Monde and the French Quarter.  There are many exhibits including a walk-through tunnel that immerses you in a Caribbean reef complete with colorful fish.  The Gulf of Mexico exhibit brings you face to face with sharks, turtles, sting rays and schools of fish. My youngest child could stand in front of the Jelly Gallery for hours watching the jellyfish float through the water.


If there is an aquarium nearby, we always add it to our travel itinerary.  Before each aquarium visit, we like to read Swimmyby Leo Lionni.  The book is beautifully illustrated and is a Caldecott Honor winner.  One of the morals of the story is to work together, which always an important skill to reinforce with children!


Swimmy is a little fish that lives with a family of red fish.  Unfortunately, a tuna eats his fish friends and he decides to journey the ocean. Now that my son is old enough, we have an abbreviated talk about the life cycle when we read this book.  Swimmy realizes that the ocean world is full of magical, beautiful creatures.  He begins his journey where he meets a Medusa jellyfish, a lobster, an eel, sea anemones, a school of fish just like his own, and more.  After reading about Swimmy and the sea life that he meets, my children are always excited to head to the aquarium to look for Swimmy and his friends.
RipleysAquarium   Myrtle Beach
RipleysAquarium Myrtle Beach
When we are wandering through the exhibits of an aquarium, my children are always trying to spot the sea creatures that Swimmy meets on his journey through the ocean.  They are quick to point out the red fish, the gigantic tuna (or a fish just as big) and jellyfish.


One of our favorite parts of the book is the beautiful illustrations.  Sometimes, we just look at the illustrations and make up our own story about Swimmy with the turn of each page.  When we get home from an aquarium visit, we like to create our own underwater scenes using a technique that certainly doesn’t replicate Leo Lionni’s beautiful art work but both of my children like to think it is close!
Aquarium underwater picture
Aquarium underwater picture with wax resist technique
This wax resist technique is fun and easy for the kids.  We color our own underwater scenes of the creatures that we met at the aquarium on white paper.  Once our drawings are finished, we use a blue water color or a blue acrylic and water combination to paint over the whole drawing.  The areas colored with crayon will resist the paint and you will have a pretty reminder of your family trip to the aquarium!

Jennifer Close, of Two Kids and a Map, is a regular Contributor to A Traveler’s Library, bringing us cultural inspirations for travel.  As a policy of A Traveler’s Library, we tell you about affiliate links. The links to books included here make it possible for you to go directly to Amazon if you wish to buy a book. They are affiliate links, and if you buy anything through the affiliate links in this post, you will be supporting A Traveler’s Library. Thank you.

As much as I love New Orleans, I’ve never been to the aquarium there, so am glad to have Jennifer’s introduction. I did love the one in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Where is your favorite aquarium?

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

13 thoughts on “Visit An Aquarium

  1. I’m just catching up on my reading and found this post. My favorite aquarium? Easy! I just visited Atlanta and it has to be the Georgia Aquarium. It’s huge and I’ve seen animals there that I have never seen anywhere else: whale sharks. Amazing!!

  2. I’m heading to my favorite, Monterey Bay Aquarium, tomorrow. There is now a shark in the Open Sea exhibit and I want to see how the baby otter is doing. Its foster mother was a joy to watch – better than some human mothers.

    1. Dick and Norma: I went to Monterey Bay Aquarium many decades ago. Need to get up there and check it out again. Say hi to the Otters, Norma. I LOVE watching otters. I’d love to spend time at the Academy of Sciences, including their aquarium. I was in the academy when researching my book, but it was packing up to move at the time. The new building looked awesome.

    2. By the way, Dick, your post wound up in spam filter because you used more than one link in your message. Just a warning to everyone. If you have relevant links like Dick did in this post, best e-mail me and tell me you want to use them, so I’ll be watching for your note.

  3. The aquarium in New Orleans is a fine place to visit, I agree.
    I’ve not been to Marineland near St. Augustine in years and I think it has changed into a focus on dolphin shows now, but it had an aquarium section too when I was a kid, always liked that.

  4. Jennifer: I mentioned the Chattanooga Aquarium above, but of course being a Westerner, I think that San Diego Sea World is pretty neat and the Scripps Institute near La Jolla has amazing jellyfish. And of course when I’m in Chicago, there’s the Shedd Aquarium where I always feel slightly strange dining on fish at their nice restaurant with a view of Lake Michigan. But I do it anyway.

    1. That is so true…we have a whole collection of Lionni books! When I taught 9th grade, I used to read A Color of His Own and have my kids write about how they were going to make their own mark as a freshman in a new school! The kids used to laugh when I started reading the picture book to a bunch of 14 year olds but I always had their total attention!

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