Brooklyn is home to the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States, although it hasn’t always been located in our borough. The New York Aquarium opened in Castle Garden in Battery Park. It was closed in 1941, with many of its animals moved to the Bronx Zoo, and it was moved to its present home on the Coney Island boardwalk in 1957.
Although Hurricane Sandy damaged the facility in 2012, it reopened soon after the storm with 90% of its collection intact. Currently, the aquarium, which is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, is undertaking an ambitious construction program that will give the park Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, due to open in 2017.
How to get there: The New York Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue & West 8th Street. If you’re coming by subway, take the F or Q train to the West 8th Street station on Coney Island, Brooklyn. Or, take the N or D trains to the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue Station, then walk two blocks east on Surf Ave. The Stillwell Avenue station is handicap-accessible on the N/Q and D/F trains.
Bus riders can take the B36 to Surf Ave. and West 8th St. Or take the B68 to Neptune Ave. and West 8th St., then walk south along West 8th to Surf Ave. Other bus routes in Brooklyn, as well as buses from other boroughs, intersect with B36 and B68.
Directions by car from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island and Queens, Connecticut, Westchester County, and the Bronx, Staten Island and New Jersey, are available here. Parking is $13 for cars, $16 for buses. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, visitor parking is $24.95 and includes the driver’s admission. No bus parking is allowed on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Clownfish photo courtesy of the New York Aquarium via Facebook.
Coney Island entrance | Emily Y. via Yelp
The aquarium is open 365 days a year, and the animals are on exhibit every day. Hours until May 27, 2016 are 10 a.m.—4:30 p.m. The last admission is one hour before closing. Admission costs $11.95 at the gate, $10.75 online in advance, for adults and children over 3 years old. Kids under 3 get in free.
The New York Aquarium via Yelp
What to do there:
The aquatheater is open year-round, weather permitting, and the bonds aquarium sea lions have with their trainers take center stage. The animals learn behaviors from them that stimulate their natural instincts while putting on an entertaining and educational show.
Glover’s Reef in the Conservation Hall offers a snorkler’s-eye view of colorful marine life. The Sea Cliffs exhibit offers and up close and personal view of walruses. The Sharks, Rays & Turtles exhibit features some amazing examples of these diverse species.
You can also check out Spongebob Squarepants, the Great Jellyfish Rescue! at the immersive 4-D theater.
Penguins | New York Aquarium via Facebook
Don’t miss watching (and hearing) the penguins as they’re fed. black-footed penguins bray loudly to each other during their daily feedings. It’s one way they strengthen their pair bonds, along with preening each other and rubbing bills.
Sea otters, on the other hand make a game out of eating. They sniff, paw, and pound their food for inspection. And, of course, watching the graceful walruses feed is sure to help you build your own appetite.
On Halloween weekend, join aquarium staff and volunteers for pumpkin carving, musical and theater performances, and other kid-friendly activities at the aquarium. (Please call for dates, times and rates.)
Plush seals at the gift shop | Lin Y. via Yelp
To Eat: During the warmer months, vending carts are located around the facility, offering a variety of snacks, including ice cream, hot dogs, and more. There are a wide variety of restaurants and food vendors on the Coney Island boardwalk.
MCU Park | Brad B. via Yelp
When you leave:
During summer, you can time your visit to match up with a Brooklyn Cylcones game at nearby MCU Park. For the brave, you can take the challenge and ride the new Thunderbolt roller coaster at Luna Park. Hungry? There’s always Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, clams and, even frog legs!