I couldn’t help but sing Under the Sea from Disney’s The Little Mermaid as my family headed for SEA LIFE Kansas City a few weekends ago. One of the area’s newest attractions, this multi-level aquarium is in the heart of Crown Center. There had been a lot of hype around the opening of SEA LIFE here in Kansas City, and I honestly wondered if it could live up to my expectations. I had recently visited the San Francisco Aquarium. How would ours rate in comparison to this one? After visiting, all I can say is it was worth the trip.
With a 2 year old, everything you do is exploring a whole new world. But when it comes to under the sea, most people would say it’s exploring a whole new world for them. SEA LIFE gives us a glimpse at what happens in the deep blue waters. The doors open to a beautiful shoaling tank where you can see schools of fish swimming together. Around each bend, there is a new discovery awaiting – from a freshwater tank featuring fish found in lakes and rivers to the stingray bay where kids can crawl through a viewing tunnel and walk a plank to get a better look. My favorite area was the tanks that looked like a shipwreck. My husband really liked the touch pools. Did you know starfish feel like jagged rocks? And, my daughter loved the stingray bay! For two weeks after we went to the Aquarium, she kept talking about the stingrays. I would have sworn she’d become a marine biologist after our trip to SEA LIFE and her excitement for it all.
What made this aquarium standout above the one in San Francisco to me? The SEA LIFE staff was well trained and educated, but so were those in San Francisco. This staff, though, went above and beyond to make sure you got the full experience, making it feel like a real adventure to discover something new. As we left the video room and began to cross into the area for ocean creatures, a staff member looked at my daughter and said, “did you see the octopus?” So simple, but it made her turn around and head back in the direction we had just come to find it. He followed us and made sure she saw it hiding in the corner of the tank, while he shared interesting facts about octopuses with us all. In addition to great staff, the layout was phenomenal. Instead of long discovery tunnels, there were unique tanks and tunnel bends throughout to help the flow of traffic and visually direct you to new areas. Starting with freshwater and moving to the deep sea, the bends and turns throughout the aquarium kept you in anticipation of what was to come. Finally, the schedule of events throughout the day is abundant, which means every time you visit you can plan to experience something different. On our next visit, I’d like to be there for the sea horse talk, and I know my daughter would enjoy the animated animal show. (Plus, for those techies out there, they have a great website complete with games!)
Here are a few tips for travelers looking to come to Overland Park and visit SEA LIFE.
1. Allow for enough time for your entire party to enjoy the experience. Based on its size, I had expected that we would explore the center for about 1 to 1.5 hours. We were there for 2.5 hours. My 2 year old couldn’t get enough.
3. Crown Center offers an abundance of other things to do while you are in the area, including shopping, dining and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. You can purchase a combo ticket for both attractions at the link above.