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.
How do traditions begin? Why do we feel the need to have traditions in our families? Do we have traditions to carry on a family ritual or to remember someone that may no longer be with us? I am writing about a tradition that my parents and I have started, within the last two years, that have a lot of different meanings behind it. Last month, for the second straight year, I took my family and parents down to Union Station in Kansas City to see the model train displays. What a great thing to do with your family (and to see how nicely the Station was decorated). We had a great time looking at the different train displays that were on hand, especially the detailing of the model train sets. You also had an opportunity to meet Santa Claus, but that is something we decided not to do this year – Christmas was over by the time we went to the Station! My 14 month old daughter had a great time walking around the Union Station. This tradition is an especially a neat time for my mom and I because it brings back some great memories of my grandfather.
My grandfather, John Riordan, was from Connecticut and worked on the railroad system out on the east coast all of his life. My grandfather and mom were really close. He really got a kick out of her following him around at the railroad stations and playing on the caboose while she was growing up. I remember in my childhood how my grandfather was a HUGE Red Sox fan, as was my mom, and how he took a special interest in me while I was growing up playing baseball. I remember as a child we had a train set that would go around our Christmas tree each year. We also had a little model train set that my brothers originally put together and I later played with while growing up. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away in 1994. Still today, every time I see a train or hear one, I can’t help but think of him and all of the great times I had with him when I was growing up.
I believe traditions are opportunities to remember some of the people who are no longer around and to create special moments or memories as each year goes by. It is also a time to reflect on some past memories that we have from certain events that we had with those people who did have a significant impact on our lives and made us feel special. Although my daughter will never have the opportunity to meet my grandfather, I can pass along certain things about him to her from some of the events or traditions we create. I have already started the process of having her become the next Red Sox fan in our family! When the Holiday Season comes around next year, going out to Union Station will be something on our to do list.