Keep a lookout for St. Nick and his elves at the aquarium during the holiday season. He and his helpers can be spotted through Christmas Eve. The jolly man and aquarium staff take the day off Christmas Day. Otherwise, the aquarium and the gift shop are open 9am-5pm every day – including Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Here are some happenings to consider when making your holiday plans for your family:
• Whispered wishes among the fishes bring holiday magic to the aquarium’s Santa by the Sea on Saturday, Dec. 8. Participants will purchase event tickets in addition to aquarium admission fee or aquarium membership. Event tickets will be sold from 9am-4:30pm, on the day of event, and on-site only. Tickets are required only for children participating in the event. Adults are not required to pay event ticket. Regular admission or membership gives them entry to observe event activities. If an adult would like to participate in the activities, an event ticket is required. Ticket includes a take-home photo with Santa, plus crafts and other seasonal fun. The event ends at 5:30pm.
• Have you seen Santa Scuba dive? Santa and his elves love to swim among the sharks and schools of fishes in the Living Shipwreck habitat during the holiday season. Look for them from Dec. 10-24. Dive programs are free with admission or membership.
If you have a youngster out of school on winter break, the aquarium’s holiday camps keep kids active and learning activities, animal encounters, discovery labs and behind-the-scenes action. Dec. 27 is for kids in first and third grades; Dec. 28 for fourth through sixth grades. Camps run 8:30am-2:30pm. Space is limited and advance registration is required; $40 per camper, $36 for members.
Around the corner is Sea Turtle Camp, Jan. 21 for fourth through sixth grades. This camp is perfect for budding marine biologists to experience what it’s like to work with these beloved marine reptiles during their school holiday. Participants learn all about sea turtles as they work alongside the aquarium’s turtle biologists. Animal encounters, behind-the-scenes action and a take-home craft project also are included. Advance registration is required for this memorable opportunity; $40 per camper, $36 for members.
Toddler Time is a great way to keep the tots in touch with the natural world even when it’s cold outside. Parents and young children can enjoy stories, songs, crafts, puppets and occasional animal encounters (if applicable to the theme) every Wednesday morning, 9:30-10:15am and 10:30-11:15am. The program runs every week through March, except for Nov. 14, 21, 28; Dec. 5; Dec. 26.
Activities each week feature different animals to illustrate concepts appropriate for the age level, such as shape recognition, colors, letters and counting. December’s featured creatures include octopus and frogs; January’s stars include stingrays, diamondback terrapins, screech owls and North American river otters. The program runs through March and is free with admission or membership. No registration is required.
Go Global with the Aquarium’s Outreach Program
The aquarium outreach team travels year-round across North Carolina visiting students of all ages. From the sea to the mountains, they spread the message of appreciation and conservation for our aquatic habitats with preschools, classrooms, libraries, senior communities and civic groups along the way.
Now, outreach has a new way to connect – distance learning! With a computer, a webcam and an internet connection, students can speak to a live instructor and see an animal ambassador up close. With distance learning we can go anywhere, giving strength to the message that conservation is a world-wide effort. As the holiday season draws near, consider giving the gift of distance learning to a special group in your life. For details on how your group can connect with the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, you can call 252-247-4003.
Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving
No need to stress about holiday shopping. Give a gift that will offer incredible experiences and a lifetime of fun memories. A range of annual aquarium membership options, including individual and family packages, are available. Members receive free regular admission to all three North Carolina Aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, along with discounts on aquarium programs, events and in the gift shop.
The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is 5 miles west of Atlantic Beach at 1 Roosevelt Blvd., Pine Knoll Shores, NC 28512. Hours are 9am-5pm daily. For more information, see www.ncaquariums.com/pine-knoll-shores or call 252-247-4003.