I grew up in New Jersey but never had much cause to visit the city of Camden, in fact, we usually avoided it. I briefly visited the Camden Aquarium when it first opened in the early 1990s and I wasn’t impressed. However, I had heard it was redone in 2005 and so it was always a possible side trip option when visiting my family in central NJ. This year, on the day after Christmas we needed to get out of the house while my mom prepared Christmas dinner, so we decided to gather the South Jersey cousins and head to Adventure Aquarium.

Today, located right on the revitalized Camden Waterfront directly across from Philadelphia, the Adventure Aquarium is home to more than 8,000 animals in tanks holding more than 2 million gallons of water. No longer featuring just the dull-colored native fish, the aquarium features tropical and local varieties with some surprising additions including penguins and hippos.  Yes, hippos! I never saw those in an aquarium before.

Hippos at Adventure Aquarium via We3Travel.com

Meeting the Hippos

We decided to make it even more of an “adventure” by taking the NJ Transit Light Rail River Line from Bordentown, NJ (just 5-10 minutes from my mom’s house) directly to the aquarium. The train was more for novelty than necessity since the drive isn’t bad and parking at the aquarium is only $10. However, at only $1.50 per ticket each way, it was worth the experience of riding the train. The train dropped us right in front of the aquarium, where we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the Philadelphia skyline. The train is definitely a great option if you are traveling during rush hour or want to take in a concert in Camden’s waterfront arena.

Philadelphia skyline from Adventure Aquarium

Beautiful view of the Philly Skyline

Tickets to the aquarium aren’t cheap ($24.95 for adults and $18.95 for kids 2-12), but you can easily spend 2-3 hours, more if you take in some of the shows and special exhibits. The day after Christmas ended up being a great day to go. The aquarium wasn’t over crowded, it was decorated for the holidays, and they even offered special events like a scuba diving Santa, questions with Rudolph and photos with the Abominable Snowman.

The Abominable Snowman at Adventure Aquarium

Meeting the abominable snowman

After a quick snack at the spacious cafe, we took a peak at the four hippos, who were getting frisky waiting for their feeding. Since the crowd had already gathered to watch the meal, we headed on to the shark tunnel, which is truly a highlight of the aquarium. First you can take a gander at the various species, including great whites, black tip reef sharks, and hammerheads, in the giant tank before turning the corner and actually walking through and under these fearsome creatures in the shark tunnel. In the shark realm, you can also experience virtually what it is like to dive in a shark cage and step inside the jaws of a great white.

Shark tunnel at Adventure Aquarium via We3Travel.com

Shark Tunnel

Unlike some aquariums, the Adventure Aquarium offers many chances to view the large tank and see the giant fish, sharks and sea turtles from many portals and viewing windows.

Adventure Aquarium via We3Travel.com

We were also able to see jellyfish, sea dragons, loggerhead turtles, tropical fish, spiny lobsters, poisonous frogs, eels, and so much more. It was an experience for all our senses as we had a chance to touch both sting rays and small sharks in the touch and feel tanks.

Jellyfish at Adventure Aquarium

Jellyfish galore!

Spotted leopard ray at Adventure Aquarium

Touch tank with spotted leopard rays

Upstairs they even have a whole floor dedicated to hands on activities for the younger set. After checking out the indoor attractions, we headed outdoors into the cold for what my daughter had been looking forward to all day — the African penguins. It was almost feeding time so they nicely gathered around the door awaiting their keeper. We were then able to learn a little about the penguins as they dined. In nicer weather they had an outdoor play garden to explore but it was too chilly the day we were there to look at anything but the penguins.

Penguins at Adventure Aquarium

Outdoor penguin exhibit

We did the obligatory tour through the gift shop before catching our train home. So on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the National Aquarium in Baltimore and 1 being, something like the aquarium at Beavertail State Park in RI, I would give the Adventure Aquarium a solid 7. I liked it better than the New England Aquarium in Boston and, about the same as the Mystic Aquarium in CT. So if you are in South Jersey or visiting Philadelphia, I would add this to Longwood Gardens as a good-to-see attraction.

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