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Sea World and the Florida Aquarium

xmas me
In non- entertainment news, last weekend, gargoylerose and I took a brief trip to SeaWorld, heading to the new Reef and Stingray exhibit. It works somewhat like this:

Tourists ENTER the DARK and FORBIDDING looking area with its CURVING FAKE STONE walls made of concrete, heading to a tank that mixes Atlantic and Pacific corals and fish, a large and impressive stingray tank, a tank with various and completely unlabeled invertebrate critters, a tank with somewhat labeled sea dragons, a second tank with more completely unlabeled invertebrate critters, a tank where you can have your picture taken so it looks as if your head is stuck in the aquarium – which happens to be completely inaccessible to kids in wheelchairs – and the other side of the fish/stingray tank.

Tourists: Oh, thank god. Air conditioning!

Less overheated tourists: Oooh, spooky! Ghosts!

Kids: LOOK! SOMETHING STUCK TO THE TANK! WHAT IS IT!

Parents, forgetting that the new purpose of SeaWorld is Pure Entertainment, LOOK around desperately for ANY information about the critters in the tank, and find absolutely nothing.

Me, wearily: Anemone.

Parents: What?

Kids: LOOK! MOMMY! DADDY! AUNT LUCY! ANOTHER TANK AND SOMETHING ELSE STUCK TO THE TANK! WHAT IS IT!

Parents: Er.

Me, wearily: Sea urchin.

Kids continue to SHRIEK, unhappy that no one can tell them what anything is, and speculate at high volumes. Sound continues to ECHO through the area, AGGRAVATED by MYSTERIOUS MOOD MUSIC.

Yesterday, tgregoryt, his friend A and I headed to the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, which works somewhat like this:

Excited child: WHAT'S THAT???

Parent, quickly reading wall: Anemone!

Excited child: SILENTLY STARES IN AWE.

Me: Yay.

Not surprisingly I did much better at the Florida Aquarium.

Sea World's new exhibit isn't all bad – the section where you can stand directly under stingrays is quite lovely. But I couldn't help remembering the reef exhibit that had been there previously – mostly demolished to make way for the new roller coaster. It was a rather nice exhibit of various coral reef fishes and other habitats, and if not precisely highly educational it at least gave some basic information about what was in the tanks. And it always seemed filled with people – although to be fair that was doubtless in part because of the air conditioning. And yet, it was relatively quiet.

I've noticed the same dumbing down at Epcot's The Living Seas, presumably because someone somewhere figured that people come to amusement parks for entertainment, not education. That assumption isn't entirely incorrect, especially here, where the main attractions are roller coasters. But one of the main things that used to distinguish Sea World from Disney and Universal was the focus on the animals instead of thrills. And, from my observation, removing very basic identification signs actually lessens the enjoyment of some people – specifically families with curious children. It most certainly greatly increases the volume – which in turn made me incredibly dizzy.

But anyway. Watching dolphins leap around cheered me up, as always, as did the seals and the sea lions. (I love seals and sea lions.)

More about the Florida Aquarium in the next post. And pictures!

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xmas me
mariness
Mari Ness

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