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Each year on January 20th, the world celebrates Penguin Awareness Day, which is an opportunity to learn about penguins and appreciate how unique they are. Since very few of us live in places where penguins exist in the wild, the easiest way to celebrate the occasion is to visit a zoo or aquarium with a great penguin exhibit.
Penguins are fun to watch and need our protection too, so here are some of the best penguin experiences to check out on January 20th or any time of the year.
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The Georgia Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the entire world, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a great penguin exhibit here. The penguin experience here takes place at the Cold Water Quest gallery and offers up-close encounters where you will meet an African penguin, learn about this endangered species from a trainer, and take home a professional photo with the penguin. Ticket prices range from $59.95 to $65.95, depending on if you’re a member, and the ticket proceeds support penguin care and conservation. The program is 30 minutes long and has a minimum participant age of seven.
The Long Island Aquarium’s penguin encounter program is a 30-minute experience where you can meet an African penguin and go behind the scenes to learn how penguins are cared for. You’ll get exclusive access to the Penguin Pavilion and get to watch them waddle, swim, and play. This experience is offered from Thursdays to Sundays at 11:15 am. The price is $58.50 to $65 and requires advance registration. Children must be at least eight years old to attend this experience.
Penguin & Puffin Coast is a penguin habitat at the zoo in St. Louis where four species of penguins live. There are also two types of puffins and other water birds living here among the rocky cliffs and cold waters. Humboldt Haven is outdoors where the Humboldt penguins live and features a tidal pool and 22-foot waterfall. Walk over to Penguin Cove, which has two indoor domed exhibits to view penguins underwater. Before your visit, check out the penguin webcam on the zoo’s website.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has multiple penguin experiences available to help you learn more about these lovable birds. There is an indoor and outdoor habitat here, where you can see them swim, eat, and play. With the penguin painting experience, you can take home a unique piece of art created by a penguin’s footprints on canvas. The penguin petting program is for visitors aged four and up, and this opportunity includes a souvenir photo. Sleepovers at the aquarium are available too.
Learn more about endangered African penguins at the Maryland Zoo by joining a special penguin encounter with a zookeeper. This is a 30-minute experience that includes up-close penguin encounters and special photo opportunities. Only six guests are allowed per encounter, and guests must be at least eight years old. Tickets are $49 to $59 each and are available on both weekdays and weekends. The zoo also offers penguin encounter adoption packages with lots of fun perks.
You can celebrate Penguin Awareness Day in Tacoma by spending the day at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The penguins here live in the Rocky Shores area of the zoo, and you can learn about the individual penguin residents on the zoo’s website. Zookeepers give live chats every day to you can learn about various animals. Other animals in this part of the zoo include sea otters, harbor seals, puffins, and California sea lions.
In a 33,000-square-foot facility, penguins live in a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area at the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. The penguins are being cared for in the former Penguinarium while this extraordinary center is being renovated for waterproofing repairs. But once it’s done, this is definitely a penguin destination to check out to see the birds above and below the water. There’s a 360-degree 4D entry experience that is immersive and makes you feel like you’re on an Antarctic expedition.
Indianapolis has an excellent penguin exhibit as well and opportunities to learn about the second-largest species of penguin, which is the King Penguin. Penguins here are located in the Oceans Exhibit, and there are penguin feeding demonstrations where you can watch their fishing skills as the birds dive for their dinner. The zoo also offers a penguin art adventure that features penguins making beautiful art between April and September. You can sponsor a penguin here for a donation and receive collector items while helping to provide penguins with food, medical care, enrichment toys, and habitat improvements.
Environmental conservation is a priority at the Woodland Park Zoo, which has a Humboldt Penguin exhibit of penguins from the desert coast of Peru. These unique penguins are from a hot and dry coastal region rather than the snowy and icy climate that you likely associate with penguins in the wild. This penguin habitat is eco-friendly and saves approximately 3,000,000 gallons of water and 22,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year to conserve natural resources without sacrificing the care of the penguins. The space features wonderful underwater viewing opportunities with a rocky coast and is the very first sustainable penguin exhibit.
There is a thriving colony of African penguins at the Seneca Park Zoo, which has one of the top breeding programs for these types of penguins in the U.S. There are many individual penguins living here in habitats that are like their outdoor environments in the wild and along the rocky coasts. Over 100 penguins have been hatched at this zoo, many of which have been sent to other accredited zoos and aquariums. The Seneca Park Zoo works with the world’s largest volunteer-based wildlife organization to rehabilitate coastal birds as well.
Another popular aquarium with a great penguin exhibit is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. The penguin area is on the Ocean’s Edge path on the second floor and in the coastal waters habitat. The habitat features a kelp forest, coral reef kingdom, and rocky shores where penguins, sharks, and rockfish all love to call home. You’ll love the Splash Zone exhibit with endangered African penguins and many other interesting creatures as well, including brain coral, carpet anemone, giant clams, and sea lemons. This is a conservation-driven, nonprofit aquarium with a penguin cam that has live footage of the penguins living onsite as well.
The Miami Seaquarium has a penguin encounter experience available to immerse yourself in the environment of the African penguins at Penguin Isle. Participants must be 52 inches or taller and pay a fee of $99. This is a unique way to experience the birds in an intimate setting and interact with them one-on-one. The program lasts for about one hour, but you can stay at the venue longer to enjoy additional exhibits and shows. Make sure to not wear any jewelry to the encounter and to book your experience before your trip here. Other experiences you can have here are a dolphin encounter, VIP tour, and Sea TREK® Reef Encounter.
Although all of the other penguin encounters featured here are in the U.S., there are international penguin experiences you can have too when you travel. The National Aquarium of New Zealand has a daily experience that lasts about 45 minutes and takes up to four people aged six and older. The cost is $138 per person, and bookings should be made in advance. For penguin-lovers this is an epic event where you can go behind the scenes and learn all about how to care for penguins and about the aquarium’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts.