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Family Guide To North Carolina Aquarium At Pine Knoll Shores

Kids love the magic of visiting an aquarium and learning about under water worlds. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores takes families on a journey to explore the aquatic animals that live in the different North Carolina regions – from the mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. The aquarium is a must-do Crystal Coast attraction if you’ve got young kids, here’s everything you need to know before planning your visit!

The Pine Knoll Shores area of the Crystal Coast feels like a secluded residential area, but the Aquarium is actually the largest saltwater aquarium in North Carolina! The aquarium concentrates on eco-systems all native to North Carolina with exhibits emphasizing various marine habitats.

They do an amazing job to capture the state’s habitats in way that educates kids and peaks their interest to learn more. Hands-on exhibits, larger-than-life indoor tanks and outdoor trails make the aquarium a multi-faceted destination to visit with kids. They’re sure to be awe-struck as they explore the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores!

Need a family-friendly vacation home near the aquarium? Check out the “Flip Flop Lifestyle” Vacation Home by Bluewater Vacation Rentals. I also have even more ideas with this 11 Crystal Coast Things To Do With Kids list!

North Carolina Aquarium At Pine Knoll Shores: Things Kids Will Love To Do

Shipwreck Tank Exhibits

With a whopping 306,000 gallons of saltwater, The Living Shipwreack exhibit is the largest manmade ocean habitat in the state. This “star” exhibit features a replica of the U-352 German submarine that was sunk off the coast of North Carolina in 1942.

Kids will love seeing the sharks in this exhibit! You’ll see sandbar sharks, a sand tiger shark and a nurse shark. It’s one of three replica wreck habitats in the aquarium, but definitely draws the most attention from guests. My kids love seeing the sharks up-close swimming right above their heads!

North Carolina Aquarium
Kids of all ages go nuts over the North Carolina Aquarium!

Loggerhead Odyssey Exhibit

If your kids love sea turtles, they’re going to spend extra time in the Loggerhead Odyssey exhibit. This area of the aquarium explore the journey of North Carolina’s sea turtles from birth to living in the ocean. Kids can also see any hatchlings that are currently being rehabilitated in the aquarium, which is so intriguing at their age. Plus, this exhibit hosts several interactive game areas where kids can test their turtle knowledge!

Free Daily Programs

The NC Aquarium offers an array of programs for kids and adults. See daily live animal programs where you can touch a sea turtle, horseshoe crab or other critters. Or see what happens at feeding time in various exhibits. Kids can use this as an opportunity to ask animal experts all of their aquatic questions!

Aquarium at Pine Koll Shores
Aquatic animals big and small can be found at the aquarium!

Excursions and Behind the Scenes Tours

From stand-up paddle boarding excursions to sea turtle treks and more, enjoy indoor and outdoor adventures and excursions throughout the year for families. Some of these are weather dependent and only offered during certain times of the year. All of the tours cost an additional fee. Check the North Carolina Aquarium event calendar for more details and registration.

Imagination Bay – North Carolina Aquarium’s Indoor Play Area

Let’s be honest – a rainy day at the beach isn’t fun for anyone. Head to the aquarium when the kids want to run around but the weather isn’t cooperating. The Imagination Bay exhibit is an interactive play area inside of the North Carolina Aquarium.

Toddlers and preschoolers can climb on cushioned toys in the shape of a turtle, ray, and shark, crawl through a glowing cave, relax by a bubble way, discover the fishes found in a reef habitat.

Kids Play Area at Aquarium
Kids can play for hours in the Imagination Bay Area!

Outdoor Areas: Trails, Aviaries & A Playground

One of the most unexpected parts of visiting the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is how they incorporate the outside surrounding areas. Step right outside the aquarium doors and you’ll find viewing areas that overlook marshlands, a playground, aviaries and trails.

Take a walk, on the Alice Hoffman Nature Trail, that overlooks the marshlands. You’ll walk past aviaries which house native North Carolina birds, and you’ll end up at the playground. It’s a fun treehouse-inspired playground which is the perfect place for youngsters to run around.

Outdoor areas of North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
The outdoor areas of the North Carolina Aquarium are super special and unique.

FAQ’S About North Carolina Aquarium At Pine Knoll Shores

Now that you understand why your kids are going to love visiting the aquarium, I’ve got all the details you want to know to plan your visit!

Should I Bring A Stroller To The Aquarium?

The North Carolina Aquarium is very stroller-friendly. I recommend a stroller for young children, toddlers and preschoolers, who might get tired from walking. An umbrella stroller is great when room is tight around the exhibits. The aquarium also offers stroller parking throughout the building to make it easy when you want to dump the stroller.

Does The Aquarium Offer Food & Drink?

Yes! The aquarium has a Dairy Queen as you exit the building and there’s outdoor areas to sit. However, it is not a full menu. Bring a picnic lunch if you’d like to use the tables on the outside of the aquarium. No food and drink is allowed indoors.

Restaurants Near The North Carolina Aquarium At Pine Knoll Shores

There are some great Family-friendly Crystal Coast Restaurants that are perfect to add onto your aquarium trip. There aren’t many restaurants in the Pine Knoll Shores area, so I’d go to the Atlantic Beach area, and try these nearby restaurants:

How Long Does It Take To Get Through The NC Aquarium?

Carve out at least 1 1/2 hours for your visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, but expected to stay longer if you have younger kids. It’s going to be hard to pull your kids away from the indoor play area and outdoor playground.

Touring the aquarium tips
My kids could spend hours at the aquarium!

How To Buy North Carolina Aquarium Tickets

Tickets can be purchased ahead of time, online, and scanned upon arrival. The aquarium prefers guests to secure their arrival time and date before their visit. This helps with the flow of guests and ensures everyone has a great visit.

General Admission Prices
Adults (Ages 13-61): $12.95
Seniors (Ages 62 and older): $11.95
Military: $11.95
Children (Ages 3-12): $10.95
Ages 2 and younger: FREE
*taxes not included

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