Sharing Fish Tales From Our Visit To Via Aquarium

Friday, March 24, 2017

Well, it's taken me from November till now to finally get here, but today we made it to Via Aquarium.  A few factors influenced our long delay.....waiting for the crowds to die down and the mediocre reviews.  In all honesty, the reviews were a small factor.  I was pretty confident we'd enjoy our visit, but the crowds and long admission lines were a definite deterrent those first couple of months.  Today happened to be a day off for our granddaughter, so we decided it was time to check out all the fish stories and go see Via Aquarium for ourselves.

I'll begin with a public service announcement:  If you're going to the aquarium, be aware that it is located in the back of the Via Port (formerly Rotterdam Square Mall).  Those of us who once shopped here are probably familiar with the front entrance with the food court and carousel....not the entrance for the aquarium.  Once around back, the entrance is easily spotted within the mural painting on the mall exterior.  Our plans nearly changed as we found the entrance when we spotted 3 parked, empty school buses.  I could only imagine the chaos that must be inside!!!!.  A mom and her 4 children were headed out as we approached and she gave us the good news that the school kids were eating their lunch and ready to leave shortly.  Whew!  After touring the aquarium, I can say with confidence that I wouldn't have wanted to mingle with three busloads of school kids in this space.  That's about me though, not the kids.
The stories we heard about long waits in ticket lines proved to be true.  Even the short line ahead of us moved quite slowly.  We decided we would invest in a season pass.  Admission for the four of us today would have cost $38 (two seniors and one child); a Family Pass for 4 designated guests was $100.  I chose to designate us and our daughter and son-in-law.  That will enable them to visit several more times and only cost them $10 for our 6 yr. old granddaughter.  Children 3 and under are free.   Filling out the form, waiting for passes to be processed, cards to be printed and paying took about 10 minutes and it was pretty evident that the ticket clerk would have been happier had we just purchased a few day tickets and went on our way.   In her defense, as the only person handling the line, the cumbersome process wasn't helping her get people inside quickly.    I did read later on the Via Aquarium Facebook page that tickets could be purchased online, omitting the long waits in ticket lines.  Good to know!

I will say right up front that I've been to Mystic Aquarium and the Boston Aquarium.  Both are awesome, large and 3 hrs away.  Via Aquarium is not either of these and if you go expecting it to be, you will be disappointed.  So.....don't go expecting that!  Via Aquarium is a cool place to go as an adult or a fun visit with young kids.  There are no big sharks.  I know lots of folks complain about that.  It didn't bother us.  There were plenty of other fish, perhaps nothing exotic, but kids don't know that. What I loved is that it is not huge.  It's an easy outing that can be done in an hour or less.  Little kids will enjoy it and adults won't be wishing they were somewhere else.  There were plenty of benches scattered throughout the space for tired visitors.  Aside from the fish tunnel, which is pretty darn cool, there are several small tanks throughout the aquarium, some with very few fish, some with fish you had to really look hard to find.  We felt there could be better signage at each tank.  Often there was no explanation and sometimes signs described one tank, then another.  Honestly, I'm not a big reader of explanations, but there were times we did wish we knew more about what we were looking at. The touch pool of stingrays was a little lackluster and not that accessible to shorter children.

When you exit the aquarium, you exit through the gift shop.  I will give them props on this one.....there was a large variety of souvenirs that ranged from a few dollars upwards, the majority of which were very reasonably priced.  It was possible to come out with a souvenir without breaking the bank, and you can't say that about all venue gift shops.
All in all, if you enjoy fish and are looking for a neat way to spend an hour or so with or without kids, Via Aquarium provides what it promises.  Go with reasonable expectations and you won't be disappointed.  I can see where Via Aquarium would do well for the aquarium business - it momentarily made me wish we still had ours.  If a visit inspires you to get into the fish keeping hobby, you can get everything you need right in the mall at Something Fish Aquarium Sales.  They've been around for over 30 years - way back when we had our 45 gallon aquarium.  It was a great resource for expertise and healthy fish then and I'm sure it still is.

I did not get fabulous photos, partly due to still suffering with sciatica and partly because my focus was on enjoying the experience with my granddaughters and hubby.  But hey.....I've got a season pass so I can go back and try again anytime.

I'm thrilled to have another fun place to take the kids.  Thanks Via Aquarium for coming to the Capital District!  For more information, including hours, directions and ticket prices for Via Aquarium and Something Fishy Aquarium Sales, links are included below.

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