The Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach
A Visit to the Aquarium
We visited the Myrtle Beach area over spring break, which meant the weather was subject to a few temperature swings. When we woke up and discovered the outside temperature was 50°F, we decided to stay off the beach and try out an indoor attraction. With two boys ages six and four, we thought the aquarium in Myrtle Beach would be a perfect adventure. We packed up the car and headed to Broadway at the Beach, an inland shopping/entertainment center where the Ripley's Aquarium is located.
We arrived at the aquarium just in time for opening, and stood in line to purchase tickets. The line was nearly an hour long, and was one of two lines to get into the aquarium - a second line wound around the building, filled with people waiting to enter the attraction.
Myrtle Beach Aquarium: A Very Crowded Experience
The wait to get into the aquarium should have been a clue to skip that attraction, but we had been to several other aquariums (such as the Long Beach Aquarium in California) that were able to handle the crowds. We believed things would be better once we were inside the aquarium.
After paying approximately $75 to get into the aquarium, we were pleased to see that the second,entrance line had disappeared. We walked over to the entrance and went through the turnstiles. Unfortunately, the aquarium is much smaller than the billboards advertising the attraction would have you believe. The aquarium consists of only a few rooms - a main "Discovery" room for the kids to explore, a large shark tunnel with a moving sidewalk (the best part of the aquarium experience), and a "rainbow reef" area. Along with a small dinosaur exhibit in the upstairs area, that was the extent of the aquarium. Reviews for other Ripley's Aquariums indicate that other locations have much larger venues: be aware that the aquarium in Myrtle Beach is much smaller than the other Ripley's attractions.
With the large crowds, our kids couldn't edge their way in to the touch pools for the rays, and the discovery room was literally shoulder-to-shoulder in several areas. The moving sidewalk for the shark tunnel experience malfunctioned on our ride through, and the crowds jammed into the tunnel. It was hot and extremely crowded. Once the sidewalk started moving again (approximately 10 minutes later), the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable. We waited in yet another line to see the dinosaur exhibit, and then we left because we had seen the entire aquarium - in less than an hour.
The Discovery Room at the Myrtle Beach Aquarium
The Discovery Room at the Aquarium
The Discovery Room at the aquarium features a stingray touch pool, a horseshoe crab touch pool, a slide, an example of how the pumps work to keep water moving at the aquarium, and a small interactive "island" with a ship's wheel and treasure chest.
There is also a live mermaid show, but be aware that the mermaid show only operates on the weekends. There was a mermaid "meet and greet" which had another long line, so we avoided it.
The stingray pool was so crowded that we could only maneuver one child into a gap to try to touch a ray. My son is six-and-a-half, and the pool was too deep for him to reach the rays that swam near him. Having been to other aquariums with this type of exhibit, we were disappointed in the set-up, though the heavy crowds may have made the experience more frustrating.
The horseshoe crab touch pool was less crowded. Both of my boys managed to touch a horseshoe crab, and to see the legs of these unusual creatures. This was the highlight of the discovery room, as both boys were able to have a hands-on experience here.
My older son was interested in the water system displayed, and both boys wanted to play on the "slide." The slide is a large fish with a tongue sticking out - unfortunately, there are no stairs to get on the slide, so kids must climb up the same direction that other children are sliding down. On a crowded day, you can imagine the chaos this caused (along with a few head bumps). This would have been fun on a day without crowds.
The little interactive island was fun, but again the heavy crowds in the small space detracted from the experience. Both boys spun the ship's wheel and tried to pull a sword out of the plastic island.
The Aquarium's Shark Tunnel
The Shark Tunnel at Ripley's Aquarium
This was, by far, the best attraction at the aquarium. A rather long moving sidewalk moves on a circuitous path through clear tunnels under the shark tank. There are Moray eels, several species of shark, and a lot of fish to view as you move through the exhibit. The moving sidewalk helps to keep the crowds evenly paced, so this functions well, even on a crowded day. The only (momentary) problem we experienced was when the moving sidewalk malfunctioned and stopped, causing congestion in the tunnel.
This one exhibit made the trip almost worth the cost of admission. The shark tunnel was truly an amazing experience, and both the adults and the children in our party loved it.
The Rainbow Reef at the Aquarium
Rainbow Reef at the Aquarium
The Rainbow Reef area of the aquarium featured three large tanks with fish. The Leafy Sea Dragons call this area home, and were extremely fascinating. There is a large tank with tropical saltwater fish, and my boys had fun finding all the clown fish hiding in their anemones. There was also a tank containing an octopus, which my six year old liked.
We would have spent more time in this area if the crowds hadn't been so pressing. Even without crowds, this area does not take long to walk through and to observe the fish. Having been to other aquariums, I thought this part of the aquarium would be larger. The tanks they did have were fascinating and beautiful, but there simply aren't enough exhibits to spend any quantity of time in this area.
Dinosaurs Live At Ripley's Aquarium
The Dinosaur Exhibit
Every exhibit at the aquarium required a separate line to get into, so we weren't surprised by the line to see the dinosaur exhibit. We waited approximately 30 minutes in line to get into the dinosaur room, which Ripley's has dubbed "Dinosaurs LIVE!" The animatronic dinosaurs do move and occasionally roar, much to the delight of our six year old. We spent about 15 minutes in this area, looking at the dinosaurs. There was a table for kids to participate in a dinosaur dig, but again the crowds meant pressure to hurry through the experience.
Our local natural history museum has a much larger dinosaur dig site for the kids. While their dinosaurs don't move, they are just as impressive as the ones set up at the Ripley's site. This exhibit is not a reason to visit the aquarium on its own, though it does make a nice addition since the rest of the aquarium is rather small.
Avoid the Aquarium When Crowded
Overall Impression of the Ripley's Myrtle Beach Aquarium
This aquarium is smaller than the advertising alludes to - while this Myrtle Beach attraction may be worth the admission price on a day with no crowds, you will spend more time waiting in line than seeing anything if the building is crowded. For the cost of admission, I would expect the aquarium to take up more than an hour's worth of time. Unfortunately, the days when you are most likely to visit the aquarium (cold or rainy days) are precisely when everyone else will be there, too.
We waited an hour in line to buy tickets, 30 minutes to get in the door, 20 minutes to go through the shark tunnel, and 30 minutes to get into the dinosaur exhibit. We spent at least double the time waiting in line as we did actually seeing the exhibits.
The dinosaur exhibit is a nice addition, though your kids would probably get a lot more out of a visit to a natural history museum for a tenth of the cost.
If the aquarium is not crowded and you need something to do on a rainy day, then by all means try the Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach - just be aware that the aquarium is a short diversion and not an all day adventure.
Ripley's Aquarium Location at Myrtle Beach
Questions & Answers
Question: Does Ripley's Aquarium have a family ticket package?
Answer: There are a few options for obtaining a discount to the aquarium! There are "bundling" options with other attractions in the area, which gives you better rates than purchasing each ticket separately. While I don't see a "family package" on their website, it is possible to obtain group rates if you call and reserve in advance. Another option would be to register in advance through the home-school option on the website, which has deep discounts for the children's tickets. Special programming is also available through this option. When using the group or home-school options, you need to reserve at least 24 hours in advance.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on January 04, 2015:
I do believe that it can be a fun experience in the off season. If you are there during a period with crowds, it is not worth the money. In addition, if you have access to any other aquarium in your hometown, it is not worth the money. The size of this aquarium is extremely small for the admission fee - though if it is uncrowded and you are willing to spend $30 per adult for an hour or two, it could be a worthwhile diversion. It was $100 for our family of four to enter the aquarium ($30 per adult and $20 per child) - $100 for an hour or two is quite expensive for the experience. On the other hand, we went to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, which is AMAZING. It is the largest aquarium in the United States, and is the same price as the tiny aquarium in Myrtle Beach.
Beverly Cialone from Lancaster, SC on January 04, 2015:
I've been to Ripley's Aquarium numerous times, and after the first couple of times, it gets rather boring, as you have already seen everything there is to see. However, for first-time visitors, it CAN be a wonderful experience. The vast array of sea life you get to see is entertaining AND educational. Like any other tourist town, though, expect to pay a bit more for attractions. I'm sorry your experience wasn't that great. Since the area you were in, Broadway at the Beach, offers numerous shops, restaurants, and other attractions, you should consider visiting some of those instead, if you return to Myrtle Beach. :)
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on July 19, 2013:
We really thought the price was too high for the exhibits in the aquarium. I do know people who enjoyed the aquarium - perhaps it is better when the crowds are thinner. We were unable to see or touch anything in the exploration room (for children) due to the crowds. The shark tunnel was very cool, but our local Pittsburgh Zoo has a similar tunnel and the entrance fee is much lower than the entrance fee to the aquarium in Myrtle Beach. It does offer an indoor experience in inclimate weather, so it might be worth the expense in the off-season. We were there over spring break, the weather was cold, and it was VERY crowded!
I have heard good things about Alligator Adventure - we didn't visit the attraction, but will the next time we are in Myrtle Beach. I hope you have fun on your trip, FlourishAnyway!
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 16, 2013:
This is very useful. We will be skipping this thanks to your honesty. I hate crowds (which is why I am staying outside of the Myrtle Beach mess), and even more I dislike waiting. We'll go instead to a wildlife area and see some birds and real alligators. Thanks for saving me time and money. Voted up and useful.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 17, 2012:
Laura, did you visit the one in Myrtle Beach? We love aquariums, but this was the smallest aquarium we had ever been to - so we were very disappointed by the size and cost of admission. I have heard that the Ripley's aquarium in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is wonderful (and MUCH larger than the one in Myrtle Beach).
laurathegentleman from Chapel Hill, NC on April 17, 2012:
I've always loved aquariums! I'll take an aquarium over a zoo any day! I thought Ripley's was okay... Nothing spectacular. When you see Ripley's Believe it or Not, you expect something extraordinary, so it was a little bit of a disappointment...
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 17, 2012:
We love our little aquarium in Niagara Falls, NY - it is small, but it has seals, sea lions, penguins, and several other exhibits with local (freshwater) fish from the Great Lakes. Cincinatti is about six hours from us, I think, but we may be down in that direction some time and will definitely check it out! I wanted to give an honest review of this attraction - the price is too high for the size and type of aquarium it is. The aquatic animal exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo is bigger than this aquarium, as is the fantastic exhibit at the California Science Center. There are so many fantastic aquariums, and I was sad that this one was far more hype than actual experience.
Dianna Mendez on April 17, 2012:
We have found that going to an place such as this is better in the late afternoon, after the crowds have died down. There is a really nice aquarium in Cincinnati, Ohio if you ever get over that way. Sorry, it was not as positive an experience for your family.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 17, 2012:
We were quite disappointed, though if the aquarium price were lower (say, $10 for adults and $5 for children), the attraction would have been worth it. The time spent there simply didn't justify the cost - and the crowds were horrendous. I have a feeling that this is a common occurrence during spring break in Myrtle Beach, because the weather fluctuates between warm days and cold days, so people head to the indoor attractions on the cooler days. This was the ONLY attraction that we didn't particularly enjoy (mostly due to the crowds). The beach, the dolphin tour, the Nascar speedway park, and Medieval Times were delightful.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on April 17, 2012:
That must have been disappointing for all of you. When we go to the beach, we just stay on the beach and seldom visit any attractions. I know most people do though. If you ever go to Wilmington, North Carolina, we found the aquarium there to be nice and never had a wait. Also the USS Carolina Battleship was a great time. We never waited at either place. I cannot do that because I get anxiety ridden!
I suppose Spring Break is a very busy time for beaches and other family attractions.