Visiting Kentucky’s Newport Aquarium: Shark Encounters and More!

Updated on August 7, 2019
Noelle7 profile image

Vivian shares her travelling tips to reduce your stress when exploring new places to help make your get-away fun and memorable.

Newport Aquarium, located along the levee at the Kentucky border, overlooks the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati. It’s the largest aquarium in the Midwest.

If you’ve ever visited the zoo, the aquariums housed on zoo grounds pale in comparison to Newport Aquarium. Newport’s sampling of ocean dwellers provide you with an experience that is up-close and personal. While some sea creatures look like God was showing off His handiwork, others look like rough drafts rather than final masterpieces.

Shark Central

If your child hasn’t been permanently scarred from watching Jaws, then viewing the shark tank and walking across the rope shark bridge provide the biggest thrills of the entire adventure. Unlike Jaws 3 The Revenge, the tunnel of tanks are never smashed by a Great White and you won’t need a bigger boat.

Surprisingly, Denver, the loggerhead sea turtle, is the Alpha of Shark Ray Bay. Any reef shark or shark ray that crosses him might find a triangular chunk missing from their hides.

Weighing over 200 pounds, Denver seems like an easy-going turtle, but sharks know not to make him mad!
Weighing over 200 pounds, Denver seems like an easy-going turtle, but sharks know not to make him mad!

Tuesday through Saturday, visitors can witness a shark tank feed, as a marine biologist sends squid down on a hook for sharks and target feeds fish to each shark ray.

How do fish survive in the tank with these scary predators? Sharks are fed far more frequently in the aquarium than they would be in the wild, and they are lazier hunters than you would think. In fact, sharks here keep the tank clean and healthy. If a fish starts to look a bit sickly one day, it will be gone by the next.

Did you know sharks lose a tooth every time they eat?

Watch a Marine Biologist Feed a Shark Ray at Newport Aquarium

Kids have a chance to touch a shark while in Shark Central. Most are docile and spend a lot of time laying on the bottom of the touch station. However, if a striped Pyjama shark gets too frisky, swimming rapidly and lifting its face out of the water, the attendant will caution to keep hands out of the water until the sharks settle and calm.

You can pet these sharks, if you dare!
You can pet these sharks, if you dare!

Fun fact: Did you know that sharks kill 12-16 people annually, yet people kill over 11,000 sharks each hour?

Let your kids sit in a special weighing chair to learn how their poundage measures up to that of a shark. Hopefully, no one qualifies as a Great White!

Stingray Hideaway

The second biggest thrill at Newport Aquarium is petting sting rays. A tunnel with a 3-foot clearance channels under the sting ray tank for your kids to wind through, making them feel like they are practically swimming with the rays and visiting their habitats without fear of being stung by their deadly barbs.

Handwashing stations are available after petting these beautiful creatures.

Are sting rays slimy or spongy to the touch?  Find out for yourself!
Are sting rays slimy or spongy to the touch? Find out for yourself!

Shore Gallery

The ocean comes to you in the Shore Gallery and engage with sea creatures you’ve only read about in books. Kids and adults have the opportunity to touch sea anemones, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and horseshoe crabs using the two finger method.

Touch pool at Newport Aquarium
Touch pool at Newport Aquarium

Ring of Fire

What are those suction cups on the inside of the tank? See an octopus, or at least its underside, up close.

If you’ve ever seen a commercial for Prevagen, the memory supplement claiming to sharpen the mind, you know it’s supposedly derived from a protein in jellyfish. Since jellyfish have no brain, heart, blood, it’s hard to imagine a critter who desperately needs to visit the Wizard of Oz could be so useful. Maybe that’s why the benefits of Prevagen are largely unsubstantiated. Still, Jellyfish are an important component in the ocean food web, and their graceful and seamless movements are mesmerizing.

These jellyfish are in their own space, so Marlin and Dory won't have to worry!
These jellyfish are in their own space, so Marlin and Dory won't have to worry!

See the Japanese Spider Crab while you’re here, but a word of warning, these are deeper sea creatures who are used to the dark. Be mindful of signs that say “no flash photography” because if you miss the signs and accidentally forget to turn off your flash, aquarium workers will materialize from nowhere to confront you. True story.

Sorry about the bright light, Mr. Japanese Spider Crab.  My bad!
Sorry about the bright light, Mr. Japanese Spider Crab. My bad!

Other Attractions

  • Gator Alley features an American alligator and a white gator. Let’s hope that glass partition holds!
  • See creatures from the dangerous Amazon.
  • The Dangerous and Deadly wing features beautiful but deadly critters like piranhas, snakes, eels, and lion fish.

  • See the seahorses—they are amazingly smaller than they are depicted in National Geographic.
  • Frog Bog showcases a multitude of frogs, from green tree frogs to tiny, poisonous dart frogs. Tap buttons to hear the sounds each of these species makes.

Amazon Milk Frog
Amazon Milk Frog
  • Penguin Palooza offers a close-up look at a variety of these icy, tuxedo-ed friends frolicking in the waters. Penguin statues make great picture backdrops, and there’s even a sand table nearby for littles who need a break from education to have some interactive, tactile fun.
  • Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure is a fun space for kids ages 2-12 who can toss off their shoes to run through a soft play area, color, or enjoy aquatic themed computer games.

Places to Park at Newport Aquarium

Good luck! Newport Aquarium advises visitors to park in a parking garage that is seemingly invisible to the naked eye. If your GPS isn’t equipped to say, “The garage is right here, you moron!” then a trip around the block will put you on the bridge to Ohio. Within a 15-minute period, your even-toned GPS lady will mark your geographical impairment with these announcements: “Welcome to Kentucky. Welcome to Ohio. Welcome to Kentucky.”

Call ahead for more specific instructions on accessing the parking garage. Luckily, there is a lot across the street with reasonable rates, but it’s small and fills up quickly on busy days.

Best Times to Visit Newport Aquarium

The aquarium’s website advises to plan your visit after 2pm on week days or before 11 am or after 2 pm on weekends. For those of us who are early birds and like to arrive at opening time, here are a few things to keep in mind. During the school year, field trips create an ongoing surge at the aquarium. With so many kids packed inside, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to access each display. During the summer months, day cares and summer camps bring loads of children too, but the kid traffic isn’t nearly as heavy, making it easier for families to enjoy their visit. Working moms and dads looking to extend their weekend typically take vacation days on Fridays or Mondays, so those are two days to avoid. Generally, Tuesdays are a dead day everywhere, so shoot for a Tuesday at the opening time of 9:00 am.

No, you won't feel like you're getting an MRI.
No, you won't feel like you're getting an MRI.

Places to Eat at Newport Aquarium

You can eat at Sharky’s Café inside the aquarium, but it’s your typical, over-priced, so-so food. Snacks are also available for purchase if you get hungry before you’re ready to leave. Several restaurants are just outside of the aquarium that can be accessed without even crossing a street, such as Brio, Five Guy’s, and Tom and Chee.

You can also pack your own lunch and eat outside on the steps overlooking the levee.

If you decide to leave the aquarium for a quick bite, you are allowed to return to the aquarium to finish your tour after you eat. Just inform the attendants who scan your tickets that you had stepped out but are returning.

Newport Aquarium Gift Shop

When you visit the beach, souvenir shops are on every corner, making their prices lower and more competitively priced. Newport Aquarium has the market cornered where they are, so prices are high in the gift shop. Kids’ shirts are $17.00 and stuffed animals start at $18.00. Mugs are a little reasonable, starting at $10, but adult sweatshirts hover closer to $55.00. Kids can fill a rectangular plastic tube with small sea creatures for $15, but you can do better at Target.

The moment you step off the escalator entrance into the exhibit area, a photographer will offer to take your picture as a memento from your trip. These photos are showcased in a paper frame, and you can choose from three different backgrounds. The first picture is $15, with each additional photo costing $5.00. Additional paper frames can also be purchased for $3.00 each.

Preparing for Your Trip to Newport Aquarium

For your safety, any bags you are carrying will be inspected when you enter. Make sure you leave questionable items in your car or you will either have to throw them away or make the trek back to your car to store them. You are not permitted to bring food, only bottled water.

Parents are discouraged from bringing strollers because they take up too much space and detract from the enjoyment of other visitors trying to access displays. Parents insist on bringing strollers anyway, but if your kids are too young to walk through the aquarium on their own, they will never even remember the trip. Why not wait until they are old enough to appreciate it? With adult tickets currently costing $25.99 and kid tickets $17.99 (roughly $10 more for each ticket if you get the behind-the-scenes combo), this investment is one everyone should remember.

If you are taking children, equip them with books in advance so they will know a little about the aquatic creatures they will be seeing. National Geographic is the best source of educational material for kids because they boast fabulous pictures and easy-to-read content. Before your kids even see the signs describing the animals in the tanks, they will exclaim, “Look! A bull shark! Look! A grouper!” Our family's favorite book is National Geographic's Little Kids First Big Book of the Ocean.

Grouper in picture is larger than he appears.
Grouper in picture is larger than he appears.

How Long Does It Take To See Everything In Newport Aquarium?

The average stay ranges from two to four hours. You can stop at every display case, touch ocean critters, watch a shark feed, and visit the gift shop easily in two hours. In order to extend your stay another hour or more, you would have to spend time in the soft play area and dine in at Sharky’s Café.

Newport Aquarium Is a Great Family Destination

Many negative reviewers cite Newport Aquarium as being overpriced, over-crowded, and voice disappointment in seeing everything they wanted within an hour. Planning your visit to avoid crowds or taking advantage of promotions to reduce price (such as one kid free after 4:00 pm with adult ticket purchase) can help. Anyone who views all the attractions in one hour must be running.

Take your time to savor this magnified view of the ocean. With tunnels that bring the ocean over you and see-through floors to watch the ocean under you, it’s the safest way to enjoy these magnificent creatures without ever getting wet.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Vivian Coblentz

    Comments

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      • Annkf profile image

        Betty A F 

        7 days ago from Florida

        It's not very close to the beaches I visit. There's always a risk when we go into the habitats of wild animals.

        There are some rules that I follow. Never swim at dusk or dawn as those are typical feeding times for sharks, don't swim while wearing flashy jewelry and if a person has an open wound never go into the water.

        One thing that is really neat about the NW FL beaches is that the water is so clear that you can see the sand on the floor of the ocean.

        In some areas you can go a good distance in the water before you reach depths that make it more difficult to see. The east coast beaches are not nearly as clear as the white sand beaches.

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        7 days ago

        Betty,

        Well, New Smyrna Beach in Florida is known as the shark attack capital of the world, so people are wise to be afraid! Better safe than sorry. Geography isn't my thing, so maybe that is not near you.

        Still, the aquarium worker who shared information about sharks mentioned that sharks hate the taste of human blood because of the iron content. She compared it to us eating a lightning bug.

      • Annkf profile image

        Betty A F 

        7 days ago from Florida

        You're photo's are lovely! I live about 15 minutes from the beaches along the FL east coast, and it's funny how so many people who visit are scared to go into the water because of sharks.

        I did not know that. Now I have a great fact to tell my visitors.

        "Fun fact: Did you know that sharks kill 12-16 people annually, yet people kill over 11,000 sharks each hour?"

        I also didn't know that shark's lose a tooth every time they eat!

        The this is a lovely article, filled with facts and fantastic images.

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        7 days ago

        Thanks for commenting, Linda!

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        8 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

        This sounds like a very interesting aquarium. Your photos are lovely. I love the story about the GPS lady, too!

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        8 days ago

        Paula,

        Threats....torture...pain???? Remind me never to make you mad, lol!

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        8 days ago

        T,

        I'm totally giving you a hard time. We're good!

        I read your hilarious article, and I promise you won't end up in the dog house. In my opinion, you don't even need an upgrade.

        So you look like Chevy Chase, huh? I love him in Christmas Vacation, so I think I'm going to have to either start calling you "Clark" or "Sparky" from here on out.

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        9 days ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Vivian.....OK, Yes, T passed the Mars-Venus Course with a fairly decent grade....HOWEVER, from time to time, as you can see, like most men.....he requires a refresher course now and then. Trust me, he's a difficult student, but threats of torture & pain, does wonders to keep him under control. :)

      • tsadjatko profile image

        9 days ago from now on

        I have no idea Vivian how you came to that inference .... oops...

        BUT that is in no way a criticism of you. To the contrary it is basically my admission that being a man (from Mars) there is no way I can possibly understand a woman (from Venus, right Paula?) but the experience of “My Trip to Venus” has taught me that I was probably best off never saying anything!

        https://hubpages.com/relationships/-My-Trip-to-Ven...

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        9 days ago

        Brad,

        I later read the parking garage is underground, which may be why I missed it. Then again, I'm the stereotypical female who isn't good with directions and have no inner compass. A building or structure that is visible from space might well miss my notice. Ha!

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        9 days ago

        T,

        So, are you saying you're just patronizing me by reading an article that isn't political? Hmmmmm???

      • bradmasterOCcal profile image

        Brad 

        9 days ago

        Vivian

        Thanks, I took the link before i commented on your comment about Dayton.

        This article is great and a lot of work.

        One of the things that I learned from it is that I would have guessed the weight of the Great White and the rest was way more than those shown on the chart.

        We have an aquarium in Long Beach CA. My wife and I visited it several times, but I think the one you show here might be better

        "Take your time to savor this magnified view of the ocean. With tunnels that bring the ocean over you and see-through floors to watch the ocean under you, it’s the safest way to enjoy these magnificent creatures without ever getting wet."

        Why was the parking lot hard to see? I didn't see any pictures of it. Is it just a GPS challenge or does it fool your eyesight also?

        Thanks

      • tsadjatko profile image

        9 days ago from now on

        Well Paula, thank you for the compliment.

        However I do have an explanation for the comedy. You see I surmised this is not a topic any of our hubber friends from the looney left will bother to comment on so somebody has to provide us with the comedic humor!

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        9 days ago

        Paula,

        Shell-yeah! Tis the sea-son!

        Are you going to be on Santa's nice or nautical list?

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        9 days ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Oh brother.............just what we need....another comedy team like Abbott & Costello....only it's "Viv & T."...! I admit, you guys are pretty funny with your clever play on words!! Are you 2 booking entertainment for the Holidays??

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        9 days ago

        Oh, T, you krill me!

      • tsadjatko profile image

        9 days ago from now on

        Ditto Liz! I wanna go now!

        One thing is sure about the Newport aquarium.

        Their shark is worse than their pike.

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        9 days ago

        Pamela,

        I had so many more pictures I wanted to include, but it would have clogged up the article too much. I was so proud of myself for figuring out how to upload one of the videos I took onto YouTube and then embed the link into the article. I'm not technical at all, so that was quite a feat for me. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!

      • Noelle7 profile imageAUTHOR

        Vivian Coblentz 

        9 days ago

        Liz,

        I was pleased with the photos too, even though they are just shots from my cell phone! Thanks for commenting!

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        9 days ago from Sunny Florida

        This aquarium looks like a wonderful place to visit. I went to the aquarium in Atlanta and loved it, but this one looks larger. Your pictures are great and your article is very thorough.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        9 days ago from UK

        This is a very thorough, helpful and well-illustrated guide to Newport Aquarium. The photos are first class.

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