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Saint Paul, Minnesota
August 21, 2008
From journal Duluth: Minnesota's Weekend Destination
October 18, 2002
There are over 25 permanent exhibits including 2 huge water tanks and a traveling exhibit that changes yearly. The special exhibit during our visit showcased Africa's Lake Victoria, the world's largest tropical lake. Displays compared Lake Victoria to Lake Superior, and included Nile crocodiles, birds, pythons, bullfrogs and lungfish. Kids had fun crawling through the python tunnel judging from their squeals and excitement. Displays also depicted the art, culture and people of Africa from the Lake Victoria region.
On the main floor the crayfish touch tank, Wall of Water, playful river otters and Great Lakes Water Table are big hits with kids. The latter allows kids to pilot a boat from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean on a large water table built to scale. They can steer boats through the Soo Locks and observe the raising water levels when they "make it rain" on the Nipegon River.
The Wall of Water is a 24 foot high tank, where freshwater fish freely swim. It's interesting to see what life lives below the surface of the mighty Lake Superior...just watch out for falling fish!
I was standing at the base of this Wall of Water when a large trout–in a sudden burst of extraordinary exuberance–jumped out of the tank, fell two stories, bounced off my shoulder, and landed with a SPLAT much to his and my surprise. My immediate response was to crouch and brace myself for a flood of cold water and wriggling fish, thinking that the tank was bursting open in my dazed confusion. How silly I felt when bystanders ran over to see if I was okay. Me? Fine. But what about the poor fish that sailed through the air? Within minutes he began flapping around and was taken away by an employee, who admitted that this happens occasionally.
To reach the 2nd floor, take the Sensory Immersion Escalator instead of the stairs to experience an innovative audio-visual display. Multiple screens project differing videos of the North Shore and the Great Lakes, while breezes and sounds of waves crashing, birds chirping and a foghorn enhance the images.
Favorites upstairs include the 85,000 gallon tank Isle Royal exhibit, Weather, and regional rocks showcased in the Stories Written in Stone display. In the Origins exhibit, an Ojibwe storyteller talks of hardships his people experienced on Lake Superior, while tools and objects are displayed in a boathouse used by a Ojibwe family in the Grand Portage area.
Cool children's programs:
A Slumber Party includes a scavenger hunt, science activity, art project, pup tents and breakfast the next morning ($35 pp for 20 campers).
A Birthday Party includes admission, t-shirt, and sports bottles for 10 kids ($125) with options to add activities, an otter visit, or pizza.
Admission: $11 adults, $6 children. Look for the ship-shaped building on the pier.
From journal Highlights of Duluth