Places We Go: The Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium
For Ian and Clara’s birthday, we visited the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium. This place is a gem. There is plenty to see and do and enough variety to keep kids of different ages interested.
The aquariums are filled with fish –and one huge turtle — that have been caught in Nebraska. As we first entered the winding hallway of twelve or so tanks, Ian exclaimed, “I know what’s in this one! FISH!”
There is a discovery center where you are encouraged to touch all manner of animal skins, furs, feathers, bones, and shells. There are also a few activities that are a little above my kids’ skill level but would probably entertain an elementary schooler pretty well. And there are snakes that the staff will let you touch. Clara loved that bit.
Binoculars let you get a good look at the birds and squirrels that come to eat just outside a huge picture window (I tried to catch a photo from the deck outside, but I had scared all the birds away when I opened the door) and a notebook for you to record the animals you see. And a photography club holds its monthly meeting there, and there are always some pretty amazing photos on display throughout the building.
Perhaps best of all, the aquarium is practically free — $1 for adults and $0.50 for kids 6 and older (5 and under are free). The staff is great. One of the game wardens let the boys come behind the desk and meet his dogs; one of them licked Ian on the face, and, while Ian loved it, he also had an allergic reaction to the saliva and spent the rest of his birthday looking like he’d been in a fight with his eye swollen almost shut.
The hours are a little odd and change seasonally. They are closed at least one weekday, and I’m always forgetting which one, so best to check the website before you make the trek (it’s located about 9 miles south of Gretna).