The Newport Aquarium reopened its doors recently and extended members passes for an additional 100 extra days; of course my family had to reserve our tickets and go. I knew that there would be social distancing procedures, but I was super impressed. I think the only thing I was really worried about was how my kids would handle wearing a mask the whole time since it’s a requirement, but they did amazing. My oldest is 7 and I have 4 year old twins. It took us about 4 1/2 hours to complete the tour and the only time they took it down was for pictures. There were hand sanitizer stations throughout the entire aquarium I saw lots of people cleaning. You can tell they put a lot of time and effort into making it a safe space for the public.
Before we entered the building they had a tent set up out front. There was a lady with a clipboard checking our reservation, past that we all had our temperatures scanned and we were all given a wrist band. Each of us had our bags/ purses checked and we were ready to enter the building. Once inside we showed our membership passes and were able to go downstairs to start our visit.
After an hour and half drive to get there we all needed to use the facilities. Every other bathroom stall was closed, every other sink was closed, The door had a foot opener so you didn't have to use your hands, the toilets had automatic flushers, the air hand dryers were off limits, the paper towel dryers were automatic and the only bench in the bathroom said it was reserved for one family.
I was glad to see they had completed the remodel at the very beginning of the tour.
The tv monitors had information about social distancing procedures.
There was a very clear path they wanted people to take, there were circle stickers so that if people stopped they knew where to stand and how far apart. There were tape lines in each of the tunnels for families to follow one side or the other.
The touch experience with the starfish was closed, but there was a man explaining about the anemones and facts about starfish and explaining facts about Dory and Nemo. The vending machines across from the star fish exhibit simply asked people to use hand sanitizer provided on the wall next to them.
Shark Ray Bay is typically filled with benches for people to sit and watch. However, with social distancing procedures the benches were replaced with circles meant for social distancing and a large area blocked off to prevent overcrowding.
The seahorse area also had social distance circles and the bench asked for only one travel group at a time. The seahorse statues each have signs on the bottom asking people not to climb.
The Shipwreck area continued to have social distancing circles and the ship steering wheel had a sign on it to sanitize your hands.
Gator Alley also had the social distance circles spaced on the floors and there was an employee that was showing the baby alligators.
The Frog Bog was available to walk through, but the play area was complately closed off. There is no way a kid could even get into the play area, however Splash and Bubbles statues were available for pictures. the water fountain was also closed off.
StingRay Hideaway is always one of my favorite areas in the entire aquarium. The crawl space underneath meant for kids was closed and the exhibit was unavailable for touch. That could have been because there was someone in scuba gear cleaning something at the time we were there. There was a guide that was helping people stay on the path since it’s typically an area that people like to congregate.
Again the tunnels were taped off where gazers could stand on one side and by passers could walk by on the other side
The Jelly fish, King Crab and Octopus area were all marked with social distance circles on the floor.
Next on the adventure was Sharky’s Cafe. Where there were social distance circles for the line, certain tables closed off and a person guiding everyone for social distancing.
Shark Central looked a little different. Typically there is a scale for kids to weigh themselves and compare their weight to different sized sharks and the scale was removed. I think that was smart since it was a high touch point. The hands on experience touching a shark was open and they placed different markers for people to stand 6 feet away. And there was a guide talking about the sharks and information and helping people stay apart.
At Penguin Palooza there are 4 benches where people can sit and watch the penguin. Right now they have every other bench closed and ask that there one group per bench.
At the end of the entire visit you have the option to cross the shark bridge 🦈 There were 2 employees that asked if you were planning to cross and if you were that you needed to sanitize your hands. All my adventurous kids did!