The main attraction at Broadway at the Beach, an outdoor entertainment complex with shopping and restaurants. The best part of the aquarium is Dangerous Reef, a 340-foot long moving sidewalk inside a transparent tunnel surrounding by water, giant stingrays, and sharks. New for 2020, Penguins Playhouse, their biggest expansion, with eight new tanks and world-class penguin habitat.
Broadway at the Beach does offer plenty of free parking unless you decide to go on fireworks night which might make it a little harder to find a parking spot at that time. Most people tend to spend a few hours checking out all that Broadway at the Beach has to offer in the evening. Overall parking for the aquarium is a non-issue.
I visited Ripley's Aquarium in the early morning of December, a perfect time when only a handful of families were at the aquarium. It was wonderful to freely move around the exhibits without worrying about interrupting someone’s picture taking or view of the sea life. I was actually able to casually walk around the exhibits twice and see everything I wanted in about an hour's time. I would suggest staying away from the aquarium in the summer on a rainy overcast day. Most of the people on vacation in Myrtle Beach decide to visit the limited number of indoor attractions at that time, making for an awful experience.
I used my local ID to receive 50% off the regular adult admission which comes out to be around $17.50 which in my eyes is a reasonable price for the aquarium. The regular price of around $34.99 is high in my view but I also understand the cost for employees, feeding the fish, and the high upkeep for a safe environment for the fish and visitors creates a high price point. Most aquariums around the country are between the $30-$40 price range.
The layout for Ripleys Aquarium was done right, with two levels of exhibits with a central open area in the center. They have arrow markers on the floor that help you navigate from each exhibit, so you do miss anything. When you leave the aquarium, you have to go through their gift shop. Their last chance to get some more money from a visitor, everyone needs a Ripley’s Aquarium keychain (lol). I’ll break down each exhibit with a short statement and rank the exhibit from best to worst.
1. Dangerous Reef: The aquarium’s most popular and largest exhibit, a 340-foot long tunnel, features plenty of sharks and a sea turtle. When I went, the glide path was not working, and that was a bummer. The underwater landscape was also lacking some creativity, too bland, and some dark lit areas.
2. Stingray Bay: I was mesmerized watching the stingrays glide through the water and could easily spend more time just sitting there and watching them.
3. Planet Jellies: I felt I was visiting an art museum when I walked into the Planet Jellies exhibit with all the wonderful different colors that shine through the jellyfish. Planet Jellies is a good Instagram spot.
4. Friendship Flats: Nicely created a hands-on experience with the stingrays in a wide-open shallow lagoon with plenty of room for visitors, a good time for the kids.
5. Penguin Encounter: It is nice to see Ripley’s Aquarium add penguins in 2020; I always felt you need at least one cuddly animal, either an otter or a penguin, in an aquarium. I personally rather see an otter over a penguin; they are more playful in their environment.
6. Rainbow Rock & The Living Gallery: Both exhibits were just so so, nothing memorable or unique about them.
7. Rio Amazon: Not a fan of this exhibit, the lighting was low, and some animals were not visible, like the poison dart frog. I understand that some fish live in low light conditions, but I still consider this exhibit forgettable and pointless. I have seen Amazon exhibits done well at other aquariums, for example, the Georgia Aquarium.
The question, would I go back again to Ripleys Aquarium? The answer is probably no unless the aquarium creates a new exhibit that is a blockbuster and better than Dangerous Reef, which I don’t see that happening soon. If you decide to visit the aquarium, go during low peak times; for example, early morning, sunny afternoon, or winter months are the best. Also, if on vacation, find a coupon book in the hotel lobby for discount aquarium admission.
Sharks, sharks, and more sharks
The Penguin Playhouse for 2020
The layout of the aquarium, route markers
Watching the rays glide through the water
Planet Jellies, feels like a colorful art exhibit
Pricing on high side, expensive for a family
Dealing with crowd on rainy day in the summer
No otters, #1 cuddly animal to have on exhibit
Dark areas in some exhibits, Rio Amazon
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