While I do not have any children yet I am a big believer in exposing children to new experiences at a young age. I feel it is important for children in strollers to go to restaurants or places with loud noises to help acclimate them to sounds. This is also a saving grace for parents.

From the zoo, rock concerts to sporting events these experiences help mold children’s learning skills. One of my favorite memories as a child was going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was two hours south of where I grew up in California. I was mesmerized by the tropical fish, manta rays and sharks. Having learned how to swim at age three the water always felt like a sort of home.

My favorite exhibit was the Bat Ray Touch Tank, which now looking back as an adult, I hope was sanitary and safe for those angelic fish. Manta Rays or Bat Rays differ from Stingrays since they do not have a stinger on the tip of their tail. For those like myself who were fond of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin was sadly stung by a Stingray in 2006.

As a young girl, I loved watching the Manta Rays glide through the water at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I could not miss the opportunity to touch them. I remember pushing my sleeve up, sticking my hand in the cool water and watching the little rays swim in circles and then feeling the smoothness of their body or fins beneath my fingertips. Magical.

My nephew is now 18-months old and had not been to an aquarium. My brother and his family live in the western part of North Carolina and between 5-6 hours from the closest beach. I was both surprised and excited to learn they lived nearish an aquarium.

Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium is connected to a massive mall and more impressive than you might think given its location. Since families are 6+ hours away from the closest beach, I found it remarkable that they built an aquarium for families. Inspiration starts at a young age, which is another reason I am an advocate for exposing children to educational activities. Their prices are affordable and I was impressed with how you take pictures first then enter the aquarium as if entering inside a submarine. They have a quick little turtle cartoon video and once over the doors open.

My nephew first was apprehensive about the swimming turtles but loved the bubble to see the small shark that was resting on the floor of the Shark Nursery. Go figure.

I also remember touching a starfish as a young girl and was excited to see my nephew touch his first starfish! My brother and sister-in-law are amazing parents and I witnessed even more as we wandered through the fish tanks. My heart was so full watching my smart nephew soak in all the different marine life, of course, what he wanted to do most was be free to run around from tank-to-tank.

One highlight of any quality aquarium are the tunnels you can walk underneath as the fish, sharks and manta rays swim above you. I love seeing the wondrous looks on children’s faces as they watch these marine animals swim.

Seahorses have always been a favorite of mine. I was giddy when I saw the little tank. There were two little lovebirds who caught my attention immediately. I love how they use their tails to communicate and show affection. I always thought they resembled mini-dragons of the sea more than mini-horses.

If you are ever in this part of North Carolina with your family, I highly recommend stopping at Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium.

Written by Lisa M. Comento