The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas shares a building with the Audubon Imax Theater. Located at the end of Canal St, it’s indistinguishable from Waterfront Park. If you can stand the heat, spend some time walking around the outside of the building. There are plenty of sculptures along the river. And despite whatever terrible things might be going on in the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem, the Mississippi River continues to lap lazily against its shores.
Once you enter the aquarium, however, its a whole different world. Not the underwater adventure that you might expect, though.
The experience is entirely underwhelming. Especially if you’ve been to really great aquariums such as the National Aquarium in Baltimore. While the building’s exterior stands out from the other structures around it, the inside is little more than an expensive playground. The aquarium’s directors obviously devote a lot of time to thinking about how they can appeal to children, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a certain level of child-oriented BS that you expect whenever you visit any museum, zoo, or aquarium. This, however, is too much.
The first floor starts off fairly interesting. The large jellyfish exhibit shows the odd aquatic creatures at various stages of maturity. The aquariums have black lighting that make the jellyfish glow. That’s pretty cool. Don’t get your hopes up for much more.
The second floor holds two river otters that are much larger than I expected. Again, that’s pretty cool. Then you see the obligatory penguins and an albino gator. And that’s pretty much it unless you feel like standing in line for half an hour for the chance to touch a stingray.
I should have known that the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas wasn’t for me. It’s supported by every oil company that you can name, and a whole bunch that you probably can’t. The logos fill up a section of wall that’s at least a square yard in size. With so much money coming in from the oil industry, it’s impossible for the aquarium to make any kind of statement in favor of the surrounding environment. Instead, everything is displayed as an attempt to solve problems (example: NO has artificial coral for wildlife and plants in the surrounding waterways), but it never even hints at the source of those problems. It’s a complete joke.
The real disappointment, though, is the lack of interesting design. One of the things that I love so much about the National Aquarium in Baltimore is that they spent a lot of time creating interior spaces that immerse visitors in an aquatic world. The Audubon Aquarium, however, keeps you separate from that world. I walked through the entire building in less than two hours. At nearly $20 for admission, I say save your money until they make they make an exhibit worth the price.
(Image via: Download Softfree)