One of the places we did visit was Ripley's Aquarium, a "$40 million, state-of-the-art, 87,000 square-foot aquarium experience," located at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Once my daughter heard about their special Babies exhibit, she was all excited. So we made the 40-minute trip down US-17.
The aquarium is truly packed with fascinating sea creatures, educational videos, and hands-on experiences, which made it a great place for a family group, since no-one's going to be bored. The design of Ripley's aquarium is on a truly grand scale, huge tanks and many special exhibits and themes all surrounding a clever interior playground, with the slides cleverly disguised as giant sea creatures. The kids were having a blast sliding through the deep-sea fish, no doubt well-energized by the "space aged ice cream" for sale there!
My favorite part of the visit was our trip "through" Dangerous Reef, a 750,000 gallon tank, during which we were able to see sharks and manta-rays from underneath, and wave "hello" to a very large sea turtle. The Octopi (or is it Octopuses?) were a little shy while we were there, but the Weedy Sea Dragons seemed curious. And of couse, there was also a very well-done touch tank, complete with Horseshoe crabs (very strange creatures); but we really enjoyed "Ray Bay," where we got the opportunity to touch many, many different kinds of Rays (Atlantic Rays, Southern Rays, Cow-Nose Rays, and Spotted Eagle Rays, to name a few.) When we were all satisfied we had managed to cover it all, we left . . . a little soggy perhaps, but happy.
As I mentioned earlier, Ripley's aquarium is located right on Broadway at the Beach, which is an extravaganza of shopping, dining, attractions - about 350 acres' worth, to be exact. (In fact, large as it was, the aquarium is only one of dozen different attractions there.) This was good, because we left the aquarium very hungry, and to say that we had our choice of many different restaurants would be an understatement. I won't try to list them all here, as their website below does that. The prevailing craving was for some old-time burgers and fries at Johnny Rocket's (flawless "shiney-diner" decor); but we were truly spoiled for choice. Afterwards, there was shopping, shopping, and more shopping - and, much to the relief of a great many toddlers, a lovely little gated playground by the water, which were dotted with several families of baby ducks.
Broadway at the Beach is close enough so that your visit doesn't have to be a day trip; but there is so much there, you really need a whole day - or more.
Ripley's Aquarium: http://www.ripleysaquarium.com/
Broadway at the Beach: http://www.broadwayatthebeach.com/