Try This: Explore the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston

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Hey, GVL — City Editor Lexa here from CHStoday. 👋

A day trip to the South Carolina Aquarium has been one of my favorite Charleston activities for as long as I can remember. My parents got my sister + I a family membership growing up (thanks, mom and dad) and I loved the hot summer days we got to spend cooling off in the air conditioning while exploring the aquarium, touching + feeding real life stingrays, and learning about the majestic wildlife in our state.

As I got older, I would often persuade the kids I nannied to spend a day at the aquarium — for both of our benefit, really. So when I recently took another rainy-day trip to the aquarium, I felt like a kid again in the very best way. There’s just something special about the South Carolina Aquarium.

Here’s what I experienced and deets on how you can Try This too. Trust me: It’s worth the trip.

What we tried (with pricing):

With my ticket ($34.95 for adults, $29.95 for kids ages 3-12, and free for kids 2 and under), I explored the Great Ocean Tank, aka the deepest tank in North America, walked through dozens of exhibits, swung by the stingray touch tank, enjoyed the sound of ocean waves as I toured the Saltmarsh Aviary, and wandered to the scenic overlook for a view of the Harbor. Pro tip: See if you can spot a dolphin from the overlook — your odds are pretty good.

Bonus: I watched otters play for a good ten minutes (any other otter fans out there?) and admired the aquarium’s bald eagle.

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Did you know you could spot a bald eagle at the aquarium? | Photo by the CHStoday team

Not only did I get to see these animals, but I also got to feel the feathers, fur, and scales on the featured animals during daily animal encounters. Fun fact: There are more than 5,000 animals at the South Carolina Aquarium.

What not to miss:

When I walked into the aquarium, I knew that I had to head straight for the stingray touch tank, The Shallows. I’m not exactly sure what captured my attention first: the panoramic views of the Charleston Harbor or the fact that I was quite literally eye-to-eye with some of the coolest creatures on the planet.

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Hey, little guy. | Photo by the CHStoday team

As a kid, I loved the adrenaline rush of sticking my hand in the tank to try and touch the ‘rays as they swam by me. I’m not sure if it’s just been a while, but I noticed that the aquarium lets visitors hand feed the cownose stingrays now — which is something I hadn’t remembered. I wasn’t that adventurous, but I did get a front row seat next to the little girl who was feeding them. Pretty sweet.

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Take a look at the view of the Charleston Harbor from various exhibits at the aquarium. | Photo by the CHStoday team

What we’re still talking about:

The air conditioning, y’all. It made all the difference on a muggy, summer day in Charleston. If you know, you know.

But in all seriousness, one of the most memorable parts of my visit was exploring the Sea Turtle Care Center™ which is included with aquarium admission.

Through the center, I got to take an up-close look at the current sea turtle patients + even joined a Turtle Talk to hear from one of the aquarium’s sea turtle biologists. I learned that more than 350 sea turtles have been rescued, rehabilitated and released through the Care Center. That’s something to celebrate.

I don’t know about y’all, but sea turtles are one of the most fascinating animals in my opinion, so I loved hearing about the work the South Carolina Aquarium + Sea Turtle Care Center™ have been doing to help the turtles.

How you can experience this:

The aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Christmas and Thanksgiving, so there’s plenty of time to pencil a visit into your schedule. We’d recommend heading there on the earlier side, as it can get a bit busy midday. Nonetheless, the experience is totally worth it.

Grab your tickets + check out the aquarium’s FAQ page for the need-to-knows before you go. Bonus: Check out upcoming events, including the Beer From Here after hours event at the aquarium on Fri., Aug. 19 + the Turtle Trek 5K Walk and Run on Sat., Oct. 15. Pssst: Proceeds from the run/walk benefit the Sea Turtle Care Center™.

Things to know if you go:

  • Experience: Explore the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, SC
  • Price: $34.95 for adults, $27.95 for children ages 3-12, free for toddlers 2 and under
  • Website: https://scaquarium.org/
  • Address: 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401
  • Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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