What is it?
An aquarium is a zoo for people who like staring at fish. Some aquariums have exciting open air sections featuring seals. Sea Life in London doesn’t. But the exit does funnel you right into a McDonald’s, so swings and roundabouts and all that.
How much does it cost?
A Big Mac meal usually sets you back just under a £5. Oh, wait. You’re talking about the aquarium, aren’t you? It’s a relatively steep £25.50 if you just walk up and hand over your cash, but websites like Wowcher tend to have big discounts, train companies run 2 for 1 offers (you need to produce ticket to prove you’ve travelled there by choo-choo) and you can also get a free adult ticket on the side of some cereal packets. Yes. Seriously. As you’d expect, under 3s are free.
What’s good about it?
They have penguins. Repeat: they have penguins. And my kid was allowed to reach into the water and touch a starfish. Did he soak his bib, his cardigan and a couple of tourists? Yes, he did. But that’s not the point. The point is there are some nice interactive features to be enjoyed on this day out.
What’s bad about it?
A large section of the building is currently closed for refurbishment. In terms of stuff to look at, this isn’t a big deal as there are still more than enough underwater creatures to occupy a pre-schooler’s fast-moving brain. In terms of my bladder, this was a big deal as I needed as soon as we arrived and the only working toilets were right at the end. Also, there is currently no cafe and very limited seating, so it’s probably best to feed your kid or kids before you get here. Guess what? We didn’t. Cue a five-minute meltdown somewhere near the octopus tank.
How’s the hygiene?
The toilets were something of an acquired taste (read: I was happy to use them, my wife wasn’t). And due to the volume of kids with coughs and snotty noses, it probably wasn’t a stellar idea to let my son lick the glass of the shark tank. Fortunately, my wife didn’t see this happen and he hasn’t come done with anything in the last two days, so I think I got away with it.
Is it worth a second date?
Given the size of some of the queues, the amount of middle-aged dads humming the Jaws theme tune (myself included) , the number of mums saying ‘Look, it’s Nemo. Hi, Nemo’, and the astounding lack of seats and toilets, I’d love to say no. Unfortunately, the look of happy amazement that was permanently plastered over my son’s face means I have to say yes. On the bright side, every visit here will conjure up a load snaps that’ll get 40+ likes on Facebook. And as we all know this kind of online adulation is pretty much the only reason modern parents get up in the morning.