Friday, February 26, 2016

A Visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium

When my daughter was first born it was a whirlwind, but once things settled down and we'd been in the house for what seemed like ages in the middle of the winter we really started to get that cooped up syndrome.  We needed to get out of the house and go somewhere other than the grocery store.  AS nice as it was to have plenty of visitors to our home we wanted OUT.  Then came the dilemma of where to take a newborn that was appropriate for her, but still entertaining for us.  Our kiddo was not one of those quiet kids who simply slept anywhere you took her. We had never gone to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium before and decided it would be a perfect foray out into the world for a little person.  We were definitely correct.

The Cleveland Aquarium is located at 2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland (otherwise known as the west bank of the flats) That's what was (maybe still is?) known as the Powerhouse.  It was built in 1892 as literally a powerhouse for an electric streetcar line.  More recently it once housed a variety of businesses such as a piano bar, an arcade and restaurants. Through all this time it definitely maintained an industrial vibe with tall smokestacks, lots of exposed brick and steel so it was interesting to see how something  like an aquarium was built into the space.

Now the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is not particularly large like the Georgia Aquarium and it can be rather pricey for a day out but it is definitely unique and worth a visit.  The aquarium was broken down into galleries that each focused on a different aquatic area such as Ohio Lakes and Rivers, Indo-Pacific, and Coastal regions and the types of fish plants in each area varied accordingly.

It was interesting to see how such an industrial space was converted to hold wildlife.  They utilized the space so creatively that jellyfish are even housed in one of the smokestacks!  In addition to the exhibits a watchful eye could even spot some striking nautical themed art with an industrial edge.

Overall our favorite area was the 175 foot shark tube.  The last thing I'd ever expect to do was call an area full of sharks relaxing, but this was exactly how I felt in this section. Soothing music, lovely subdued lighting and being surrounded by gently rippling waters truly did have a calming effect.  Being a parent of a newborn, this was definitely an added bonus! We also got to see divers working in the tanks, which is quite a common perk.

What was extra special about the aquarium was how close you could get to all the exhibits, which for tiny infant eyes was perfect! 

Other highlights included a pretty amazing 11,000 gallon touch tank where visitors could "pet" stingrays (something we took a pass on this time with an infant), tortoise encounters, live coral, and lots of biodiversity.

Circus Party Theme Ideas

For my daughter's first birthday we had a combination of kids coming that ranged in age from one year old to almost nine, and most of our friends' kids are actually boys and I wanted a theme that was suitable for a girl but still equally fun for boys so we went with a circus theme. It's a gender neutral idea and the activities can be tweaked for lots of ages.

I didn't find birthday cakes at the local grocery stores or bakeries that either quite fit the theme and/or the budget I had in mind so I decided to make my own.  Other than a little fun with paper, scissors and a glue stick it was actually quite easy.  The cake itself was just regular box cake, white frosting with sparkly white and red sprinkles, as well as larger red sprinkles. I picked up some patterned scrapbook paper at the local craft store in red and white stripe, yellow polka dot, and a few solid pages and crafted a circus tent from a cylinder and a cone (the cone just sits atop the cylinder)  The flag banner was made with ribbon, handcut diamonds folded over the ribbon and glued along it to make flags which were then tied to two skewers. Plastic zoo animals (that you might find in a circus) were used to then decorate the cake.

  • I used red and white striped tablecloth hung on the wall and purchased a set of circus themed prop sticks for a fun photo wall.
  • We had a circus themed bean bag toss.
  • The overall favorite though of all the kids was simple punch balloons (which can be bought online or at most dollar stores)
  • I kept it simple since most of the kids were toddlers, but you can add other carnival style games like a ring toss, go fish, floating duck pond, etc.. You could even have kids win tickets for prizes or goody bags. 

Food Ideas
There are lots of simple kid-friendly food ideas.  Just think about your favorite carnival foods for inspiration.
  • Popcorn (in carnival style bags and boxes)
  • Hot Dogs (on carnival style trays)
  • Cotton Candy
  • Animal Crackers in circus theme boxes 
  • Nachos and cheese
  • Peanuts in the shell (just watch out for allergies)
  • Don't forget something healthy! You can arrange fruits or vegetables to look like circus animals, clowns or other circus themed things.  Skewers are simple as well.

Shopping Guide:
I found many of the items for our part at the Local Target, Hobby Lobby, Ikea and Oriental Trading.  You can also find a lot of circus themed party products online at I've linked to a few ideas to get you started below.  I searched a combination of terms like circus, carnival, jungle animals, and zoo to find relevant products.  Note: the links to are affiliate links so I may receive payment if you make a purchase through those links.  (See my amazon disclosure here)

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