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Six things to see at the New York Aquarium

There's no need to brave the ocean to see underwater critters along the Coney Island seashore. Instead, say hello to the residents of our favorite New York Aquarium attractions.

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    New York Aquarium

Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

New York Aquarium

1 In mid-April, the aquarium unveiled a renovated Conservation Hall and spiffed-up Glover's Reef, the 167,000-gallon tank that replicates part of the Belize Barrier Reef in the Caribbean. Kids can learn about the delicate eco-system and its inhabitants while trying to spot the sharp tail spines on the vibrant blue tang, the piglike snout of the huge hogfish and more. Separate sections in the Conservation Hall introduce visitors to Africa's Great Lakes and Brazil's Flooded Forest, and show budding marine biologists how the aquarium grows its own coral to preserve delicate ocean reefs in the wild.

2 On nice days, head outside to see the open-air exhibits: Take in California sea lions and harbor seals napping on rocks and soaking up the sun; fall under the spell of the gargantuan walruses—who can weigh up to a whopping 4,200 pounds each—and hear their impressive roars; and don't miss the giant water world full of menacing-looking sharks, stingrays and immense sea turtles.

3 The aquarium's sea lions do more than sunbathe. Check out their moves at the aquatheater (weather permitting; showtimes posted at aquarium entrance) as they dive, dance and blow kisses in a training demonstration. Or, stop by for mealtime with sharks, penguins, walruses and sea otters (see nyaquarium.com for daily feeding times).

4 Despite their vicious venom, the jellyfish in the Alien Stingers exhibit are a mesmerizing sight. Dramatically set against a vibrant blue background, West Coast sea nettles, which trail tentacles up to 15-feet long, and shimmering moon jellies, a common sight in East Coast waters, will fascinate kids.

5 Children can get really hands-on at the touch pool in the Explore the Shore area, mustering the courage to make contact with sea stars, horseshoe crabs and other briny friends. Aquarium staffers are on hand to answer all their curious questions. (During warmer weather months, the touch pool is located outside.) Another don't-miss feature: reproductions of a salt marsh, a rocky shore and Gulf beach habitats.

6 On your way in or out, stop by the 4-D theater to see the current show, Happy Feet 4-D Experience ($6 in addition to general admission; program repeats every 15 minutes). When the dance-crazy penguins of the animated hit flap their flippers, moviegoers will feel bursts of arctic snow and wind. Luckily, the Coney Island boardwalk—and a warm ocean breeze—awaits right outside the door.

New York Aquarium, Surf Ave at 8th St, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-265-3474, nyaquarium.com). Subway: F, Q to W 8th St--NY Aquarium. Mon--Fri 10am--5pm; Sat, Sun 10am--5:30pm. $13, seniors $10, children ages 3--12 $9, children under 3 free.

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