Holiday magic is bringing a highly localized blizzard to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores this Friday, Dec. 13. The flakes are forecast to fall from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the deck of Soundside Hall, coinciding precisely with the hours for Santa by the Sea. The accumulation is expected to be plenty deep enough for participants to make snow angels before or after their all-important visits with Santa. The outdoor temperature doesn’t matter – this white stuff won’t melt and can easily be brushed off clothing and hair.
Indoors, each child gets some personal time with St. Nick himself. A professional Foto FX photo of the encounter for every child 12 and under is included in admission. Bill Frost of Frost Magic Productions provides some holiday hocus-pocus with several magic shows in Big Rock Theater throughout the evening.
The first stop is the “stocking station” to personalize a stocking, which won’t go home empty. Activities include making a unique Aquarium-style ornament, assembling a take-home bag of treats and, if so inclined, coloring holiday scenes. Kids also can help prepare a meal for the waiting reindeer, and pick up a reindeer snack to have ready for Dec 24. Mrs. Claus tells favorite stories in Soundside Hall, where toy trains toot and whistle around the track. The Aquarium is decked out in holiday style for the event, and the Gift Shop will be open.
The Aquarium and Gift Shop will close at 2 p.m. Dec. 13 to prepare, and reopen at 5:30 p.m. for Santa by the Sea. Admission is $9 per person for all ages. Advance tickets are recommended and can be purchased on-line. Ticket sales at the door at 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Santa by the Sea brings a bit of the North Pole to the Aquarium on Friday, Dec. 13, for a memorable holiday evening for children. Each child gets a personal visit with Santa to share holiday hopes in front of the Living Shipwreck exhibit, decorated for the occasion. One 5” x 7” professional photo of the encounter for each child 12 and under is included in admission, courtesy of FOTO FX. Additional prints are available for purchase.
New this year – play in the snow! No matter the temperature, a little holiday magic means the forecast for the Aquarium is for plenty of the fluffy stuff for snow angels and other fun.
Magic shows by Frost Magic Productions featuring Bill Frost add to the evening’s sparkle. Kids also help prepare snacks for Santa’s reindeer, elves lend a hand with keepsake crafts to take home, and Mrs. Claus reads favorite stories.
Admission is $9 per person – space is limited and advance registration is advised – purchase tickets online. Tickets also will be sold at the door from 5
:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Please note that this is a special event, and membership discounts and daily admission tickets or passes do not apply. The Aquarium closes for regular admission at 2 p.m. on Dec. 13.
The Aquarium once again teams up with top restaurants to dish up recipes and tips on selecting and preparing fresh, seasonal, local seafood. Succulent Seafood sessions are scheduled for selected Mondays and occasionally other days of the week at 2 p.m. Aquarium staff members share information on the life cycles and habitats of featured seafood species.
Chefs provide favorite recipes and insights on preparing finfish, shellfish and crustaceans. A taste test of the featured dish tops off each gathering. Succulent Seafood is for ages 12 and up; $15 per person, per session. Advance registration is required. Call 252-247-4003 for more information. The current line-up includes:
Dec. 16 – Boro Cafe & Bakery, Swansboro
Jan. 6 – Ice House, Swansboro
Jan. 13 – Riverside Steak & Seafood, Swansboro
Jan. 20 – White Oak Bistro, Swansboro
Jan. 27 – Nicky’s, Swansboro
Feb. 3 – Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant & Pub, Beaufort
Feb. 24 – Island Grille, Atlantic Beach
March 3 – Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant & Bar, Atlantic Beach
March 17 – Island Grille, Atlantic Beach
Holiday camps at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores combine fun and learning into wintertime adventures for children in grades 2-5 during the December holiday break.
Participants enjoy outdoor activities, discovery labs, crafts, behind-the-scenes action and more. Holiday camps meet Dec. 26 and Dec. 27. Aquatic Adventurers for Grades 2-3 runs from 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. each day. Coastal Explorers for Grades 4-5 runs from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day. The fee is $35 per camper, per day; $31.50 for members. Register for one or both days. Space is limited and advance registration and payment are required.
School holidays in early 2014 also offer opportunities for young campers. Animal Enrichment Camp for Grades 3-6 meets 8:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 20. Participants learn about the science of animal enrichment as they help aquarists prepare enrichment items and see how the animals react. Other behind-the-scenes action, crafts and animal encounters add to the excitement.
Sea Turtle Rescue Camp for Grades 3-6 on Feb. 17 gives campers hands-on opportunities to work with the Aquarium’s sea turtle rescue team. Campers learn how the Aquarium cares for weak and injured baby sea turtles that hatch along the coast every summer and fall, and also for cold-stunned sea turtles that strand in winter. Camp meets 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Animal Enrichment and Sea Turtle Rescue Camps are $35 per camper, $31.50 for members. Space is limited. Advance registration and payment are required.
Brighten up a winter day for your class or group with an aquatic adventure to-go from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. Book an Outreach program for January or February by Dec. 31 for a 10 percent discount on fees.
Outreach Educators bring live animals, props, costumes and hands-on activities to schools, daycare centers, community groups and festivals.
Presentations can be adapted for all ages and for an array of different groups. Choose from programs featuring sea turtles, alligators, freshwater turtles, snakes, horseshoe crabs and other critters. Classroom programs meet the state’s standard course of study requirements. Custom programs can be designed to meet the needs of any group or class.
See the Outreach pages for a complete list of options and information on booking.
Here’s a great gift for an angler — no wrapping required. Register him or her for the Get Hooked Fishing School at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores on Saturday, March 8. The day-long course is packed with presentations from the pros on many topics and types of fishing.
The day is packed with activity from registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. to the final wrap-up at 4:30 p.m. Participants enjoy up to four instructional sessions, a catered lunch, drawings for fishing gear and fishing giveaways. Agencies and businesses of interest to fishermen and boaters will be on hand also.
All sessions are at the Aquarium. Advance registration is required and space is limited so sign up early. Registration is $60; for Aquarium Society members, $54 – register online. Call 252-247-4003, ext. 257, for more information.
The weather outside might be frightful – or not — but the Aquarium is especially delightful this time of year. If you’ve got guests in town for the holidays or kids home from school, enjoy a few hours with the animals and exhibits. The Aquarium is bedecked indoors and out with natural greenery and other seasonal decor. Holiday elves are appearing during the daily dive presentations, and rumor has it St. Nick himself may jump into the action as Dec. 25 approaches.
Check the schedule for daily programs free with admission, or for an extra treat, enjoy one of the behind-the-scenes tours offered several times weekly. The Aquarium and the Gift Shop are open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. with two exceptions: closing at 2 p.m. Dec. 13 for a special event, and closed all day Dec. 25.
Special holiday happenings include:
- Dec. 13 — Santa by the Sea, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Children tell Santa their wishes among the fishes, play in “snow” and enjoy other holiday activities in this magical family evening. The Aquarium closes for regular admission at 2 p.m.
- Dec. 26-27 — Holiday Camps. Outdoor adventure and behind-the-scenes action keeps kids active and learning on their school break. Grades 2-3 meets mornings; grades 4-5 afternoons. Register for one or both days; $35 per session.
- Dec. 28 — Scrap Exchange Art Project, 12 – 4 p.m. Give 2013 a great send-off with a fun family activity that artfully blends creativity with environmental awareness. The Aquarium hosts the Scrap Exchange from noon to 4 p.m. as part of the Crystal Coast Countdown New Year’s celebration. The non-profit Scrap Exchange, based in Durham, is a “creative –re-use” center promoting creativity, conservation and community. The Scrap Exchange provides everything needed to make a masterpiece – unique materials, scissors, tape and tools, plus staff guidance. It all happens in Soundside Hall, near the Aquarium entrance, and admission to participate is free. Regular admission fees apply for visiting the rest of the Aquarium.
- Jan. 1 – New Year’s Day, 2014. The Aquarium is OPEN 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nimbus, the rare white sea turtle, is swimming in new waters at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The loggerhead recently moved from the Sea Turtle Rescue area to the Wreck of the Caribsea. Its new home contains approximately 12,000 gallons and is across from the Living Shipwreck’s large viewing window.
Nimbus arrived at the Aquarium for care in August 2010 as a tiny, weak hatchling. It had been found when a hatched-out nest on Pine Knoll Shores was excavated for baby turtles that didn’t make it out of the sand. It needed help learning to eat because of an obvious cleft palate. Diminished vision later became evident. But Nimbus has thrived under the Aquarium’s care and now weighs about 19 pounds. A lack of normal pigmentation causes its unusual color pattern. Its sex is not known.
The Wreck of the Caribsea features a recreation of debris from a manganese freighter torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Lookout during World War II. Nimbus shares the space with various species of angelfish and other colorful tropical fishes found in North Carolina offshore waters.
When temperatures went down last week, the sea turtle population temporarily went up at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. On Friday, the Aquarium welcomed 15 marine reptiles rescued from area waters after temperatures turned dangerously cold for them.
Researchers from the North Carolina State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology gave the turtles a lift offshore Saturday, after the animals had warmed up and rested overnight in the Aquarium’s behind-the-scenes holding tanks. The new arrivals were young green sea turtles, weighing between five and 15 pounds. Most were found in distress in Core Sound, with a few from Shackleford Banks.
Because sea turtles are cold-blooded and can’t tolerate winter weather, most usually head to the warmer Gulf Stream waters or migrate south when the seasons change. Those that stay behind and get caught in a sudden chill suffer a potentially fatal condition called cold-stunning, similar to hypothermia in humans. Their heart rates and other functions slow, making them too lethargic to swim. They can die from prolonged exposure.
A loggerhead hatchling from Virginia the Aquarium had been caring for, and 95 loggerhead hatchlings that had been at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach also were released. Two dozen or so loggerhead hatchlings that suffered a chill remain behind the scenes in the sea turtle nursery area at the Aquarium. The tiny turtles came from two late-hatching Onslow Beach nests. They also will be released after they recover and gain strength.
The Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is among facilities that work with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to provide care for cold-stunned turtles and weak hatchlings. NCWRC coordinates sea turtle rescues, rehabilitation and releases and monitors nesting and hatching activity in the state.
Happy Halloween from the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores! See photos from the A-Scare-Ium Costume party for grown-ups on Oct. 25 and Trick or Treat Under the Sea for kids Oct. 29-30 on the Aquarium’s Facebook page. Please share yours!