Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

South Florida, Tues., May 22nd

Okie dokie! We're up to Tuesday, and I'm starting to *really* forget details. I should've finished this trip report sooner!

So far, we had done Vizcaya, shopping at Sawgrass Mills, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, and the Everglades Alligator Farm, all of which were wonderful, inexpensive places to visit. And we had had a blast at all of them. It was time for a disappointment! And the Miami Seaquarium was primed and ready for the challenge!

There aren't a lot of pictures on the Seaquarium's website, so I didn't know what to expect. I knew they had dolphins and a killer whale show, but not much else. I asked Perry (who very generously gave us some buy-one, get-one-free coupons) if most of the thing was indoors, and she looked at me as only a 12-year-old can. She shook her head and said, "No, it's, like -- ALL outdoors."

I asked if there was a lot of shade, and Perry said, "NO."


I was also absolutely determined to wake up early and get out of the house before 10:00 in the morning in the hopes of beating SOME of the heat. Jim warned us not to leave the house before 9:00 because traffic is so bad on the way to work, but I don't think he meant for us to totally oversleep, which was what we did. We didn't get out of the house until almost 11:00. Argh.

On the way to downtown Miami, the clouds gathered. By the time we hit the downtown area -- very near Vizcaya, in fact -- the heavens opened up and poured so much rain that we couldn't even see the tops of the skyscrapers on the coast. I was having fits wanting to see Biscayne Bay as we drove over the causeway [famous bridges] toward the Seaquarium, but the rain was just torrential. We couldn't see beyond fifty feet or so to either side of the bridges.

(That causeway is featured in the old movie "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. Cool bridges, too, by the way.)

When we got to the Seaquarium's parking lot, the attendant didn't even want to get his hand wet to take our $7 parking fee. He was actually kind of a jerk. I had to *ask* him where to park. And he just rolled his eyes and gestured vaguely. So he never touched the rain. Jerk.

We walked through the rain to the gate, paid our entry -- half price for the four of us, so it was ONLY about $68 -- and I read the restrictions aloud to Emily. You can't use photos for anything other than personal use. And they're quite specific about the ways you can't use photos. The guy at the ticket gate complimented me on my reading. He was actually quite wide-eyed at me and very nice. That was the last nice person we saw at the Miami Seaquarium.

We had to buy ponchos, and we totally regretted not buying ponchos at the Everglades Alligator Farm the day before. We saw them when we were buying our souvenirs on Monday, and even in the deluge on the airboat ride, we could have purchased ponchos for $1 each. ONE DOLLAR! Each! Duh, us! We were told so many times about the drought and how it wasn't going to rain like that again for the rest of our trip, we didn't buy cheap ponchos!

The ponchos at the Seaquarium were $8 each.

Goodbye, $32 plus tax.

Look, I could go on forever about the disappointments at the Seaquarium. I could tell you that the first thing I saw was sea lions coming out to an observation pool, and I nearly cried right then and there because I've never, ever seen sea lions in person, and they're huge and gorgeous. But then we went to the sea lion show, and that's when I found out that the Seaquarium sucks, because it's all cutesy, choreographed, stupid, childish "entertainment." At one point the girls in the show were spanked by the sea lions. I'm not even kidding. Sea lions used their flippers to spank the girls' arched and glowing bottoms. And the school groups *screamed* with laughter, while I sat there being horrified and wanting to retch. I left the sea lion show and waited for Wesley and the kids under an umbrella table out of the rain.

The day was... Well, guys, honestly, it was a huge disappointment. The exhibits are childish and simplistic in the extreme. The shows are supposed to be about entertainment instead of education, and they fail in both regards. The most fascinating things were the manatees -- all of which were rescued and have the heartbreaking scars to prove it -- and the "killer whale," about which I would have loved to ask a million questions. "Killer whales" are dolphins. They are the most deadly of all dolphins, and they do kill whales, which is why they were originally called "whale killer" dolphins. But at some point, the words were switched. That was, like, a hundred years ago.

And by the way, Wesley and I were both horrified by the tiny tank in which the killer whale lives with the Pacific whiteside dolphin. It looks too small to contain such a creature. But at least it doesn't have that wonked-over limp dorsal fin that the killer whale in the "Free Willy" movies had.

Oh, and the food. OMG, the food was horrid. It was school cafeteria food at four-star resort prices. We were horrified all day long by the cost of things.

We ended up staying until the 4:15 killer whale show, and I'm glad I saw it -- sorta. Y'know, when you're in the park and watching the shows, you kind of get numb to what's happening to you. The Pacific whiteside dolphin jumped VERY HIGH into the sky, and I'm glad I saw that. Just to see it. But... afterward, I couldn't help but think that there's just something *wrong* about the Miami Seaquarium. It isn't the right balance of entertainment and education, conservation and information. It's heavy on the cutesy kiddie show element and too light on the meaty info stuff. It's a throwback to the 70's. It needs to catch up with the times.

But why should it? The Miami Seaquarium shouted over and over that it is the #1 tourist attraction in South Florida. I don't know why. It was a wretched disappointment to us.

The one really cool thing I saw were some lizards that I've never seen before. These concrete-grey-brown little lizards roll up their tails -- vertically! -- and run around on their tippy toes as if they're *dying* to get somewhere, and then they stop and hunker down, unrolling their tails, and pant for a few seconds. Then they roll up their tails, jump up on their tippy toes, and run a little distance more! It's hilarious!!!!!! And... it really reminds me of ME!!!!!!!!! I feel like that's what I do ... ALL ... THE ... TIME!!!!

I think Wesley bought a shotglass before we left and joined Miami's getting-out-of-work traffic. It took us longer to get home than it should have. Jim warned us to get out of the Seaquarium before 3:00 to avoid the worst of the traffic, but we hadn't listened.

Oh, well.

- Seeing sea lions.
- Seeing giant sea turtles.
- Seeing the "rockin'" dolphin show, when Emily got splashed by a dolphin's flip
- Seeing the "beach party" "TV's famous Flipper" dolphin show, which would have been cool if they would have let *me* swim with the dolphins.
- Seeing a plaque buried under the beach party amphitheatre dedicating the whole theatre to some long-forgotten dolphin expert.
- Going back to the "rockin'" dolphin area between shows without anyone else around and having the dolphins swim up to our wall as if to ask for a pat-pat or a tickle or a fish.
- Seeing the "killer whale" and the Pacific whiteside dolphin.
- Seeing the manatees in a safe environment.

Low points:
- The bad writing of the shows.
- The careless, thoughtless employees going through the motions.
- The tiny after-thought of an exotic parrot exhibit, where no employee existed and all the birds screamed endlessly in their frustration and their boredom.
- The prices.
- The food.
- The prices.
- The bad, *bad* food.
- The cheezy souvenirs.
- Knowing how much the day cost.

Back in peaceful, reasonably priced, happy, *dry* Pembroke Pines, dinner that night consisted of HUGE hamburgers that Jim grilled, and man, they were fabulous. But HUGE. I couldn't even finish half of mine, so Wesley ate it. Thank heaven for Wesley!

Basically, in retrospect, I'm sorry we wasted our time and money at the Miami Seaquarium. I think I would have gotten more out of the day if we had toured South Beach, which I've never seen in real life. And I'm a sucker for Art Deco architecture. Not even the giant sea turtles were worth the money we spent on Tuesday. I'm bummed out. Still, it was better to waste that time and money on the Seaquarium than to sit at home in little Philly roasting in the broken air conditioner. Vacation still beats real life!

Coming up on Wednesday's report: How do birdies live with jungle cats, anyway???


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