East Idaho has an abundance of outdoor activities for families to enjoy. From walking paths, hiking trails, and hot springs/pools in the warm months, to skiing, sledding, and cross country skiing in the winter, there is always something fun to do outdoors!
What about those days the weather is cruddy or you just aren’t up for an outdoor adventure? Enter the East Idaho Aquarium! This 10,000-square-foot facility has something for everyone and is growing daily to include more interactive exhibits than most aquariums in the nation!
If you’ve been a reader of ours for a while, you know we keep it real here. We only talk about the things and places we truly love, and we are connected to the community we write for. I KNOW some people have negative opinions of the aquarium. I know some families visited in the beginning and felt that some aspects of an aquarium experience were missing, but let me assure you that the aquarium of today is NOT the same aquarium as the one my family visited in 2017! Upon entering the aquarium, you’re greeted with colorful artwork, a beautifully stocked gift shop, and visible exhibits such as Rufus, the African Crested Porcupine, a tank reminiscent of Finding Nemo, and Wookiee, the two-toed sloth! The entrance is just the beginning of the magic, though!
I was so excited to visit the aquarium as an adult without the kids to really have an opportunity to absorb the information from the founder, Arron Faires. One of my favorite parts of writing is having the opportunity to talk to people from a variety of backgrounds about what they’re passionate about, and Arron does NOT lack passion for the animals, this 501(c)3 non-profit organization, or for sharing information about animals with others! With over 10 interactive exhibits, our local East Idaho Aquarium boasts more one-on-one interactions with animals than any other aquarium in Idaho and neighboring states! In 2019, Arron even traveled from Monterey Bay, California to Miami, Florida to visit other facilities and gather input in order to revamp and rejuvenate our East Idaho facility. Lucky for us, the COVID shutdown allowed him and his dedicated staff the time necessary to create a space to inspire families with hands-on activities!
My automatic concern when humans are interacting with animals is the safety of both parties. Arron assured me that the exhibits are created to provide spaces for the animals to be away from interactions if they wish, and the tanks are filtered significantly more than necessary to ensure contaminants are removed efficiently and quickly. My favorite aspect of these interactions is that my small town Idaho kids don’t generally have access to many of the incredible specimens featured at the aquarium. Some examples of this include the macaws, poison dart frogs, the two-toed sloth, and many warm-water fish! I am grateful I have the opportunity to introduce my kids to these cool animals here in their hometown!
I especially love that the aquarium is passionate about connecting kids to the animals via fun interactive exhibits and am confident they’ll continue to shift their exhibits which will keep us visiting again and again.
As an adult, I could spend hours exploring the saltwater tanks looking for hard-to-acquire yellow tangs, hard-to-spot 4-foot eels such as the Mexican jeweled moray or the zebra, and dozens of cool shrimp, including the coral banded and the hilarious pistol shrimp! The saltwater tanks are also full of difficult-to-care-for varieties of fish, lobsters, and soft and hard corals! I spent a few years as a saltwater tank hobbyist and know personally the number of hours and knowledge necessary to sustain these environments. While I, unfortunately, lacked the tank to keep mine healthy, the East Idaho Aquarium provides 300+ hours weekly to caring for their animals and enclosures and has some of the healthiest fish and corals I’ve seen! I feel better about not sustaining a healthy tank after learning the aquarium is using 16 different types of food just for their saltwater tanks including clams, shrimp, squid, pellets, flakes, garlic, and others. From now on, I’ll let them do the (really) hard work while I just enjoy teaching my kids about their cool fish like the invasive lionfish, upside-down jellies, scorpionfish, and basket starfish!
Speaking of fish, the shark tank at East Idaho Aquarium is host to 30,000 gallons of water and SIX species of shark. This is almost double the volume of the neighboring Aquarium of Boise!
Fun fact: You can purchase a shark encounter to swim with sharks and can even swim down and touch the huge nurse shark! While swimming with a white-spotted bamboo, remora, smooth-hound, or black-tipped reef shark has never been on my bucket list, I get the feeling some families out there would be surprised to know they can cross that off their list right here in Idaho Falls!!
Moving through the aquarium to the transition point between salt and fresh water, you can visit the cockatiel and parakeet exhibit with over 250 birds! As an example of the growth of our aquarium, they recently doubled the size of this exhibit and created more birdhouses to allow safe spaces for the birds to hide if they prefer to stop visiting and snacking with humans. Did you know birds can develop arthritis from perching on the same type/size of perch for an extended period? To combat this, the aquarium has 4 sizes of rope to ensure the birds have various opportunities to stretch their feet. Other birds spotted at the aquarium include eclectic parrots, African grays, a toucan, and others! The macaws are even out in an exposed exhibit where you can watch them interact with each other in open space!
I could go on and on about the variety of animals displayed (bugs and doctor fish and even local fish plus iguanas and tortoises and…..) but no more spoilers. Trust me when I say you want a VIP Family membership for the year. We use ours to visit for hours or for a quick walkthrough regularly. The perk of our small aquarium is that we can take hours looking for specific little creatures and enjoying animal encounters, or we can go and just use our VIP member tokens to have quick interactions with our favorites. I love the flexibility of both plus having access outside of regular hours. It is absolutely the BEST way to visit the aquarium!
During your next visit, really look around and show your kids your excitement. I promise they don’t see what we see. They see MAGIC and WONDER if we just set the tone for them. My job is to set the tone for you mamas and I promise it’s there if you’re looking. Taco the Toucan, Moose the Yellow-Naped Amazon, and Wookiee the Sloth are waiting to meet you and your kiddos and I can’t wait for you to experience the magic for yourself!