Dolphin Baby Shower: Fast Access to the Shedd Aquarium
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I love good aquariums, I love dolphins even more. When I discovered this weekend that the Shedd Aquarium were doing special viewings of their one-month old Pacific white-sided dolphin I was on top of the world. For a $20 tax-deductable donation on top of the Shedd pass, you got to attend their Dolphin Baby Shower — a behind the scenes viewing with a trainer.
I couldn’t book day-of tickets through Ticketmaster, so I decided to meander down from the hotel and hope they had a free spot. After walking the 2 miles to the Aquarium, I was horrified to discover a line that trailed down the steps and all the way to the entrance of the Field Museum.
Walking towards the end of the line, I saw helpful (and discouraging) signs indicating my spot was a 90-minute wait. Hmmmm. I overheard a volunteer telling some folks that they were selling express passes on the spot for $50. Regular passes were essentially $30, so spending $20 more saved you an hour and a half of boredom and heat.
I hadn’t planned to spend $70 on my visit, but if they still had slots for the shower, it might be worth it. I walked up to the express desk and asked. The guy came back and told me they had tickets for 30 minutes from then and I could buy them at the Membership Desk.
I walk inside, find the special lane for the Dolphin Baby Shower (no wait) and within 5 minutes I not only had tickets for the next viewing, but I had my general pass as well. And it was even better. The total cost for quick admittance and the special event was $48.95, and I’d been ready to spend $50 on just the pass!
The actual experience was thrilling, and they went out of the way to make it feel like “special status.” You wait in a plush reception room, decorated for a baby shower, with plenty of cute little stuffed dolphins scattered around.
They were handing out birth announcements, dolphin shaped cookies, and the obligatory “I saw the dolphin calf” sticker used for admittance.
You’re escorted down to the lower level of the Abbott Oceanarium (my group only had 5 people total) where you can watch the mother and baby and ask questions of the trainer. The baby dolphin is adorable — only 3 feet long, playful, awkward, you just want to scoop him up and take him home. It was also surprisingly interesting to hear the trainer talk about the pregnancy and birth.
My favorite anecdote was how all 6 beluga whales in the adjacent section didn’t eat for an entire day after he was born because they were so fascinated with watching him.
I didn’t bring my good camera, so most of my pictures of the baby are blurry.
Fortunately the belugas were more obliging later on, surfacing slowly and calling out to each other every 2 min
When lunch time came, I debated crowding into one of the cafes onsite, but decided to go for a cheaper, tastier Turkey Hot Dog (half Chicago style) from one of the stands outside.
If you’re going to the Shedd before July 1 and see a long line, just pop into the membership area and buy tickets for the Dolphin Baby Shower. It’s a far better value and experience than their $50 express ticket option.
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