One of the many great things about where Evansville is located geographically is our ability to drive two to three hours in almost any direction and take a day trip to cities like Louisville, Nashville, Indy, or in this case, St. Louis to enjoy the variety of activities those places have to offer. For example, the World Aquarium at on the riverfront.

My family and I made plans to take in the Sunday Night Baseball game between the Cardinals and the Nationals on Sunday, July 2nd, however when you have a 12-year-old son who's super into sports, and a 10-year-old daughter who couldn't care any less, you have to find something she'll enjoy to keep the peace. Truth be told, she found the World Aquarium on her own after doing a little research on her iPad. My wife and I looked into it and decided it to give it a go.

The building that serves as home to the Aquarium is part of Laclede's Landing, an entertainment and dining district on the St. Louis riverfront within walking distance of the Arch. Listed as the oldest district in St. Louis, the architecture is reminiscent of downtown Evansville in some ways. Established in 1866 most, if not all, the buildings are original brick structures from that era that have managed to stand the test of time. While the all-brick streets have their fair share of dips and grooves as the horse and buggy gave way to the modern convenience (and weight) of automobiles.

We had no idea what to expect ahead of our visit to World Aquarium. We've been to other aquariums such as Newport in Cincinnati and Ripley's in Gatlinburg, Tennessee which feature massive aquariums, some of which offer glass tunnels allowing you to essentially walk through them while hundreds of exotic sea creatures from around the world swim overhead.

World Aquarium is no Cincinnati or Ripley's, but that's not a bad thing.

As you can see from the photo above, World Aquarium isn't much to look at from the outside. Compared to the modern architecture of Newport, or the nearly all-glass facade of Ripley's, World Aquarium could easily be mistaken for an old apartment building or a dry cleaner if not for the small banner hanging on the railing above the door, or the larger seascape banner just above it.

This is part where you think, "But the inside blew your mind, right? You can't judge a book by its cover, so on and so forth, right? RIGHT?!?!" While that would make for an interesting twist on the story, that's not the case.

The inside wasn't much different than the outside. The bare concrete floor and exposed brick walls don't offer much vibrancy or color, and most of the aquariums are the kind you can buy at Walmart (with a few exceptions for the larger species on display), but that's not why you're there. You're there to see creatures you'll likely not find at the pet store. And that's where World Aquarium shines.

Consisting of an upper and lower level, World Aquarium features everything from exotic fish and other sea creatures, to alligators and crocodiles, turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards, and more. While both levels are relatively small in terms of square footage, both offer plenty of creatures to see. The upper level consists of large fresh and salt water fish along with smaller fish such as clown and blue tang (think Nemo and Dory). There's also large glass cages that serve as home to an alligator and a crocodile.

The lower level, which is the basement of the building, and only accessible to the public by exiting a side door to the outside, then walking around the back of the building, is where the real fun is. It's here where kids and adults alike will have the opportunity interact with several of the creatures. Much like the main floor, the basement features several aquariums and cages along the perimeter of the room that serve as homes to a variety of fish, snakes, and lizards. In the middle sits an above-ground pool, identical to one you'd put in your backyard, that's home to a small shark, and a couple other larger fish.  For an additional fee, visitors can feed a few of the creatures. During our visit, we fed a couple stingrays, an eel, and a few turtles.

The shark is also available to feed and involves a staff member bringing out a long wooden rod with what looks like a broken chopstick stuck on the end. A staff member attaches half of a small fish to the chopstick, then tells you to lower it into the water just below the surface. It took a few shakes to get the shark's attention, but after about a minute, it circled around the bait and snatched it right of the stick in the blink of an eye.

A few of the creatures are also available to hold. My wife held a good-sized lizard of some type that measured at least four feet long from snout to tail, while my daughter was given a small bearded dragon to hold, which much like nearly every other animal she sees, she fell in love with and now wants one at home (that's a hard "No" on that one).

The staff at World Aquarium couldn't be nicer. They're happy to answer any questions you have, and are right there to assist you when handling any of the creatures.

What World Aquarium lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in experience. And at only $6 for adults, and $4 for kids ages 2 to 15, it's an inexpensive and fun way to spend some time in St. Louis.

Our entire visit lasted about 45 minutes to an hour, so I wouldn't recommend it being the only reason you go to St. Louis, but it's certainly an attraction that should be added to your list when planning a day trip to the "Gateway City."

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the World Aquarium website.

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