Boise Aquarium & The Ray Whisperer

We spent Thanksgiving 2016 in Boise, Idaho with Zach’s family. There were the usual marathon board game sessions, trips to the movies (the girls saw Moana for the second time with their cousins , having gotten to see an advance screening of it in Seattle), watching football and the Macy’s parade on TV, and of course a delicious feast on Thanksgiving Day.

While Zach took the girls to watch Moana, I searched for a way to entertain Alden that didn’t include chasing him around non-toddler-proofed homes of relatives. I landed on taking him to the Boise Aquarium. I had heard some interesting things about the aquarium and was curious to check it out. Apparently, the two men who opened it in 2010 were illegally harvesting certain marine life in Florida. They were caught and sent to prison in 2013. It was later taken over by a non-profit who had been working to make the aquarium more legitimate.

It took me awhile to locate, even using GPS, and if you saw it you would understand why. Imagine an abandoned, half-size Petco in a strip mall. Now imagine it is sandwiched between a bail bonds shop and a sketchy pawn shop. Yeah. There was no doubt this was the right place, however, as AQUARIUM was emblazoned really big on the outside of the building.

When you enter and pay at the counter it feels like you’re paying entry fee at one of those cheezy laser-tag set ups you used to find in shopping malls in the 1990’s. Inside is a bunch of tanks like you would find at a pet store, teeming with various fish. There were also a few larger tanks made of concrete and glass.


There is also a small tide pool “touch” tank with the usual sea anemones, etc for kids to explore.


The best attraction, by far, is the manta rays. They are in a large, rectangular tank, designed for patrons to be able to touch the rays as they swim by. Alden adored the rays, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. Several people – who had been standing at the tank for a few minutes before we arrived – commented on how interested in Alden the rays seemed to be. They were swimming in circles around the tank, but once Alden came over they came closer to the edge, almost like they were begging to be petted by him. Several reversed course after passing by him to come back for another pass. Alden had the biggest smile on his face and kept squealing “Fishy!” with glee. Later, when we approached another tank with multiple kinds of fish in it that also included another ray, the ray hoisted itself from the bottom of the tank where it had been laying and swam straight up to the glass where Alden was standing. Then it just hovered there, at eye level with Alden, until we moved away to another tank. It was the most bizarre thing! What is the manta ray equivalent of speaking Parseltongue? Because I’m pretty sure Alden is fluent in it!

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