Caveat: I love zoos and aquariums and I’ve been to a lot of them. In Oklahoma we had a zoo membership and some weeks we’d go 5 days of 7. So, in some respects, I’m critical. I know what to expect. In others, I’m not. I love critters and fish and if there are critters, I’m usually very content.
Oberhausen itself is nice. About an hour from Geilenkirchen and 25 minutes north of Dusseldorf, they have a new centrum area set up with its theaters, large shopping mall, and entertainment centers all in one location around a nicely kept canal lined with a variety of international restaurants on one side and a decent looking amusement park on the other. Lined on both sides with a green space with ducks and fountains, it feels a bit like Oklahoma City’s Bricktown or San Antonio’s Riverwalk. It does not feel like Germany – instead, it’s very modern. We could have been anywhere.
We parked in the SeaLife parking (lots 8 and 9 – 8 is shady indoors, 9 is a gravel lot) which was not anywhere remotely near SeaLife, so by the time we dragged our weary selves hot and sweaty into SeaLife itself, we were ready to jump in with the fish to cool off. If you are traveling with short legs, bring a stroller or be prepared to carry.
The Painful: Ahhh… so now I know why I don’t go to these places here in Europe. Cha Ching. For myself and 4 children, it was 61 Euros (close to $100) just to get in. We didn’t even get the little booklet – that would have been 3 Euros more. I’ve been to really great aquariums in which I can easily spend an entire day that certainly didn’t cost anywhere near $100 to get in. At SeaLife I tried to get my money’s worth. We walked prehistorically slow commenting on each and every little fishie including the 3 “Nemo” fish, the handful of jellyfish, and the swarms of tropical fish congregating around the heads of lettuce floating in the water. We counted sharks swimming above our heads as if they were sheep and the kids played at the Pirate Island Play area (nice play area upstairs by the food court). Yet still, after 2.5 hours, we’d absolutely exhausted the possibilities at SeaLife so that even the kids were ready to go. (There is no touching area for kids to touch the fish – not a horrible faux pas, but just so you know.)
The good? Ok, my opinion of SeaLife is severely clouded by the price which is partially fueled by the paralyzing exchange rate. Even in $, to me, it is expensive for what it offers, but that aside, it is layed out nicely, and the fish are displayed in an extremely clean and “natural” atmosphere. In one area, they even use a real ship from an old shipwreck in the tank with the fish for effect. It’s pretty cool. The tank with rays contains more rays than I’ve ever seen at one time swimming up to the surface and along the wall in easy view so that was enjoyable to watch. The ray and dogfish egg sacks are really interesting too as we could see the babies inside of them wiggling around. Really, it is pretty. The fish are happy and cared for. The environment is good. It’s just too much buck for the bang.
The bathrooms, by the way, are upstairs by the entrance/exit area, so go before or you’ll be rushing through the maze midway. The highlight for my kids: the toy helicopter ride for 50 cents sitting right outside the bathroom door. Sad.
Zum Aquarium 1
46047 Oberhausen Tel: 0208-444 88 444
From there we walked sadly past the CentrOpark amusement park thinking how much better spent my money could have been. Without actually going to CentrOpark, I can’t tell you good or bad, but between seeing it there and checking out their website, it really looks nice. We’ll try that one next time.
From A42 exit #11, then follow the signs to CentrO, then CentrOpark parkplatz 3.
** CentrOpark has a weather guarantee!
The Eats: Along the canal, you’ll find sushi, Louisiana Cajun, a creperie, tiny bars, German food, and many more I can’t remember. We chose a nice looking Italian place right below the Teatro sign. Wow. The atmosphere was elegant and beautiful, yet, with kids, it was comfortable and the waiter was very kind and patient as we decided what to eat. We all ordered something (which, for 6 of us, was still less money than for 5 at SeaLife), but could have eaten for half the price had we known the portions were so big. Each meal could easily have been split. The pasta dishes are HUGE and their sauces are delicious. We loved the gnocci gorgonzola and the spaghetti carbonara. My tagliatella al salmon was good, but the others were better. The pizzas were a little larger than an Il Genio’s normal and delicious. The inside is huge making it a great place for a large group or party. The bathrooms are clean and from the stairs to the balcony area, you can see the kitchen really well which is fun. So, delicious food, amazing atmosphere, great price, and impeccable, friendly service. I’ll go there again – definitely.
D 46047 Oberhausen
**Menu available online – click on “speisekarte“**
What can I say… live and learn. Now I can add one thing to my list of “things I miss about the U.S..” Affordable, quality zoos and aquariums.