With sub-zero wind chills nipping your nose, visiting the Shedd Aquarium might not be the first thing on your mind. But the Shedd’s new Fantasea multimedia aquatic show is such a delight, it’s worth heading out into the wintry weather, especially if you need a respite from holiday madness. Set in the Shedd’s recently reopened Oceanarium, Fantasea is more like going to the theater than to the same old dolphin show. This surprising production is a unique Chicago experience, and (perhaps best of all) the show is included in the price of admission to the Shedd.
Fantasea is an inspirational show designed to capture the wonder of the natural world and its inhabitants. Combining the excitement of modern theater technology (from flying rowboats to “dolphin guides” who drop from the ceiling), an original score, and evocative lighting in the soothing Oceanarium, Fantasea captures kids’ attention and imagination. My kids wished they could trade places with the main character in the story, a young girl who interacts with the Shedd’s beluga whales, sea lions, penguins, birds of prey and Pacific white-sided dolphins. All these animals get a chance to exhibit their natural behaviors, putting on a great show of their own. Seeing three dolphins gracefully arc out of the water in unison is dramatic in itself, and penguins add their own innate comic relief. Hint: If your kids love penguins, try to sit in the front row!
After the show, be sure to explore the rest of the Oceanarium for some up-close encounters with sea lions and belugas. On our visit, one friendly beluga posed endlessly for photos! On the lower level, the recently added Polar Play Zone is irresistible to kids. In this “set under the ice” adventureland, they can put pretend to nest and ice-slide like penguins, watch the real penguins play, and even grab a snack while they watch the belugas gliding underwater.
Details: Shedd Aquarium is located at 1200 South Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s Museum Campus and is served year-round by the CTA’s #146 bus. Tickets can be purchased in advance. Fantasea performances run several times a day. Be sure to plan your visit around one of the show times, which change depending on the day. For show times and more information, visit www.sheddaquarium.org