A Visit to Biomes is Like a Warm Weather Adventure

Even if we can't visit the beach in winter, we can get our fix of the sea at this marine biology center.


Examining fish at Biomes.

Jamie Coelho

As a kid, my favorite part of visiting the aquarium was exploring the touch tanks where I could pick up clingy starfish, poke spiny sea urchins and track down tricky hermit crabs. At Biomes Marine Biology Center in North Kingstown, touch tanks are the focus.

I brought my three-year-old son and four-month-old daughter along to get up close and personal with mostly native sea creatures and other species. As we hovered over the touch tanks, memories of going beach combing and searching tide pools with my dad popped up and made me wistful for those days. We used to don snorkels and discover huge starfish in an underwater cove and find sand dollars on beaches. At Biomes, I picked up a four-legged sea star and explained to my son how it’ll regenerate a fifth point over time. Now I get to share these experiences with my own children. Even my baby girl’s eyes lit up as she watched colorful fish swim along in the tanks.

Biomes is a great winter day trip destination, because entering its doors feels like a warm-weather adventure. All of a sudden, you’re immersed in balmy temperatures, rolling up your sleeves and dunking into tanks to learn about animals you’d find on local beaches in the summer. Parents learn something too. I finally found out that the empty rectangular casing I’ve seen regularly on the beach is a mermaid’s purse, or an egg case for sharks and skates. And who knew that female horseshoe crabs have to carry male ones on their backs until they’re ready to release eggs? I thought carrying a baby for nine months was tough enough! We also got to experience the horseshoe crab feeding, when the creatures used their many legs to push pellets into mouths.

A venomous lionfish and horseshoe crabs.

Examine a slew of more exotic animals and fish, including colorful tree frogs, giant turtles, a boa constrictor and a wonder of the sea, the venomous lionfish, which was found as a baby somewhere off the coast of Newport. They have touch tanks for skates and even a sting ray (the stinger is removed). Search for flounder along a sandy bottom where the fish are camouflaged. My son also enjoyed ogling a calico and two blue lobsters, as he has only seen brown ones, and their cooked red counterparts.

One thing I was surprised to learn is that seahorses exist in Narragansett Bay. They’ve always been my unicorn and I hadn’t seen them before in real life. It was quite fun to watch them wrap their tails around seaweed like monkeys.

A visit to Biomes was a day well spent. Even if we can’t visit the beach during cold-weather months, we’ll get our fix of the sea at the marine biology center. Annual memberships are only $100 and cover unlimited visits for up to four visitors. 6640 Post Rd., North Kingstown, 401-885-4690, biomescenter.com

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