The History of Adventure Aquarium

 Adventure Aquarium opened its doors to the public on February 29, 1992 after five years of planning and building. The Aquarium’s first major exhibit, Open Ocean (now Ocean Realm) featured 760,000 gallons of water and more than 50 species of fish, all of which could be found off the coast of New Jersey. Thirty years later, Adventure Aquarium has grown to two million gallons of water with over 7,000 species of fish. 

Join us as we look back at some of our favorite highlights from the past 30 years. 

December 15, 1987
 

December 15, 1987

After the New Jersey Legislature approved a bill to begin construction for an aquarium (then named the New Jersey State Aquarium) in Camden, N.J., the bill was signed into law by former Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean.

December 1988
 

December 1988

Using state funds, construction begins on the Camden Riverfront. The Aquarium was completely paid for and the state owed no money on the facility.

1989
 

1989

The charter of The New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences (now known as the Center of Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium) is filed and approved to oversee the design and construction of the Aquarium as well as run its operations and drive its mission to educate. 

Feb. 29, 1992
 

Feb. 29, 1992

The Thomas H. Kean New Jersey State Aquarium opened its doors to the public. 

 


Additional Info
1992
 

1992

The New Jersey State Aquarium is officially accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums meet the highest standards in animal care and welfare and provide a fun, safe, and educational family experience.

July 1, 1995
 

July 1, 1995

Redesigned Caribbean Currents exhibit opens.

1996
 

1996

The New Jersey State Aquarium receives the Themed Entertainment Association’s “Award for Outstanding Achievement.”

1997
 

1997

The New Jersey State Aquarium celebrates its five-year anniversary by introducing a shark mascot named “Chomp.”

September 1999
 

September 1999

Bill Nye visits the New Jersey State Aquarium as part of his Big Blue Ocean book tour. Guests filled the theater to watch Nye do a science experiment live.

September, 19, 2003
 

September, 19, 2003

Hurricane Isabel passes through New Jersey causing strong hurricane force winds and storm surges that blow the roof of the Ocean Realm exhibit.

Winter 2004
 

Winter 2004

Steiner + Associates begins leasing the facility with plans to develop what is now called the North Building. Steiner Entertainment operates the Aquarium, while the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences (now known as the Center of Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium) continues it’s educational and conservation programming.

September 6, 2004
 

September 6, 2004

Aquarium closes and construction begins on The North Building.

2005
 

2005

Button and Genny, the Nile Hippos, arrive from Disney's Animal Kingdom.

May 23, 2005
 

May 23, 2005

The Aquarium reopens as Adventure Aquarium with a new North Building featuring Shark Realm, Shark Tunnel and a Nile hippo exhibit. The reopening also includes a renovation on 75% of the original South building exhibits.

August 15, 2006
 

August 15, 2006

Adventure Aquarium is featured on an episode of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs where host Mike Rowe helps the keepers clean up after the hippos.

November 30, 2007
 

November 30, 2007

Herschend Family Entertainment acquired Adventure Aquarium.

January 22, 2008
 

January 22, 2008

Adventure Aquarium becomes home to a blind elephant seal pup named Hope. Hope came from the Marine Mammal Care Center (MMCC) at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, CA, which rehabilitated her after she was found blind, emaciated and stranded on a public beach in May 2007.

March 30, 2008
 

March 30, 2008

Adventure Aquarium was featured on an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Feb. 1, 2010
 

Feb. 1, 2010

Adventure Aquarium appears on an episode of TLC’s Cake Boss with a visit from Buddy Valastro.

March 28, 2010
 

March 28, 2010

Herschend Family Entertainment’s President and CEO Joel Manby appears on CBS’s Undercover Boss and visits Adventure Aquarium during the episode.

June 2010
 

June 2010

Adventure Aquarium unveils a new Stingray Beach Club touch exhibit. 

September 2011
 

September 2011

Anchor, Adventure Aquarium’s Great Hammerhead Shark, arrives.

Summer 2012
 

Summer 2012

Adventure Aquarium introduced “Megalodon,” a traveling exhibit. 

Jan. 14, 2013
 

Jan. 14, 2013

Adventure Aquarium invites guests to meet their newest turtle residents, including Ozzy, a rescued yearling Loggerhead Sea Turtle.

June 7, 2013
 

June 7, 2013

Mighty Mike, a 14’ long, 800 lb. rescued American alligator, visited Adventure Aquarium as part of a nationwide exhibition to educate about the species.

October 18, 2013
 

October 18, 2013

Adventure Aquarium ranks amongst Travel Channel’s “Best Aquariums in the U.S. by Region” report.

March 6, 2014
 

March 6, 2014

Harlem Globetrotters visit Adventure Aquarium during their Philadelphia “Globetrotter Week.”

May 29, 2014
 

May 29, 2014

Hippo Haven is unveiled as Genny and Button’s new home featuring a 60,000-gallon pool.

Nov. 1 - 9, 2014
 

Nov. 1 - 9, 2014

Mermaids dive at Adventure Aquarium for the first time.

Jan. 15, 2016
 

Jan. 15, 2016

Adventure Aquarium welcomes a new species, little blue penguins, and unveils a new exhibit called Little Blue Beach.

April 8, 2016
 

April 8, 2016

Adventure Aquarium announces the grand opening of Shark Bridge, the longest rope suspension bridge in the world that goes over a shark exhibit, hung just inches above the water's surface in the Aquarium's 21-foot deep Shark Realm exhibit.  

Dec. 3, 2016
 

Dec. 3, 2016

Little Blue Beach welcomed its first hatchling, Elanora, the chick of Sheila and Goose.

April 7, 2017
 

April 7, 2017

Piranha Falls, an Amazon experience, is unveiled featuring a multi-sensory experience of the Amazon River.

July 24, 2017
 

July 24, 2017

The millionth guest crossed Shark Bridge.

Aug. 4, 2017
 

Aug. 4, 2017

Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles visit the Aquarium.

Dec. 2, 2017
 

Dec. 2, 2017

Adventure Aquarium announces its first “Christmas Underwater” event featuring the World’s Tallest Underwater Christmas Tree and the return of Scuba Santa.

Jan. 9, 2018
 

Jan. 9, 2018

Governor Phil Murphy visited Adventure Aquarium as part of his inaugural tour of New Jersey.

March 24, 2018
 

March 24, 2018

Penguin Park reopens with an updated Penguin House and Explorers Cove, an outdoor soft surface recreation area for young guests that feature several soft play, nautical-themed climbing structures.

July 11, 2018
 

July 11, 2018

The Marketplace Cafe is revealed with a grand opening.

May 7, 2019
 

May 7, 2019

Adventure Aquarium becomes one of four facilities worldwide to hold AZA accreditation for 30 years.

May 20, 2019
 

May 20, 2019

Adventure Aquarium and Flying Fish Brewing Company open Camden Waterfront’s first-ever outdoor craft beer garden.

July 25, 2019
 

July 25, 2019

Baby Shark Summer kicks off with a Baby Shark(s) Doo, Doo, Doo, Doo event inviting guests to meet the Aquarium's baby sandbar sharks.

Feb. 24, 2020
 

Feb. 24, 2020

Adventure Aquarium becomes the first cultural attraction in the Philadelphia region to offer a free annual admission pass for children 2-5 years old.

March 16, 2020
 

March 16, 2020

Adventure Aquarium shuts down business due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

April 2, 2020
 

April 2, 2020

Another little blue penguin chick is born. In honor of the COVID-19 pandemic heroes, the public names the chick Aroha, a Maori word that roughly translates to “love.” 

July 15, 2020
 

July 15, 2020

Adventure Aquarium reopens its doors, welcoming guests back while complying with the Governor of New Jersey Executive order to limit capacity and require masks.

July 2020
 

July 2020

Adventure Aquarium ranks seventh (7th) as Best Aquarium in North America by USA Today 10 Best Readers Choice Awards.

March 2021
 

March 2021

Adventure Aquarium welcomes two Pacific blacktip reef sharks to the Ocean Realm exhibit.

April 20, 2021
 

April 20, 2021

Adventure Aquarium introduces The Action for Animals Audio Tour, the facilities first-ever audio tour, which is free for guests to listen during their visit and encourages conservation efforts.

April 2021
 

April 2021

Adventure Aquarium experiences a record little blue penguin breeding season, welcoming five chicks - Pixie, Siren, Fairy, Phoenix and Griffin.

June 18, 2021
 

June 18, 2021

Caribbean Currents is renamed Pirate’s Passage and redesigned to feature new, in-water decor. 

July 2021
 

July 2021

Adventure Aquarium’s staff participates in the Plastic Free Eco Challenge, finishing seventh (7th)out of 391 teams in North America.

Dec. 1, 2021
 

Dec. 1, 2021

Camden’s Waterfront gets brighter thanks to Adventure Aquarium's newly-installed, illuminated sign that spans 118 feet across the west side of the building facing the Delaware River.

Jan. 10, 2022
 

Jan. 10, 2022

Adventure Aquarium is one of 11 AZA-accredited facilities to receive grant funding for support from the Disney Conservation Fund to partner with Camden Urban Agriculture Collaborative (CUAC) in order to give Camden residents starter garden kits to promote pollinator gardens and the importance of food security in underserved communities.

Feb. 2022
 

Feb. 2022

Adventure Aquarium celebrates its 30th Birthday by offering guests free admission on their birthdays, early open days for members, and raising funds for conservation efforts. 

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