VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -
Each week, 8News Meteorologist Tim Pandajis explores different day trip spots in our area; you can get to most of them on just a tank a gas! This week, Tim visited the Virginia Aquarium.
What's so great about Virginia is that a few short hours in the car will take you either to the beautiful mountains to the west, or the beautiful beaches to our east. 8News Meteorologist Tim Pandajis headed east to visit a place that attracts more visitors than any other museum in the state: the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach.
A short drive east on Interstate 64 will take you straight to the beautiful Virginia coastline. Aside from the beaches and boating, there's a place where you can learn about the environment that exists just below the waves: the Virginia Aquarium.
Joan Barns of the Virginia Aquarium said,"Typically we have over 620,000 visitors a year and of course, as you can imagine, most of those are during the summer. We do like to say that we are the most-visited museum in the state."
Joan explained to Tim what visitors can expect when they come to the Aquarium.
"Basically we try to take our visitors through a journey of water; we start with the mountains of Virginia and we end up at the Atlantic ocean."
The journey takes you on a trek through the history of Virginia itself, stretching back to when the landscape was nothing like what we know today.
"Do you ever wonder what Virginia looked like during prehistoric times?" Joan asked. "Well, this newer exhibit here at the Virginia Aquarium will give you a glimpse back to that time."
Kamodo dragons and volcanic activity were both part of Virginia's history. At the Virginia Aquarium, the Restless Planet exhibit portrays Virginia's fault lines and volcanic mountain ranges.
"We're here at an aquarium, let's go ahead and talk about the ocean," said Joan. "We're immersed now in what the Red Sea would look like, but we're in Virginia...why are we talking about the Red Sea? Well, what's happening there now is what happened here in Virginia millions of years ago, due to the shift of the tectonic plates."
There are a few gems within the aquarium, gems that are hard to find elsewhere in the United States.
The Virginia Aquarium is home to Gloria, one of only about 2,500 Tomistoma species left in the world. Tomistoma are a crocodilian species, and only a handful of them are left in the United States.
It's always "shark week" at the Virginia Aquarium: the sleek ocean creatures are continually on display. Sharks can actually be found not too far off the Virginia coastline, at a place called Norfolk Canyon located about 60 miles offshore.
One of the newest exhibits, Washed Ashore, will be on display through September. It features art made out of marine debris washing ashore on coastlines all over the world; this helps highlight a daily problem.
If marine animals aren't your cup of tea, you can try out a little adventure! Brand new in 2014 is the Adventure Park, where you can experience nature from new heights: it's easy to soar through the treetops over 50 feet high on zip lines. Or try your best on the adventure courses; it's the first of its kind here in Virginia.
For more information on the Virginia Aquarium, click here.