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penguin encounter long island aquarium and exhibition center
Photos by Claire Leaden | The Penguin Encounter at the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center

It’s always fun to go to the aquarium and observe the adorable penguins in their exhibit, but what if you had the chance to actually go in the exhibit itself and then meet the new baby penguins up close and personal? At the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead you can do just that with the Penguin Encounter.

Though it sounds cliché, the Penguin Encounter is really something that all ages will enjoy. Kids will definitely squeal when they see the baby penguins waddling around, but teenagers and adults will have just as much fun learning about them and admiring their cuteness.

First, if you are interested you must register for a program time and date by calling the aquarium (631-208-9200, ext. 426) or doing it in person. During the summer months you can book any day at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. In the winter it is limited to weekends and holidays at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. They can accommodate up to nine people per session.

When you arrive, an aquarium staff member brings you out to the Penguin Pavilion, the outdoor exhibit where the African penguins live. Instead of just observing the animals from behind glass like the rest of the aquarium customers, during the Penguin Encounter you are able to go right inside the exhibit and watch the animals from just a couple feet away.

Inside the pavilion, the trainer groups the penguins together and directs them to swim in the pool. They all jump in and then glide gracefully through the water to the other side of the pool where they get out and waddle into a line formation. During this time the trainer explains the story behind these particular penguins and how the aquarium cares for them, as well as fun facts about the creatures in general.

After this part of the presentation, you are directed to the penguin preschool. This is a room where a baby penguin is brought out to waddle at your feet. The trainer tells you more about the penguin program and allows you to pet the fluffy little guy. Lastly, you get to pose for a one-of-a-kind photo with the baby sitting right next to you.

Though the experience is a little pricy, $50 per person for a 45-minute program (plus regular aquarium admission), it really is worth the money for the true penguin lover.

For more photos, check out the slideshow below:

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