A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Newport Aquarium kicks off 20th anniversary with opening of new exhibit, free child admission offer

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Newport Aquarium began celebrating its 20th Anniversary Tuesday with the opening of a new exhibit, Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure.

Newport Aquarium Executive Director Eric Rose with Bubbles of the PBS Kids show Splash and Bubbles. Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure is the latest exhibit at the Newport Aquarium (photos by Mark Hansel).

Just in time for winter weather, the new area provides an indoor space for kids to play and learn as they explore environments from the popular kids’ TV show, Splash and Bubbles. The aquarium has also announced that now through February 28, 2019, families can get one free child admission with each full price adult ticket.

Splash and Bubbles are the stars of the ocean-themed animated kids’ series of the same name on PBS Kids.

The show encourages children to explore the natural undersea world and features endearing and humorous characters on fun-filled adventures. Splash and Bubbles can be seen on local PBS station, CET. The TV show is co-produced by Herschend Studios and the Emmy Award-winning The Jim Henson Company, creators of Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train.

“It’s really more of an experience,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium’s Executive Director. “Reef town is the town where splash and bubbles live in the ocean and here at Newport Aquarium, we’ve brought the show to life.”

Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure lets kids climb and slide through Coral Cove, a three level play structure.

“Coral Cove is kind of the home base, here in our big climber play area, where the kids can burn off a lot of energy and have some fun,” Rose said. “We have a lot of 3-D sculpted characters from the show, Splash and Bubbles, and a few others. The whole area is really lively and fun and playful, it really brings the character of the show to life.”

Coral Cove, a climbing play area, is kind of the home base for the exhibit.

Families can also visit the Kelp Forest, an entirely new area never before available to guests. There they can color their own fishy friends before setting them loose digitally into the animated world of Splash and Bubbles.

“Once it’s scanned an actual artwork will swim around with their name on it, with all of the characters from the show,” Rose said. “That’s an area where we find people are just camping out, having a good time as a family. The adults are coloring with the kids and interacting together and it’s just a nice family activity for everybody and you really get to feel like a part of the show.”

As they explore and learn about our One Big Ocean and the animals that call it home, kids can also become a Reeftown Ranger, just like in the show.

One of the biggest challenges with any permanent attraction is introducing new things to keep people coming back.

“That’s one of our biggest objectives in addition to bringing families together and inspiring young families to love the oceans as we do – to keep the experience fresh,” Rose said. “We have a whole crew of professionals, behind the scenes, biologists, designers, engineers and creative individuals, constantly thinking up new exhibits and new experiences to bring to Newport Aquarium.”

At any given time, the team might be working on five or six ideas that typically result in about two or three exhibits each year.

“I don’t view keeping things educationally accurate, as well as fun and entertaining as a challenge,” Rose said. “I actually view that as part of my job and that’s what I love about it. We get to create these fun experiences, but we also get to educate people at the same time and see them fall in love with these type of things.”

Alexa Angus, with her children Landry, 18 months and Addy, 3, were enjoying one of the interactive exhibits at Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure. Angus, who has an annual membership, says she appreciates Newport Aquariums focus on keeping things fresh.

Alexa Angus of Anderson Township was enjoying an early preview of the Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure with her children Addy, 3, and Landry 18 months – one of the perks of her annual membership.

“We usually come a couple of times a month and they never get tired of it,” Angus said. “It’s definitely nice to come out when it’s cold or it’s raining. We saw the mermaids when they were here and she loved them, they were her favorite.”

This is a landmark year for Newport Aquarium, which turns 20 years old in May.

“As we start our 20th Anniversary year, it’s inspiring to think about the millions of visitors who have built special connections at Newport Aquarium,” said Rose. “This new experience gives us even more opportunities to help parents teach their little ones that it’s fun to learn about animals and important to protect our oceans. We’re going to have celebrations going on throughout the year, so every week and month, we’re going to have new things popping up to make it a celebration of the whole 20 years.”

Highlights of the new experience include:

Reeftown Adventure:
Just like Splash and Bubbles do on TV, guests will “Catch a current” as they enter this fun new experience on their way to explore and play in Reeftown, Coral Cove, Kelp Forest and other environments from the show.

Reeftown Ranger:
Kids can learn about the importance of ocean conservation through fun hands-on games as they earn their status as an official “Reeftown Ranger”.

Kelp Forest:


In Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure Kelp Forest, parents and kids can color a fish that reflects their own personality. Then, through the magic of technology, their creations come to  life to and swim through the world of Splash and Bubbles, along with popular characters from the show.

Parents and kids can color a fish that reflects their own personality. Then, through the magic of technology, they’ll bring their creations to life and watch them swim through the world of Splash and Bubbles, along with popular characters from the show.

1 Kid Free Offer:

From January 7 to February 28, 2019, Newport Aquarium is offering 1 free child admission with each full price adult ticket purchased. Advance ticket purchase online is highly recommended to secure your time of entry and is available at NewportAquarium.com. Tickets can also be purchased in advance by calling 800-406-FISH (3474).

To learn more about Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles Reeftown Adventure, and to follow more announcements for Newport Aquarium’s 20th Anniversary, click here.

Newport Aquarium, has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999.
Newport Aquarium  is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Probably at least twice a month. Alexa Angus Landry Addy It’s definitely nice to come out when it’s cold or it’s raining.We saw the mermaids when they were here and she loved them, they were her favorite. They never get tired of it. Anderson Township.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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