From Film to Fun
By Kara Pound
Photos courtesy of Marineland Dolphin Adventure
It’s been nearly 80 years since Marineland Dolphin Adventure opened its doors as Marine Studios on June 23, 1938. Founded by Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney, W. Douglas Burden and Ilya Tolstoy, all who had connections to Hollywood, the trio felt that an underwater film studio would fill a niche in a pre-SCUBA and pre-waterproof-camera era.
“Beyond their ties to Hollywood, these successful entrepreneurs all had true spirits of adventure and a love of science and discovery,” explains Terran McGinnis, Manager of Education and Community Development for Marineland. “These qualities practically ensured the success of their undertaking and 80 years later, we are evidence of the power of hard work, passion and constant growth.”
Known as the “World’s First Oceanarium,” Marineland (as it’s referred to by locals) has flourished from underwater film studio to one of the area’s top attractions — writing on the wall, according to McGinnis, that’s been in the works for decades.
“Although it was created to be a film studio with tourism as a secondary focus, the 30,000 people who showed up on opening day made it clear that the community was ready and eager to learn about the oceans in a way that was very new,” she says. “From this point forward, film production took on a secondary role, and inspiration, education, entertainment and research were the primary pillars of the facility.”
Over the years, Marineland became the first place to successfully breed and train bottlenose dolphins, as well as the facility where echolocation was discovered. As the facility evolved, the focus on research and education expanded to include children in its outreach. Today, it hosts an assortment of children’s activities and programs to spark lifelong learning and an understanding of underwater ecosystems.
Some of Marineland’s most popular children’s programs include the following (in no particular order, of course):
TOUCH & FEED — Meet, greet and feed bottlenose dolphins as you get up-close and personal with the residents. All participants must be ages 3 and older, and guests under age 8 must be accompanied by a paying, participating adult age 13 and up. This program lasts approximately five minutes and pricing is $36.95 plus tax, which includes general admission.
DOLPHIN DESIGNS — Be your dolphin’s muse as you hold a canvas over the water and choose three colors for him or her to create a masterpiece just for you. This interactive program is for ages 5 and older and last approximately 15 minutes. Pricing is $99 plus tax per person and includes general admission.
DISCOVER DOLPHINS — In this hands-on, shallow-water encounter, interact with dolphins alongside a professional Marineland trainer. The program, which is designed for ages 5 and older, also offers a pre-encounter tour of Neptune Park and the Aquarium Room. Discover Dolphins lasts approximately 65 minutes and costs between $179 and $199 plus tax.
TRAINER FOR A DAY— Be a part of the daily activities that fill a marine mammal specialist’s day by taking part in Marineland’s Trainer for a Day program. You will learn about preparing meals, feeding animals and assist in record keeping in this four-hour program designed for participant’s ages 13 and older. Pricing is $485 plus tax, which includes general admission.
All these programs work off the natural fascination children (of all ages) have for dolphins, and marine life in general. The team at Marineland believes it’s vital to our future to get kids in their formative years interested in learning about the sea, the ways to protect it and the marine life that depends on it. If we start early enough, the survival of our oceans, so key in the survival of our planet, will be in good hands.
Visit the Marineland Dolphin Adventure website for more info and pricing on programs.