Leapin’ lizards

Komodo king tops Shedd’s reptile show

As the mother of three boys, I have become knowledgeable about all things reptilian. If it slinks, is green or has claws, my sons want to know about it.

So when we saw the announcement for the new exhibit, "Lizards and the Komodo King" at the Shedd Aquarium, we marked our calendar. We went opening weekend. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake. The exhibit is fantastic, but the crowds were formidable.

I recommend you take the kids to see the lizards, but follow this advice from Shedd spokeswoman Melissa Holland: Buy tickets online to avoid the long wait at the entrance, arrive when the aquarium opens at 9 a.m. and go on a weekday if possible.

Exhibit designers did an excellent job of keeping most of the species at kids’ eye level. I only had to lift my boys once to see inside cases that were too high.

Trying to spot the elusive lizards turned out to be a fun game. Finding the tiny day gecko was a highlight for my 5-year-old, who proudly pointed it out to his younger brothers. It was difficult to drag them away from the bearded dragons, who were very active and trying to scale the glass.

We had no trouble finding the star of the exhibit, Faust, the Komodo dragon. We had seen pictures, but nothing compares to his commanding eight-foot-long presence in real life. This is the first time Chicagoans have the opportunity to see a live Komodo, and he doesn’t disappoint. My sons were glued to the glass as Faust flicked his tongue and circled around. He is in a very large space, so even with the crowds, we were able to watch him for several minutes.

In addition to the live creatures, the exhibit is filled with video, written information and some interactive stations. My sons loved the giant lizard paintings with raised "scales" which they could feel—and then look for on the real lizards as they proceeded through the exhibit.

When you plan your day, be sure to include time for taking photos of the kids inside the mouth of the giant inflatable lizard on the front steps. And note that strollers are not allowed inside the exhibit because the space is jammed with animals and people.

"Lizards and the Komodo King" continues through Feb. 28 at the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago. For more information call (312) 939-2438 or visit www.sheddaquarium.org.

Alena Murguia

Kids Eat Chicago

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