Shedd Aquarium’s Penguin Encounter is a can’t miss experience

Today is World Penguin Day, but any day can be penguin day with a visit to Shedd Aquarium, where Rockhopper and Magellanic penguins call home. It’s always fun to see the friendly feathered creatures in their exhibit, but if you want to learn even more about them, you’ll love the Shedd’s Penguin Encounter.

Pet the penguin gently, using two fingers.

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Credit: Shedd Aquarium

As one of the aquarium’s extraordinary experiences, the Penguin Encounter is an hour-long penguinpalooza. And with only 10 people maximum allowed in each group at a time, every experience is intimate and memorable.

The experience begins when the group heads behind the scenes to learn more about the Shedd’s penguins and their care.

Take a peek into the kitchen to see where their food is prepared, check out the transport vehicles and pick out some toys for the penguin to play with during a mini-training session that we got to watch.

While that’s all pretty neat, easily the best part of the whole encounter is getting to meet and pet a penguin. The trainer offers instructions on where and how to pet the penguin on its sleek feathers (gently, using two fingers). And while you can only pet them for a short time, it’s sure to be a memory that will last a lifetime.

The trainer also shares some insight into the specific penguin you meet, as they all have distinct personalities.

Our penguin, named Mercedes, was pretty great. We even got her information so we could see her again, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Each participant gets a card with identifying information for the penguin from the encounter so they can locate it in the penguin exhibit later. I admit that finding Mercedes was not an easy task, but we were up to the challenge, and it was a fun to have the connection with her. (Apologies to the other guests startled by our cheers when we found her!)

The Penguin Encounter is a great way to give tweens and teens who have visited the aquarium several times over the years a new perspective. Older kids will really appreciate the hands-on and interactive nature and parents will appreciate that it’s educational. It’s also a good opportunity for them to see first-hand what trainers at the Shedd do in the course of a day and learn more about their jobs. Children must be six years old to participate, and kids between six and 11 must have a paying adult with them.

The Penguin Encounter isn’t cheap, costing $75.95 for adults, $66.95 for children and $40 for members. However, that also includes express entry, admission to all exhibits, a ticket to the next available aquatic presentation and a photo.

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