published Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Antarctic fun

A visitor gets acquainted with a gentoo penguin at the Tennessee Aquarium.
A visitor gets acquainted with a gentoo penguin at the Tennessee Aquarium.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    The penguins’ energetic swimming is part of the daily entertainment at Penguins’ Rock. A Party With the Penguins package, offering activities in the gallery and a screening of the Imax film “Happy Feet Two,” starts Monday.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Happy Feet Two" has opened on the giant screen of the Imax Theater, but before audiences don 3-D glasses they may want to mingle with the macaroni and gentoos inside the Tennessee Aquarium.

During Party With the Penguins, available Monday through Jan. 8, the penguin keepers will deliver a series of special programs each morning. The Aquarium opens at 10 a.m.

Among the fun facts guests will discover are the differences in the resident penguins' feet.

"Most people recognize the size difference of the gentoos and the wild-looking yellow crest feathers of the macs," said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. "But quite a few people miss the color difference of their feet."

Gentoos waddle around on brightly colored yellow feet, while the macaronis use their pink feet to hop around and climb.

"You'll see them using their strong toes to grip and climb the rocky ledges," said Graves. "Macaronis are known as alpine penguins, because of this ability to be little mountaineers."

Craft stations will be located outside the penguin gallery so kids can make their own happy feet (pink or yellow), dance with costumed characters and color a bracelet to match the flipper band of their favorite penguin.

"One of the most frequently asked questions is about the penguin flipper bands," said Graves. "We use them to identify individual birds at a glance. The bands also help us track the health history of each penguin."

Party With the Penguins sessions will end at 11 a.m., allowing time for guests to go to the Imax Theater to see the 11:30 a.m. showing of "Happy Feet Two." Aquarium tickets are good for the entire day of purchase, so families will have plenty of time to see the film and tour all of the exhibits.

Party With the Penguins combo packages cover Aquarium admission, the Penguin Party and a movie ticket. Combo prices are $39.50 for adults, $22.90 for children 3-12.

To purchase tickets online, go to www.tnaqua.org/IMAX.aspx.

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