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Butterflies And Birds At The Long Island Aquarium And Exhibition Center

Originally Posted: July 08, 2011

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

Crowds gather awaiting the grand opening of the Long Island Aquarium's new Exhibition Center and its first exhibit Butterflies and Birds. Douglas Harrington)

One of the more than 30 species of butterflies in flight at the LIAEC Butterflies and Birds exhibit. (Douglas Harrington)

Riverhead - Ushering in the Fourth of July weekend, the Long Island Aquarium celebrated the grand opening of its new Exhibition Center and its adjacent Hyatt Place East End Hotel.

The July 1 grand opening event drew well over 1,000 children and adults for the Exhibition Center's ribbon cutting and admission to its first exhibit, Butterflies and Birds. Attendees were treated to delicious hors d'oeuvres and a specialty rum cocktail with soft drinks for the kids.

Formerly known as Atlantis Marine World, the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center (LIAEC) is one of the jewels of East End family attractions and educational facilities. Its existing aquatic exhibits are breathtaking and often interactive, from the Ray Bay Sting Ray petting pool to the Touch Tank to the Penguin Encounter. For those truly brave of heart, there is the opportunity to climb into a shark cage and be lowered into the Lost City of Atlantis Shark Exhibit, where a dozen sharks get up close and personal. Along with the sharks there are exhibits that include Moray eels, Piranhas and Sea Horses, to name but a very few and, of course, no one can resist the Seal Pool.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter cutting the ribbon on the Exhibition Center. (Douglas Harrington)

In addition to the watery wonders available, visitors now have winged wonders to experience at the LIAEC. The new Butterflies and Birds exhibit is nothing short of extraordinary, albeit quite warm and humid as necessary for the survival of the hundreds of live, free flying butterflies in the 5,000 sq. ft. storybook theme space that includes a tree house, a pond and beautifully designed gardens.

Visitors and birds interacting at LIAEC. (Douglas Harrington)

Along with the 30 species of North American and tropical butterflies, visitors are treated to 20 types of exotic birds in an adjacent bird room, with many of the birds more than happy to perch on a visitor's finger or shoulder. This combined exhibition is both beautiful and educational and, quite simply, a whole lot of fun! There is also a specialty Butterflies and Birds gift shop in addition to the present LIAEC gift shop that has always been a great stop for educational and inventive gifts for children and adults alike.

The evening also included a face painting station and every attendee received a special pair of decorative glasses that gave them the experience of seeing the world the way butterflies do. They proved to be a popular addition, particularly for the numerous children who came to the grand opening in butterfly costumes, wings and all.

Riverhead has indeed been in a renaissance with new businesses opening almost on a monthly basis and significantly fueled last year by the opening of Hotel Indigo at LIE exit 72 with its commitment to live entertainment and fine dining. Now with the presence on Main Street of a major hotel name like Hyatt, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter sees an even more significant downtown economic upturn, "This is just absolutely a fantastic thing that has happened to Main Street. This is going to prefect what they started with the Atlantis Marine World by now having people stay. Downtown Riverhead is coming back, there are seven new stores and restaurants that have opened up on Main Street in the last seven or eight months. This is the icing on the cake and we are coming back, no doubt about it!"

The largest, live, free flying butterflies exhibit is the newest addition to the former Atlantis Marine World aquarium in Riverhead, now called the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, although the sign has yet to be changed. (Douglas Harrington)

With first-rate hotels like Hotel Indigo, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn and now Hyatt, along with the presence of retail outlet powerhouse Tanger, water park Splish Splash and Riverhead's location as the gateway to almost 50 vineyards that make up the Long Island Wine Region, Riverhead is proving to be not only a stop along the way to the Hamptons, but a destination in its own right.

The newest jewel in the dazzling necklace that is the revival of Riverhead is the addition of the Exhibition Center and Hyatt Place Hotel to the former Atlantis Marine World. Now the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, this extraordinary entertainment and educational attraction is the anchor to a Main Street on its way back - beautiful, busy and soon to be bountiful, Main Street, Riverhead.

Count the butterflies in the photo! (Douglas Harrington)

For more information, click here.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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