What happens when a troop of teens tackle Merlin’s big Sydney Attractions SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and Madame Tussauds Sydney? Lunacy, laughs and loads of fun.
Embarking on a teenage escapade through SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and Madame Tussauds Sydney, proved to be something of a surprise. I mean, I’ve been visiting the iconic attractions for years, but these were always family outings with my mum and little sister. So, when I leapt off the ferry at Barangaroo last week, with a bunch of mates and my Merlin Annual Pass, I was kinda worried I’d be bored. Though not because the attractions aren’t great, just that I’d been before, and I figured the attractions were more for little kids and tourists.
But I was totally wrong. I’d completely forgotten the insane diversity of experiences they offer, and diving in with my crew, totally sibling and parental unit free, was straight-up wild!
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
I’ve visited this place more times than I can remembers. I even once snorkelled with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef exhibit when I was about eight. But Tackling SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium with friends transformed the aquarium into a completely unique experience, offering us not only a chance to marvel at the diverse sea life, but spark conversations about conservation. All the while providing a great backdrop for a teenage crew looking for a change of scene.
There’s so much to see here. We’re talking everything from glowing jellyfish to a mesmerising reef systems that shimmer with neon fish and glowing coral. Then there were the penguins that, while whiffy enough to be teenagers themselves, were a standout.
But the Ocean Tunnel was the real MVP.
Our gaggle gawked in silent awe as sharks and rays swam gracefully overhead, at least until a chilled out dugong named ‘Pig’ casually drifted by, poking out his tongue at us, and the jokes made a swift comeback.
Seriously, that guy!
WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo
Venturing into this wildlife attraction with a close group of friends completely changed the experience into a teenage thrill ride. It’s easy to forget how awesome Australia’s native animals are, but Wildlife Sydney offers glimpses into the wild and often downright hilarious lives of our furry, feathery and flippered critters. Scurrying Lizards had us cracking up, as did one of our squeamish crew who bolted from the snake exhibits (I’m looking at you, Jake).
Even a sticker on the floor measuring how far we could jump, and targeted at toddlers I’m sure, turned into a half-hour competition to see who could jump the farthest, complete with a side quest to determine the ‘most kangaroo-like’ among us while a bunch of actual kangaroos gave us the side-eye, probably wondering if they were about to welcome a bunch of bizarre humans into their tight-knit mob. Oh, and whoever oversaw the design of the exhibits should get a gold star, because seriously, turning a corner only to have a virtual croc lunge at us from a screen? Absolute genius! If a little pant soiling.
Madame Tussauds Sydney
Despite the fun of our first two stops, hands down, Madame Tussauds was my favorite of the three attractions, its wax-filled halls setting the stage for the day’s silliest escapade. A world of lifelike wax figures and endless selfie opportunities, we copied the stoic expressions of political figures, photobombed A-List celebs while striking poses so stupid that even the crazy real-looking wax figures seemed to crack a smile.
We challenged each other in pushup contests with Spiderman, dressed up to strut out stuff with supermodels on the runway, try to out leap Olympic hurdlers, met heroes and villains and fought them (Jake again, cough cough) and took to the stage in an effort to outshine Taylor Swift, Harry Styles and Michael Jackson.
There was squealing delight when we spotted our idols (let’s not even discuss Cam’s disturbing encounter with Ariana) and debates over which wax figure’s smile was most convincing, and whether Barack Obama’s eyes or mine were more lifelike (Barack won) – the whole experience was pure madness, and we spent the entire time laughing our guts out.
After all that, we were still buzzing and wondering whether to call it a day or keep going, when I remembered Immersive Gamebox, a new attraction located right alongside SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. While it’s not an official Merlin attraction, and not covered by the Merlin Annual Pass, we decided to leap in anyway. This proved a genius decision.
The brand spanking new AR experience is designed for groups of 2-6 people. You enter a room (or game box) that’s fitted out with projection mapping, motion tracking, touch screens, and surround sound to blur the lines between reality and the game world. We chose a 60-minute game inspired by hit show Squid Game, though minus the trauma and death.
Entering the digital arena, we donned visors (you don’t have to worry about clunky headsets or controllers here, your movements, decisions, and even voice can all impact the unfolding narrative), dodged the beady eyes of the giant doll in Red Light, Green Light, weaved through honeycomb tiles and navigated treacherous tug-of-war battles. Every victory earned virtual cash, while every failure put our in-game life on the line and had us laughing our butts off. It was such a hit; we’re heading back to try one of the other games this week.
I’m telling you, whether you’re into the outback, underwater wonders, celebrity vibes, or just messing around with your mates, Merlin’s Darling Harbour attractions have got it all. With a week left of the holidays, I highly recommend you grab your crew, a sense of adventure and a three-attraction pass and enjoy a Teen Big Day Out, Merlin-style before you head back to school.