Dallas shark sightings are on the rise with the opening of SeaLife Grapevine. Joining the Dallas World Aquarium and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, SeaLife provides land-locked North Texas yet another glimpse into the strange and fascinating world of aquatic critters. At first blush three separate aquariums may seem excessive until you realize each offers a completely different marine experience.
SeaLife Grapevine – Best Date Night
SeaLife Grapevine is the newest aquarium attraction to open in the Dallas Metroplex. Owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment, SeaLife Grapevine is one of over two dozen SeaLife attractions world-wide, with most located in Europe. Across from LegoLand, also owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment, SeaLife is situated inside Grapevine Mills Mall.
Despite its limited size, the aquarium entertains visitors with a variety of exhibits and tanks artfully constructed to look bigger than they are. Sea Life is a two-story facility allowing visitors to figuratively walk on water at the shark walk exhibit. Actually, it’s an acrylic floor with sharks and rays swimming in a tank beneath your feet – a novel change to the typical shark tunnel.
In addition to sharks and rays, SeaLife exhibits include coral reefs, touch tanks, jelly fish and sea horses. In fact, SeaLife prides itself on its successful sea horse breeding program. Honoring its location, SeaLife also has an exhibit dedicated to Texas wetlands and fish.
Don’t miss. Fin Facts painted on aquarium walls educate visitors with interesting factoids about the aquarium’s residents. Study well, as quiz stations located throughout the exhibits will check your knowledge. It’s a fun way to learn more about the animals.
Details. SeaLife Grapevine (3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine) is open later than most aquariums, with hours paralleling those of the shopping mall. Visitors can see the fish Monday through Saturday until 9:30 p.m., and Sunday until 7 p.m. Tickets are $20.56 for adults and $16.24 for children (tax included). SeaLife advertises online specials that can save 15% and even greater savings for some midweek, evening tickets. A combined SeaLife/LegoLand ticket is also available.
The Dallas World Aquarium (DWA) – Best for Out-Of-Town Guests
Calling the DWA an aquarium is a misnomer. This unique attraction is part aquarium, part zoo and part South American adventure. Housed in a refurbished warehouse in the historic West End, the DWA may be best known for its indoor rainforest exhibit called Orinoco – Secrets of the River. Complete with 40-foot waterfall, visitors begin their journey at the rainforest canopy and travel downward to the river below. Birds nest in the tree tops and habitats for other rainforest animals are situated along the walkway. A favorite is the sloth who hangs out near the Jungle Cafe.
A large, underwater viewing area provides a look at fish that populate the Orinoco and an opportunity to see the DWA’s Antillean Manatees, an endangered species. In addition to the unique South American rainforest experience, DWA has the standard aquarium exhibits of clown fish, sea horses and jelly fish. There are sharks, too. A 40-foot clear tunnel allows visitors to see sharks swim overhead. Other exhibits include penguins, flamingos and even a hallway with nocturnal animals like bats and opossums.
Don’t miss. On weekends the Mayan Performance Troupe performs traditional Mayan dances near the jaguar enclosure in the Mundo Maya exhibit.
Details. DWA (1801 N. Griffin St., Dallas) is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets (tax not included) are $20.95 for adults and $12.95 for children. There are two restaurants located within DWA and both are worth a visit. The Cafe Maya affords diners a view of the rainforest and serves Mexican cuisine. Eighteen O One is located on the ground floor (no view) with an Asian inspired menu, and a kid-favorite, fish-shaped pizza.
Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park – Best for a Birthday Party
No more standing on tiptoes to see the fish for youngsters at the Children’s Aquarium. The aquarium’s recent renovation included installation of viewing windows and exhibits at child-friendly heights. The aquarium’s touch tank is strategically positioned in the entrance foyer where a docent guides children and parents. Here kids can see the underside of a horseshoe crab or touch a slipper lobster.
The Children’s Aquarium, a Fair Park attraction since 1936, reopened with a new look December, 2010. Some old favorites, like the 75 year-old alligator turtle and the albino alligators, returned. New exhibits were added. The smallest of the three Dallas area aquariums, it is also the most affordable with tickets for adults $8 and children $6. The aquarium’s size is a plus for the littlest marine biologists who can become overwhelmed by crowds at larger aquariums. If you want a day full of activity, consider purchasing a Fair Park Passport ($26.95 per adult and $15.95 per child) which affords entry to all seven Fair Park museums.
A newly refurbished party room is an ideal location for children’s birthday celebrations. The aquarium offers weekend party packages, which include an animal interpreter and stingray feeding. For more information contact the aquarium at (469) 554-7549.
Don’t miss. Stingray Bay is a covered, outdoor exhibit that includes a shark tank, and stingray touch tank. Velvety smooth to the touch, the southern stingray seem to enjoy their encounters with humans. For a nominal fee you can feed the rays, too.
Details. The Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park (1462 First Avenue, Dallas) is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
SeaLife Grapevine: www.visitsealife.com/grapevine/
Dallas World Aquarium: www.dwazoo.com
Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park: www.childrensaquariumfairpark.com
Fair Park: www.fairpark.org