The Dallas World Aquarium – Dallas, TX
My nephew has loved sharks for just about as long as I can remember. When he was still toddling he was all about Shark Week and his eyes would get huge and his arms would go all over the place as he described some awesome giant he had seen on the TV. While visiting Galveston, TX a few years back both of the boys were allowed a souvenir and we walked all over one of those pier gift shops trying to find something the Conner wanted Holden just followed closely behind staring at the glass jar that contained a little shark fetus that he had picked out the moment he laid eyes on the display. It seemed incredibly macabre but he did learn quite a bit looking at that little shark and it sparked some curiosity about things he didn’t realize until seeing a shark up super close like that.
So when we went on a vacation to Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington this summer on our way back Rob and I thought it would be a great treat for the boys to go to the Dallas World Aquarium, especially for our shark loving boy. Having been to the aquarium many years ago I knew that it was a great place but I was so impressed by just how far it’s come along to be an absolutely amazing place.
Located in the West End District of Downtown Dallas, the Dallas World Aquarium was established in 1992 as a way for millionaire Daryl Richardson to house and display his personal collection of exotic species. It started as a single building but has grown within its city block, purchasing adjoining lots and buildings to expand.
While you’re greeted at the entry by a tank with many small colorful fish, make no mistake, this isn’t your average aquarium. Housing big cats, crocodiles, monkeys, sloths and many free flying birds at the Dallas World Aquarium, you’ll see many more creatures here than the name on the building might imply.
Winding your way to the admission area, there is a lot to see before even buying a ticket, which will currently set you back $20.95+ for an adult. Exhibits with various birds and creatures line the pathway, making for interesting viewing should the DWA be busy and you find yourself waiting in line. Though we were able to walk right up to the ticket counter, we have heard that the line for admission can wind through this path and outside of the building on busy days.
The majority of the interior of the Dallas World Aquarium (DWA) mimics the Orinoco Rainforest of South America with lush greenery, a wide array of tropical birds and water habitats including one area with a gorgeous waterfall. You start up 3 stories high and wind your way down paths through this jungle to ground level.
This area is definitely a bit warm and humid but you don’t experience the problems of an actual rainforest including bugs and venomous baddies which make it all worth it! There is also the benefit with the vast majority of the exhibits indoors, you also won’t catch a sunburn like at a traditional outdoor zoo.
As we descended we noticed the pathways were often fairly narrow. Having heard that when the admission line is busy that also means the crowds might get crazy, as this is a quite popular Dallas destination, it can be difficult to see the exhibits through the people. Though fellow visitors were sporadic during our time here, we realized that if it had been crowded we probably would not have enjoyed ourselves nearly as much as we did. We arrived just an hour and a half before closing time and our experience felt sort of rushed because of that, but our later arrival meant we were among a small number of visitors and we could easily see every exhibit.
Along these paths, you’re going to come upon a brown-throated three-toed sloth. Thought to be the slowest moving land animal, this sloth, named Leno, is free to roam the canopy, although he apparently tends to stay in the area immediately preceding a snack bar.
Typically when visiting a snack bar at any sort of attraction we tend to get heart palpitations as we near the cashier, planning on dropping down a few twenties for our typical gang of 5-6 to grab refreshments. Perhaps that is a bit melodramatic, but we know that you know exactly what we’re talking about here. Featuring typical snack bar treats like bags of chips they also peddle more filling items like a Cuban sandwich, a wide variety of bottled beverages and also kid loved slushy drinks. And the prices for all items are, huge sigh of relief, quite reasonably priced.
Nearing the end of the rainforest you’ll get to watch, not just otters, but GIANT otters. A huge draw with children, the otters seem to want to entertain, swimming and chasing each other to the delight of everyone on the pathway watching them. Did you know that the giant otter is actually an endangered species? DWAZoo is active in conservation efforts of many different species in need of assistance and protection from potential extinction.
Having passed through the rainforest you now get to view the aquarium exhibits. To start this marine tour, you stroll through the shark tunnel. This was a particularly favorite exhibit of one shark loving boy previously mentioned!
Honestly if you’ve seen a shark tunnel before this is not too different. You watch the smooth bellies of intimidating sharks glide over you and see Freshwater Sawfish, which are related to stingrays rather than sharks, swimming among them. Looking straight up we all noticed little patches of green. It took a moment to sink in but we realized that we were seeing straight up into the rainforest area and the fact that the two were connected seemed really cool!
Do you love sharks, too? You don’t even have to leave your computer to see these carnivorous fish at the DWAzoo… check out the aquarium’s shark cam.
The most crowded area of that we visited was also one of the most awesome. Descending the stairs you come up to a big tank full of lots of fish, which is great, but we were so lucky in that we also saw a slow-moving, gentle seeming and sadly endangered Antillean Manatee.
Though short on time we did wait around for the large manatee, with a wonderfully droopy human-like face, meandering out of the darker area and nearer us so we could get a picture. Because of the dark conditions getting decent pictures is quite difficult but it still wound up being one of our favorite areas.
Delving deeper into the aquarium portion we viewed geographically specific habitats. While full of interesting and gorgeous sea-life we did find it difficult to reference information about what we were seeing. Most information on the inhabitants was given at the beginning on an interactive screen, so you had to refer back to it in order to identify what you were seeing. When there were others at any given tank, getting that information could be impossible which was a disappointment since we had hoped for this to be an educational recreation.
In this area you will also find restaurants to dine in with some tasty looking menus.
Above you can actually “walk through” this exhibit area with this interactive map. Click on the center of the image to activate the map and then use the hand shaped pointer to move around in a 360 degree-like fashion. To “walk” through the exhibit place the cursor on the floor area and click the arrows that show up to move in that direction. You can also navigate other areas of the aquarium by clicking the corner-like shapes that constantly hover on the map near the middle of the map.
Also in this lower area you will find a gift shop and the much anticipated outdoor penguin exhibit.
Visiting this aquarium as children, our favorite part of the DWA was the penguin habitat. Having been some time since those days we found it feels very much improved seeming more like a natural habitat than we remembered. Hailing from Africa and used to the often warmer climate Dallas has to offer, the black-footed penguin , as seen above, these guys look equally comfortable quickly shooting through the water or just hanging out on a rock.
The fact that the Dallas World Aquarium is more a combination of an aquarium, zoo and botanical garden makes this a compelling attraction to visit when in the DFW Area and a wonderful place to spend the day. We felt that the admission and gift shop were both expensive in contrast to the affordably priced snack bar. All in all, with 3 adults and 2 children we spent well over $100 for just over the hour and a half we got to visit.
We do suggest that you call ahead and ask for the least visited times so you can thoroughly enjoy your visit. Though our time was short, we suggest planning 3 hours for this adventure. Additionally, the Dallas World Aquarium does not have its own parking, so be prepared to pay to park or ride the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) and take a short walk from the West End Station a few blocks away.
Dallas World Aquarium – Dallas, TX
Admission & Parking Fees:
- Adult – $20.95 + tax
- Child – $14.95 + tax (2 thru 12)
- Child – free (under 2)
- Senior – $16.95 (65+)
- Parking – $5.00 – 10.00