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Family Fun Guide To The Dallas World Aquarium

Over 600,000 gallons of water filled with sharks, manatees, and more await your viewing at the Dallas World Aquarium, one of the Historic West End's jewels. Visiting the watery Aquarium is a fun, educational experience far removed from the dry heat of Texas. Happily lose yourself among this collection of rare South American rainforest species and mysterious marine life from around the world.

Basic Information

Photo Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Admission, payable by cash or card only, before sales tax (8.25%): adults, $20.95; children, ages three to 12, $12.95 (no charge for ages two and under); seniors (60+), $16.95. A colorful, detailed field guide is included with admission. Parking around the Aquarium ranges from $5 to $7, also payable by cash or card. The Aquarium is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas days. The Jungle Cafe is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the eighteen-O-one Restaurant, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Cafe Maya, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Multiple levels of membership, which provide free admission for a year, are available at the Admissions area. The Aquarium contains a gift shop and a very interesting bookstore. Call to schedule receptions, weddings, or other special events (which include catering service), and call the Education Department for field trip information (Monday through Friday for children and adults).

What's Offered

The entire facility shows species from five continents, three oceans, 14 countries, and multiple seas and rivers. Its exhibits are divided into five major sections. The Wilds of Borneo Entrance is a 200-foot ramp lined with plants and animals (such as the Shoebill Stork pictured) from the large Borneo Island of the Malay Archipelago. Orinoco Rainforest is a three-level exhibit (seven stories in height) featuring piranhas, free-flying birds, the endangered Giant river otter, and other species. The Aquarium area is a truly amazing collection of marine life such as stingrays and the walrus-like Antillean manatees, and its forty-foot long Cenote tunnel surrounds you with sharks as you walk through. The South Africa and seasonal Madagascar sections include geckos, chameleons, frogs, and penguins. The ascending, two-level Mundo Maya contains crocodiles, bats, a jaguar and more.

Tips & Suggestions

Do not hurry through the facility! There's so much to see that you should plan to spend several hours here. The exhibits certainly reward close attention. If you spend enough time watching the birds, for example, you can see them drink from the waterfall. Waiting at the Cenote tunnel sometimes gives you the opportunity to watch, close-up, as the sharks feed on smaller fish that the keepers drop into the water. Throughout the Aquarium, make use of the touchscreens or listen to the scheduled lectures to learn more as you progress through. Be careful to keep children from reaching their hands toward the animals; some of the creatures can and will jump to bite. Once you return home, you can watch webcams at the Aquarium's website to keep in touch with your new watery friends.

How to Help

The Dallas World Aquarium takes care of many threatened or endangered species by maintaining them in their natural habitats. Some species may, in fact, be reintroduced into the wild as a result of specialized breeding work. The Aquarium accepts donations and other help; there is a large touchscreen near the end of the journey explaining how you can pitch in, or you can ask the staff for more information.

Fun Facts

The Antillean manatees came from Venezuela by airplane as babies after a 17-month permit process.

The Japanese Spider Crab is the largest living arthopod and is called a "living fossil" due to its old age.

Since two-thirds of the shark brain is dedicated to smell, sharks can sense blood from a quarter of a mile away as well as a single drop of blood within a 25-gallon space. Sharks have the same five senses as humans, plus a sixth: the ampullae of Lorenzini, which detect magnetic fields produced by the movements of other fish.

The Dallas World Aquarium opened in 1992.

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