My 6 Favorite Aquariums to Visit in Texas


Come face-to-face with spotted stingrays, sharks, flat-bellied seahorses, spitting fish and lionfish in the ultimate family land and sea adventure. See interactive exhibits where you touch stingrays, anemones, starfish and sea turtles. Get up close to a bigtooth sawfish, spotted moray eel, jellyfish or jack cichlid Dempsey. Appreciate conservation superstars protecting endangered species, creating marine ecosystems and teaching the importance of coral reefs.

You can do all of this, believe it or not, in the Lone Star State. Here are six aquariums in Texas that are well worth visiting. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi

Rated number 5 aquarium in North America by USA today, the Texas State Aquarium connects people to animals, promotes appreciation of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and supports wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation. A visit to the Texas State Aquarium is a must when considering things to do in Corpus Christi.

Visit the Coral Reef exhibit to see a Mesoamerican barrier reef as you would see it off the Sian Ka’an Biosphere near Tulum, Mexico. You will see the fragile ecosystem and its colorful fish, such as angelfish, parrotfish, grunts and butterflyfish. Then see lionfish, nurse sharks, tarpon, and other marine life in the Blue Hole exhibit, which simulates a deep underwater cavern.

The HEB Caribbean Sea features a 68-foot-long acrylic window, the longest in North America, to view a massive Spanish galleon shipwreck, complete with reef sharks, barracudas, stingrays and a garden eel mottled that looks like a green stick stuck in the sandy bottom.

Rescued sea turtles at the Texas State Aquarium (Photo credit: Texas State Aquarium)

In February 2021, the aquarium’s wildlife rescue team and other partners admitted and rehabilitated over 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles and released over 950 sea turtles back into their natural habitat.

And the Texas State Aquarium isn’t just home to sea dwellers. Two sister ocelots (spotted wild cats) named Milla and Leeloo from the Albuquerque BioPark arrived in late March 2021 as part of Ocelot’s Species Survival Plan . Conservationists estimate that there are only 50 to 80 ocelots left in the wild, pushed into tiny pockets of people. The aquarium is working with the Texas A&M University Kingsville Range Management Team to coordinate the ocelot’s new home.

Check out the other exhibits to learn about dolphins, the jungle, saving sharks, jellyfish and the largest exhibit built around a disused oil rig, which has turned into a home for sharks, barracudas, groupers, jacks, snappers and more marine life.

The Corpus Christi Harbor Wildlife Rescue Center at the State Aquarium is under construction. It will have state-of-the-art veterinary medical equipment, a multimedia theater and a wildlife center. Veterinary students and technologists will treat and rehabilitate thousands of shorebirds, birds of prey, marine animals and sea turtles.

2. SEA LIFE Vine Aquarium

In Grapevine, walk under the sea in Texas’ only 360-degree ocean tunnel at the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium. The tunnel is teeming with stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, jellyfish, flashlight fish, and more. The ocean screen is 160,000 gallons of water and 15 feet deep. And you must visit the working Sea Turtle Hospital, where Grapevine is the first Sea Life aquarium licensed to rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles and release them back into the wild.

Explore interactive rock pools where starfish crawl along the ocean floor with hundreds of tube feet and anemones feasting on plankton and other tiny creatures. Visit the Stingray Bay exhibit to see stingrays bury themselves in the sand, swim with happy faces, and eat fish, crabs, and snails. Learn how sharks help balance the ecosystem, and you’ll understand why many conservationists are calling for catch limits that help maintain oxygen levels in the seas. And explore the Amazon Rainforest exhibit, which includes a barking piranha, an albino python, two dwarf caimans, and caimans Mulder and Scully.

I was particularly mesmerized by jellyfish, a species that has been around for over 650 million years, moving like ghosts underwater without brains, hearts, blood or nerves.

Pro tip: If you can’t get enough of SEA LIFE aquariums, visit SEA LIFE San Antonio, located at the Rivercenter Shops.

3. Sea Quest Fort Worth

Here’s a great deal: At SeaQuest Fort Worth, build a set of ultimate land and sea adventures with three of four interactions: a 20-minute Animal Whisperer tour where you learn food preparation, medical care, maintenance housing, plumbing and filtration of living quarters. Meet the animal whisperers as you help them feed the various animals behind the scenes.

On top of that, you can meet, feed, and pet Honey the kinkajou, a rainforest mammal sometimes called a honey bear because it attacks honeycombs. They are found in southern Mexico, Central America and Brazil.

Interact with a two-toed sloth named Flash, where you’ll learn more about the sloth, pet it and feed it healthy snacks, and take pictures. And meet Tic and Tac, two Asian small-clawed otters, as you feed them, learn about their habitat and watch them play. You can also snorkel with stingrays with a provided wetsuit and snorkel gear.

Sleep With the Sharks is a unique sleep experience for a group of 25 guests who spend the night, watch movies with popcorn, eat an early morning breakfast and help staff with closing and closing routines. ‘opening.

Pro tip: Have you ever experienced fish kisses? You dip your feet in a tub of happy little fish. Toothless feeders gently remove dead skin cells from your feet, creating a healthy and relaxing laugh.

Blue-spotted ribbon ray at the Dallas World Aquarium.
Blue-spotted band-tailed ray at Dallas World Aquarium (Photo credit: Janie Pace)

4. Dallas World Aquarium

I could spend hours at the Dallas World Aquarium browsing for unique and rare species like scorpionfish, bluefish, potbellied seahorse, leather coral, and giant clams. Clownfish, angelfish, spotted garden eels, cuttlefish, sea anemones, spider crabs, triggerfish and octopus are colorful and mystifying species you can find here.

The Mundo Maya region is home to the ocelot, hawk eagle, American flamingo, and a Central American agouti, an eight-pound rodent considered good to eat and hunted throughout Mexico, Central America, and the United States. ‘South America. And you can’t miss the axolotl, a critically endangered Mexican tiger salamander that once occupied the area covered by Mexico City.

The Borneo exhibit documents birds like the shoebill stork, a blue penguin measuring 16 inches and weighing three pounds, and the New Guinea Victoria crowned pigeon, palm cockatoo, and a tree-kangaroo.

The South African exhibit includes the red tomato frog, a giant day gecko, a panther chameleon up to 20 inches, the Madagascar fat-headed tortoise and the African green pigeon.

The Orinoco exhibit contains birds like the toucanet, hawk-headed parrot, barbet, Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, and red-backed bearded saki. This rare monkey looks like an adorable stuffed animal.

Pro tip: You will find three restaurants at the Dallas World Aquarium. The Eighteen-O-One restaurant serves international gourmet selections, like tuna steak sandwiches or wonton shrimp wraps, and is located on the first floor of the Aquarium. Café Maya offers traditional Tex-Mex cuisine with views of the ocelot, flamingos and shark tunnel. On the third floor of the Orinoco, the Jungle Café serves deli sandwiches, salads, pizzas and snacks.

5. Dallas Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

Established in 1936, the Children’s Aquarium Dallas at Fair Park is the oldest aquarium in Texas. Enjoy its hands-on, hands-on exhibits and aquatic animals from around the world.

Its freshwater area is home to caiman lizards, blind cave fish, red-bellied piranhas, and more. Visitors can discover magnificent sea urchins and starfish in the intertidal zone.

The coastal area offers fascinating seahorses, rhinoceros iguanas, batfish and a fish that walks on the seabed. See eels, clownfish, moray eels, Queensland grouper and zebra sharks.

Visit Stingray Bay and blacktip sharks in the huge outdoor shark habitat. Feed the water-spitting archerfish to drop food from above into the water for a tasty meal. Be careful, you risk getting wet!

6. Downtown Aquarium, an underwater adventure — Houston

Two downtown Houston landmarks, Fire Station No. 1 and the Central Waterworks building, have been redeveloped into a six-acre entertainment and dining complex: the Downtown Aquarium.

It includes a 500,000 gallon tank with over 300 aquatic species from around the world. You’ll enjoy a full-service restaurant, upscale bar, geographic exhibits, as well as shopping and entertainment. You can purchase a full-day adventure pass, which includes the aquarium exhibit, stingray reef, and all rides. Use your Houston CityPass for discounts.

Pro tip: Dine in at Landry’s Kitchen for seafood, steaks, chicken, salads or pastas.

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