With hundreds of miles of coastline and dozens of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, it's only natural that Texas plays host to some of the nation's best aquariums. During a visit to the Lone Star State, you will find a handful of world-class aquariums plus dozens of smaller ones. Here's your guide to the top Texas aquariums the whole family can enjoy in-between dining on Tex-Mex and Dallas barbecue.
The Children's Aquarium in Fair Park originally opened in 1936 to coincide with the Texas Centennial Celebration. Ever since then, it has been a favorite Dallas attraction for families. A saltwater selection was added in 1964, and now the aquarium is home to more than 256 aquatic species in several zones: intertidal, near shore, shore, offshore, and stingray bay. And since it is located at Fair Park, where many of the area's festivals and events are staged, it's convenient for anyone attending the State Fair of Texas or other popular events held there.
The Dallas World Aquarium opened in 1992 and is in the Historic West End District downtown. It houses five exhibits: Mundo Maya, Orinoco, Aquarium, South Africa, and Borneo. The aquarium features a tunnel that lets you walk through 20,000 gallons of water and get up-close-and-personal with hundreds of Indo-Pacific fish. The other exhibits include birds, animals, sea animals, and reptiles that are part of those ecosystems.
At the Austin Aquarium, you can meet thousands of species, from reptiles and tropical fish to adorable baby otters and ring-tailed lemurs. While you're there, you will have the opportunity to feed all sorts of animals, including stingrays, iguanas, tortoises, and sharks (yes, we said sharks). Come in the morning to see how the staff gets the aquarium ready for the day, and stick around to meet the resident mermaid.
The "official" aquarium of Texas, Corpus Christi's Texas State Aquarium houses hundreds of marine species and offers educational programs for more than 500,000 annual visitors of all ages. The Texas State Aquarium has a vast array of displays of fish that are indigenous to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a few exotic species. Go on a Caribbean journey and learn about the biodiversity of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, check out the shark exhibit, play in the splash park, explore a coral reef and see its colorful fish, and visit Caribbean flamingoes.
Houston's aquarium features thousands of fish swimming in 500,000 gallons of water, right in the middle of downtown. One of the most impressive and exciting aquariums anywhere, it includes games, rides, and a restaurant serving seafood with a view of the wall-to-wall aquarium. Plus there's a train that travels through an underwater tunnel. Experience the Louisiana swamp with its alligators, turtles, and bullfrogs; check out the sunken hull of a 17th-century shipwrecked Spanish galleon; and immerse yourself in the rainforest, among several other exhibits.
There are locations all across the US, but that doesn't make SeaQuest Fort Worth no less special. Home to nearly 400 rescued animals, you won't find just marine animals here. Bring the whole family to snorkel with the stingrays, feed an Asian Small Clawed Otter, and pet a super-cuddly sloth. Occasionally there are after-hours sleepovers, complete with a night-time shark feeding, nocturnal animal tour of the aquarium, and movie night. With a monthly, annual, or lifetime passport, you can even visit the other SeaQuest locations as many times as you want.
Visitors crossing the causeway to Galveston see pyramids rising on the western side of the island, and those pyramids are actually part of magnificent Moody Gardens. One pyramid houses a rainforest, while the other holds an aquarium. The aquarium pyramid has two viewing areas and tanks depicting four ocean environments—the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and North and South Pacific. There is even a virtual reality experience for visitors to "dive" into the ocean and explore the coral reefs. When you've had your fill of the aquarium, round out your visit to Moody Gardens with an hour-long cruise on a paddlewheel boat.