In central Scottsdale, highly visible from the Loop 101 Pima Freeway in Central Scottsdale, the Odysea of the Desert Aquarium is a 35-acre entertainment destination that opened in Fall 2016. Odysea Aquarium incorporates about 200,000 square feet of aquatic entertainment and education. Located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the two-level, state-of-the-art facility can accommodate thousands of visitors every day.
The aquarium is arranged in a manner that affords great views of creatures from a large variety of the earth's oceans, seas, and rivers, with the purpose to "educate and inspire guests about aquatic life and conservation." Visit the inhabitants of ecosystems such as deep ocean, coral reefs, rivers, and lakes—both freshwater and saltwater environments.
Start your visit with a 10-minute film produced especially for Odysea Aquarium. "Underwater Giants" is shown in the theater with stadium-style seating and features primarily humpback whales and whale sharks.
Having an aquarium of this magnitude in the desert affords local residents and visitors a glimpse into a world that they might not otherwise experience. Don't forget to look up as you enter the aquarium, and see the fish swimming in large globe enclosures, dangling from the ceiling. From there you'll see too many creatures to name them all. The crowd favorites always seem to be clownfish, jellyfish, otters, penguins, seahorses, the octopus and, of course, the sharks. See if you can find a leopard shark, scalloped hammerhead, black nose shark, or the bonnethead shark.
The Tide Touch Pool is where you can get up close and personal with sea cucumbers, sea stars, hermit crabs, sea snails and other living things that are typically found in coastal tide pools. The Stingray Bay Touch Pool affords another hands-on opportunity.
Take a voyage through the "Living Sea" where you will sit in a comfy viewing gallery and hear a narrated explanation of several underwater environments through which you will rotate. You might even see divers interacting with the creatures in those huge tanks.
Daily events at Odysea Aquarium include feedings, caretaker interactions with the animals, and Q&A sessions with aquarists. When you need a break for a snack or beverage, enter the Lighthouse Cafe through an actual lighthouse. At the end of your visit, see if you can make it through the gift shop without being tempted! Not only are there a myriad of items for the kids, but you'll also find some aquatic-themed gifts for adults.
What else is happening at OdySea in the Desert? In addition to OdySea Aquarium, you can visit Butterfly Wonderland and OdySea Mirror Maze. They are all separate attractions, but some ticket packages offer a discount if you visit more than one.
Special Experiences at Odysea Aquarium
Special events and experiences at Odysea Aquarium require an additional fee. Reservations should be made in advance since they are limited to small groups. One of those is a Behind The Scenes Tour, where you'll get an insider’s perspective on how an aquarium of this size operates, for the benefit of both the sea creatures and its human patrons.
Behind the Scenes Tour
The Behind the Scenes Tour is a guided 90-minute experience where guests will learn how the aquarium operates, handles and safeguards the aquarium inhabitants, and gains insight into the complexities of maintaining the thousands of animals that call this aquarium home. Tours are limited in size for safety, as well as to enhance the experience and allow for more interpersonal exchange with the tour guide. The areas of the aquarium that are visited may depend on that department's activity at the time, so tours may vary in their content.
The tour begins with a meet-and-greet where you will be introduced to one or two residents of the facility. During our visit, we met a sloth and a parrot. Why do a sloth and a parrot live in an aquarium? Then we were off to learn about the filtration system, how animals are introduced to their new environment, how sick animals are handled, what the animals eat and how they are fed, and more. The tour took us into the freezer (brrr!) where we could see all the kinds of food are stored and the regions from which they are sourced. We went behind the penguin exhibit and checked out the penguin interaction area, with the penguins testing out their new pool. We also went behind and above the Living Sea Carousel. The tour covered the entire two floors of the aquarium.
- Children under six years of age are not permitted on the tour. There are no activities for children on this tour; it is more informational than entertaining.
- Don't touch anything, including animals, without permission from the tour guide.
- For safety reason, strollers are not permitted on the tour. Flat, closed shoes are a requirement. Really. You will be walking through a shoe bath in certain areas that have about one inch of antibacterial chemical liquid (to control germs and organisms from entering/escaping the rooms) and you don't want to be wearing sandals.
- Before the tour begins, you'll be asked to remove jewelry that hangs or reflects for the safety of the animals.
- The tour includes walking in wet areas, over cables and possibly other hazards. No running, pay attention to where you step. You'll be walking or standing for the entire tour.
- Photography may not be permitted in certain areas. Check with your guide before taking pictures.
- No food or drink is permitted on the tour.
- Parts of the tour may be cool; bring a light jacket if you have a tendency to get cold.
- The tour price ($29.95 per person as of Jan. 2018) is charged in addition to regular aquarium admission. Aquarium members get a 10% discount on the tour price.
The SeaTREK™ experience is an underwater interactive adventure. Participants wear an OdySea wetsuit, a special SeaTREK™ helmet and walk into the water. No previous underwater experience is required, but participants must be at least nine years old and bring a bathing suit. Wetsuits and SeaTREK™ helmets/tanks will be provided. You'll be underwater, surrounded by beautiful fish. It is about a one-hour event, with about 30 minutes actually walking on a trail in a tank with fish and rays.
Penguin Interaction Program
Explore penguin behavior with your hosts, the African black-footed penguins of OdySea Aquarium. Participate in playtime with the penguins, which is mentally and physically stimulating for them, and entertaining for you. They are so adorable, and not typically seen in the desert!
10 Things to Know Before You Go to Odysea Aquarium
There are people in the desert Southwest who have never been to the ocean, but Odysea Aquarium might be the next best thing. Whether you live in the area or you are visiting, a trip to Odysea Aquarium will expose you to an exciting underwater world.
- Typical visitors spend between two and three and a half hours at the aquarium, depending on how much time you spend eating and shopping as well as browsing the exhibits.
- Even if you don't have to use the restroom before you start, a quick stop is recommended as you'll be surrounded by water the whole day.
- Your admission to Odysea Aquarium is good only on the day designated by your ticket, and no re-entry is permitted, so once you leave, you're done.
- If you purchased tickets and you need to change the date or time, you may do that as long as you give at least 24 hours notice.
- The aquarium only allows single strollers and double strollers that are tandem (front-to-back). For guests with side-by-side double strollers, jogging strollers, and wagons, check with the Concierge Desk in the Aqua Lobby to borrow a tandem stroller while in the Aquarium. Strollers cannot be reserved and are on a first come, first serve basis.
- While photography is permitted, you may not use selfie sticks or tripods in the aquarium for safety reasons.
- The aquarium has guest wi-fi.
- While you are at Odysea Aquarium, take note of the Native American design elements that were incorporated into the design.
- The facility includes a 3D theater, the first stop for most people visiting the aquarium. The film is short, and none of the 3D elements are scary.
- Although entry tickets are timed, there is no time limit on your visit except for the hours of operation themselves.
Hours, Admission Prices, Contact Information, Map, and Directions
OdySea Aquarium opened in 2016 and is part of a larger open-air complex on land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The entire project is called OdySea in the Desert and includes the aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, OdySea Mirror/Laser Maze, Dolphinaris Arizona, as well as shops, themed restaurants, and other interactive experiences. As the development of the entertainment destination, expect to see live entertainment in the courtyard, a huge Ferris wheel, and even an indoor skydiving facility.
It is about 20 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. See a map with directions to the Odysea in the Desert complex.
Address: 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85256
Website: OdySea Aquarium Online.
Hours: OdySea Aquarium is open 365 days per year. It opens every day at 9 a.m. On Saturdays, it is open late until 9 p.m. All other says the aquarium closes at 6 p.m. Admission is permitted 90 minutes or more before closing.
Tickets: OdySea Aquarium sells tickets at timed intervals for admission on a specific date. That assures visitors that a limited number of people will be in the aquarium at any one time. However, there is no time limit for your visit. Prices mentioned do not include tax or online convenience fees.
Daily Ticket Prices (2018)
- Adult: $37.95
- Child age 2 to 12: $27.95
- Seniors 62 and over: $35.95
- Children age 2 and under are admitted free.
- Parking is free.
Combination Tickets (2018): There are various options for saving some money if you purchase combination tickets with either the OdySea Mirror/Laser Maze, Butterfly Wonderland, or both. Combination tickets are good for any date within one year of purchase and do not all have to be used on the same date unless you'd like to do so.
Annual Pass: An annual pass is good for one year and allows the owner unlimited visits for that year as well as fast entry, an invitation to special events, and discounts on add-on activities, in the cafe, and in the gift shop. A family pass is available as well.
Other Attractions Nearby
Within the OdySea in the Desert Complete, there are three other unique attractions. Butterfly Wonderland includes a huge butterfly atrium where you can walk among the butterflies Odysea Mirror / Laser Maze invites guests to maneuver through the mirrors to find their way to freedom or test their skills at avoiding being hit by laser beams, and Dolphinaris allows guests to swim with dolphins with a trained specialist.
There are also occasionally free live stage performances that take place in the center courtyard, especially during the summer months.
Within a few miles, you can travel to the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies during Spring Training, and also the location for Fall League Baseball and other festivals and events. Octane Raceway is just across the highway at The Pavilions, and here you can race go-karts on a course that is both indoors and outdoors.
The Topgolf Scottsdale is a climate-controlled golf facility that is fun for people of all ages and experience levels. The Casino at Talking Stick Resort is an enterprise of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community featuring slots, poker, table games, and Keno. Concerts at Talking Stick Resort feature big name artists in the Ballroom, in the Showroom, and even sometimes at the pool.
Places to Stay Nearby
Talking Stick Resort is a AAA award-winning resort that's very close to Odysea in the Desert. Check guest reviews and prices for Talking Stick on TripAdvisor. At that resort, aside from the casino and showroom, you can experience fine dining at one of the best scenic view restaurants in the Valley of the Sun.
Looking for something cheaper? It's still nice, just without the golf course and casino. It's Hampton Inn & Suites Scottsdale Riverwalk. Usually, you'll get breakfast included in your daily rate.