Merlin Entertainment Group chose Tempe, Arizona to build a $15 million, 26,000 square foot aquarium. While this was only the second aquarium by this group located within the U.S., they have more than 30 other Sea Life aquariums in 11 countries on two continents. Merlin Entertainment also owns and operates Lego Land in San Diego and Sea Life in Carlsbad, CA.
Sea Life Arizona features more than 30 display tanks in 12 distinct habitats housing more than 5,000 creatures in 200,000 gallons of water. The aquarium is home to a variety of sea creatures such as seahorses, rays, sharks and species indigenous to Arizona.
Sea Life promotes conservation and has an established environmental organization called Save Our Seas, the purpose of which is to protect sea turtles, sharks, whales, dolphins and commercial fish stocks.
What was my take on Sea Life Arizona? While it isn't Sea World -- there aren't dolphin shows or rides or even penguins -- I thought it was beautiful! Not only were the fish and other marine life fun, but the design and colorful decor made it more like a theme park than other aquariums that simply feature tanks lines up in rows. Sea Life Arizona is a wonderful addition to the many attractions for both locals and visitors that the Phoenix area has to offer. It will be probably be especially enjoyed by children of the area, many of which might not have ever seen an ocean, and will assist in developing awareness of the special ecological challenges facing marine life.
Who Should Visit Sea Life
Sea Life Arizona was designed especially for young people. They can easily see all the displays and they can participate in fun and educational activities during the visit. Throughout the aquarium there are questions and answers about the marine life on display, as well as details about the various sea creatures that are seen there.
The aquarium is dark in some areas and incorporates lots of color -- a feast for the eyes of both young and old! Don't like small spaces? There are enough sitting areas and larger spaces to counteract any claustrophobia you might feel.
How It Works
After guests buy their tickets, they are invited to take a photograph with a special background which they can purchase later as a souvenir to remember their visit. Then, guests congregate in a waiting area to make sure that any congestion in the aquarium is relieved. Automatic doors allow the next group of guests into an intermediate room where a very short video introduces the aquarium. At the conclusion of the video, visitors enter the aquarium and the delight begins.
The aquarium is designed so that visitors travel a defined path through to the end. There are places to stop along the way, but generally, it is a good idea to keep moving forward and not backtrack against the flow of traffic. There is a logical progression of exhibits, starting with Arizona lakes, rivers and caves all the way to the Pacific Ocean and coral reefs.
At entry you'll receive a map of the aquarium. It's dark in the aquarium, and you won't really need the map unless you want to come back later to see a specific exhibit. You can't get lost.
What You Can Do at Sea Life
Here's a short list of things that you can and that you are encouraged to do on your visit to Sea Life Arizona.
- You may take pictures, as long as you don't use flash. Some areas are lighter than others, and you can take good pictures in those areas.
- You can check out the Dive Discovery Theater where films play all day long. Usually the films are between 15 and 30 minutes in length.
- You can touch the marine creatures at the tide pool.
- You can watch feedings and listen to talks about marine life throughout the day. Check at the ticket counter for the schedule of the day's talks or special activities.
- You can take a break and relax or play in the Playzone.
- You can stay cool! The Sea Life Arizona aquarium is open year-round. There are no outdoor exhibits and the attraction is air-conditioned.
- You may enjoy at your leisure -- there is no set maximum time for your visit. Families with children can expect to spend at least two or three hours at the aquarium.
- Your admission charge allows you entry for one entire day. You can have your hand stamped and return later in the same day to enjoy the aquarium again.
What You Can't Do at Sea Life
Here's a short list of things that you may not do when visiting Sea Life Arizona.
- You may not use flash photography.
- You may not use your phone in the aquarium.
- Double strollers must be left outside.
- No running. No skateboards, scooters or anything else with wheels are permitted.
- No food is allowed in Sea Life. Only beverages with screw caps are permitted.
- There is no cafeteria in Sea Life Arizona, nor do they sell snacks here. Sea Life Arizona is at Arizona Mills Mall, close to the Food Court where you can enjoy burgers, hot dogs, subs, pizza, ice cream and more.
- There are no restrooms within Sea Life. Restrooms are next to the Food Court in the mall.
- Did you stop to go shopping before you decided to go to Sea Life? I highly recommend that you drop your packages off at your car before entering the aquarium. It will be easier to move around.
- Riding seahorses is prohibited. :-)
Take a Guided Tour
If you would like a little more detail and personal attention on your visit to Sea Life Arizona, you might want to sign up for a behind-the-scenes guided tour. Your Sea Life representative will take you beyond that door with the sign "Authorized Personnel Only" to see a little of what goes on behind the scenes.
Here's what else you need to know about guided tours at Sea Life Arizona:
- There is an additional charge for a guided tour.
- The tour includes some lecture with some hands-on activity. Generally, very young children won't appreciate it since there are really no fish or other creatures to see behind-the-scenes.
- Tours are kept to about 8 people to that you can easily interact with your tour guide.
- Advance reservations are not accepted for these tours; check in at the Admissions counter to see when the next available behind-the-scenes tour is available.
- The tours are given every day, several times per day.
- The tour takes about 30 minutes, more or less, depending on the number of questions and size of the group.
- There is very little walking on this tour. Your guide will take you to the restricted area where you will discuss various aspects of how the aquarists care for the creatures and their environment at Sea Life. You probably won't take more than 20 steps during the entire discussion, but you will be standing the entire time.
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.
Come Back Often and See What's New
Visiting Sea Life Arizona isn't a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Aside from the fact that you'll probably notice something different each time you go to Sea Life Arizona, from time to time new exhibits will be introduced. For example, in 2011 Sea Life Arizona opened the Claws exhibit where crustaceans rule. Meet the Japanese spider crabs, which can grow to 15 feet across, and the coconut crabs that can crack open coconuts using their powerful claws.
I'll bet you didn't know that Japanese spider crabs can live for 100 years! So, how old is the Japanese spider crab in this picture? I didn't think it was polite to ask, and I didn't want to make her angry!
Hours and Admission Prices
Sea Life Arizona is open seven days per week except on Christmas Day.
Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Last admissions are one hour before closing
One Day Admission (August 2017)
Child age 3 - 12: $17
There is often a discount if you buy tickets online in advance online. Seniors may receive a discount when purchasing at the counter and asking first.
Looking for other discounts to Sea Life Arizona? Show your AAA card for discounted admissions. Discounts may also be available through a variety of local partners including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dunkin' Donuts, Pizza Hut and more. Discount partners and offers change throughout the year. Military personnel with ID also receive a discount.
If you'll also want to visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona (it's right next door) you may purchase a combo ticket for both attractions.
Annual pass holders are entitled to entry for an entire year with no admission charge, a discount in the retail shop, invitations to special events, and a member newsletter.
Child age 3 - 12: $45
Parking is free.
At certain peak times there may be long waits (30+ minutes) to get into Sea Life Arizona, and in the summer, that may mean lining up outside. If you have a season pass, or if you purchased your tickets in advance online, check for the speedy line -- you can go right in!
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.
Location and Contact Information
Sea Life Arizona is located just off I-10 at Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, Arizona. Here is a map and directions to get to Sea Life. You can get to Sea Life by Valley Metro bus service, too. The following lines stop at Arizona Mills right outside Sea Life: 48, 56, 77, 108. Check Valley Metro schedules and maps for details. There are no Light Rail stations within walking distance of Sea Life Arizona.
Sea Life Arizona Aquarium Address:
5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle, Suite 145
Tempe, AZ 85282
Sea Life Arizona Aquarium Phone:
Sea Life Arizona Official Website