SEA LIFE Aquarium opened its doors in the Grapevine Mills Mall on July 12, 2011. We visited shortly after – July 25th – with our extended family in the DFW area – a group of thirteen! As an avid fan of all things marine, I was very excited to go.
We purchased discounted tickets online – a combo price that included the LegoLand Discovery Center next door – for about $50 for 1 adult, 1 child and 1 toddler (free under 3). Parking outside the mall was readily available, even with the droves of visitors that were heading to the aquarium that day. Luckily, we had already purchased our tickets and were able to wait in the short “Priority Entrance” line, and did not have to wait in the looonnnnggg line to purchase tickets at the window.
We waited again inside to gain entry to the first room, where we watched a school of fish circle around us, while the guide gave us a quick run down of the rules and an answer sheet for the aquarium quiz. He announced that if we answered the questions correctly, we would get a prize in the gift shop! Well, the kids were stoked.
The 40,000-square-foot facility has about 30 displays and houses approximately 5,000 sea creatures. My expectations were low since this aquarium was in a mall nowhere near the ocean, but I was impressed with their assortment as we wandered through the facility. They had sharks, rays, a sea turtle (that we didn’t see), a number of clownfish, a couple of horseshoe crabs, a cool jellyfish display and a nice assortment of fish in the Texas habitats exhibit.
The quiz trail questions ran the gamut from simple to though provoking, and the answers were located on the walls around the nearest exhibit, so I felt like it really gave the kids a chance to learn something. However, there were doors and spinning wheels associated with finding some of the answers, and more than a few children pinched their fingers in the wheels, so be vigilant if you go.
There were several interactive exhibits, bubbles for the kids to crawl into, a touch tank, and a tunnel aquarium with a glass floor to walk across that kids were either delighted with or scared to try. Our entire group enjoyed the visit and spent time finding each of the correct answers to the quiz so the kids could get a prize. At the end of the tour, we waited patiently in line for our “prize” which consisted of a paper aquarium crown. Unfortunately, the kids were not impressed.
SEA LIFE has centers across Europe and is breaking into the U.S. markets as well, so it is not surprising that they have done a great job in Grapevine. Overall the experience was great. Parking was easy, the wait for entry was short despite the grand opening status, the exhibits were interesting and varied and the kids all learned something. The cost is a bit prohibitive, but online discounts help.
SEA LIFE Aquarium is a great indoor family attraction that allows visitors to escape the heat, while learning about the world’s oceans, and some habitats around Texas, too.