Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

by Jessica on April 6, 2011

Outside the Children’s Aquarium with the Famous Star of Texas in the Background

 The kids in our house range from 10 ½ to almost two, with a couple of extras thrown in the middle. With such an age range it is tricky to find activities that will appeal to whole family, and from time to time a little compromise is necessary.

Our friend, the Moray

 When planning our day at Fair Park, we decided to start with the Children’s Aquarium, in hopes that it would start the day with an activity that would at least appeal to the younger set. The older boys had already complained that aquariums are for babies and had received a lecture pep talk that the whole world did not revolve around them. That set a slightly grumpy tone for the day that was magnified by the dreary weather.

Visiting in 2001~Nope, I haven’t changed a bit.

We had visited this aquarium years ago when Son #1 was a wee babe, and found it to be somewhat lackluster. Since then, there had been a remodel, so I was looking forward to seeing the improvements. The aquarium is small, which makes it a perfect introduction to the sea for little ones. It is also small enough that my older boys could wander around alone, giving them a sense of autonomy, but still allowing me to keep an eye on them.

The Touch Tank.  On the right, is the baby pictured above.

The touch tank in the main lobby was an immediate draw for the whole group. Within seconds, the boys were up to their elbows in the water touching sea urchins, sea stars, and hermit crabs. The docent was informative and interactive, and thankfully, happy to answer the barrage of questions. Morgan was content to splash in the water, while his brothers explored. Happily, even the boys who had complained about the aquarium had to be pulled away from the touch tank. Already, the day was starting to look up.

Extending to the left of the touch tank, we explored salt water sea creatures, where we enjoyed jellyfish and moray eels. Morgan particularly enjoyed turning the wheel that changed the colors in the jellyfish tank. Hands on activities were scattered throughout the aquarium and I appreciated the care taken to assure that even the littlest visitors could participate. On the right side of the touch tank, we checked out the freshwater animals, including the ghostly albino crocodiles.

Up close and personal

An enclosed deck outside housed the shark and stingray exhibits, where daily feeding sessions are the highlight of the visit. Fortunately, we had arrived just in time to take part in the stingray feeding. The older boys all wanted to take a turn at feeding the stingrays, although some were more courageous than others. Stingrays do not have teeth, but have grinding plates and powerful suction to pull food into their mouths. Fish and fingers feel about the same to a stingray, so each of the boys got an intimate experience with the inside of the stingray’s mouth.

Shark Tank
Feeding the Stingrays

While the older boys fed and petted the slippery stingrays, Morgan and I checked out the sharks for a few minutes. Then, he found that climbing the stairs and running around the deck of the tanks was more entertaining, so I followed behind him as he made the loop over and over again. Traveling with a toddler is tough on the back, I am quickly remembering.

Up the stairs, down the stairs, repeat

A nice enclosed picnic area offered a perfect place for us to eat our picnic lunch as we watched the sharks and rays swim below. When we were finished with lunch it was time to move on to the next museum. “This was way better than I thought,” Ryan announced on his way out. “I thought we were just going to look at fish, but we actually got to touch fish.” I guess you can please all of the people, if not all the time, at least for an hour or two.

Know Before You Go:

  • Check the website to plan your visit to coincide with feeding times.
  • Wear short sleeves to keep from having wet clothes all day
  • The size of the aquarium makes it ideal for little ones. You can easily see everything in 1-2 hours and could easily skip the stroller.
  • The snack bars are not open during the off season, so bring your own refreshments.
  • Dallas Zoo members receive a discounted ticket rate.

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