Take the Plunge and Check Out Downtown Aquarium – Houston 

With more than 300 species of aquatic life from around the world, and a variety of events and dining options, it's good clean fun for the whole family.

By Nicholas Roma February 13, 2023

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium.

Downtown Aquarium – Houston, is a unique and exciting destination for visitors of all ages. Created by repurposing two historic landmarks, Fire Station No. 1 and the Central Waterworks Building, into a six-acre entertainment and dining complex, this 500,000-gallon water wonderland features more than 300 species of aquatic life from around the world.

Experience exhibits showcasing different aquatic and geographic regions, dine at the full-service restaurant, enjoy a drink at the upscale bar, explore the shopping area, and have fun with rides and games. The aquarium also has a fully-equipped ballroom that can host events. With so much to see and do, the Houston aquarium has a little bit of something for everyone.

As soon as you walk through the doors, you'll be greeted by the mesmerizing sights and sounds of the ocean. The aquarium's main tank, located on the first floor, is a true spectacle, featuring a variety of shark species including sand tiger sharks, sandbar sharks, and blacktip reef sharks swimming alongside colorful tropical fish.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium.

Visitors can also explore the interactive touch tank, where you'll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the aquarium's most popular inhabitants, including rays, starfish, and sea urchins. And for those who are brave enough, there's even an opportunity to feed the animals!

The aquarium also features an alligator and reptile exhibit, where visitors can learn about these fascinating creatures and their role in the ecosystem.

Just outside, visitors can explore Waterwall Park, which features a large, man-made waterfall and lush greenery, making it the perfect spot for a picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium.

The aquarium is open to the public year-round. Admission fees apply and the aquarium also offers special events and programming, such as behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters, so be sure to check their website for more information.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What are  some of the exhibits visitors should see? 

Your first stop on the adventure should be the Texas Bayou exhibit! You'll feel like you've been transported to the marshy wetlands of the Gulf Coast that surrounds you. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators, turtles, bullfrogs and other wild creatures that call this area home.

Next, dive into the depths of the ocean with a visit to the Shipwreck exhibit. Imagine yourself inside the hull of a sunken 17th century Spanish galleon and take in the beautiful diversity of marine life that surrounds you. Keep an eye out for the giant pacific octopus that call this special exhibit home.

While you’re at the bottom of the sea, explore the Underwater Rig exhibit and get a glimpse of the diverse marine life that calls the Gulf of Mexico home. From snappers and redfish to offshore rig divers, there's always something to see. Keep your eyes peeled!

In the Discovery Zone, you'll come face-to-face with electric eels, seahorses, and a dazzling array of colorful fish. Interactive monitors give you the chance to further explore coral reefs, the arctic seas, and the mysteries of the deep ocean. You may even have the chance to meet one of the Ambassador Animals up-close during daily Animal Encounters!

Last but not least head over to the Stingray Reef exhibit for a truly unique experience. Here, you can touch and feed live stingrays and examine these deep-water dwellers up close and personal. The touch tanks offer a hands-on experience you won't forget!

Click here for a full list of exhibits available to the public. 

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium.

What else will I find there?

There’s a variety of carnival style games that will give you and your kids a chance to win some unique prizes, like a pink shark with leopard spots!

You can also take a spin on the Diving Bell Ferris Wheel for breathtaking views of the Houston skyline, or hop aboard the Shark Voyage Train for a close up encounter with a variety of shark species.

If you're feeling adventurous, try the Lighthouse Dive Tower for a 65-foot drop that will have your heart racing. And for the little ones, the Aquatic Carousel and Aqua Wheel offer a fun and kid-friendly experience. Some of the rides have height restrictions and are under maintenance, so check their website for more information.

What are some educational activities I can do with my family?

There are plenty of aquarium family programs that offer a unique and exciting way to discover the underwater world! From marine biology to zoology, everyone can find something to learn and enjoy.

Anyone dreaming of becoming a marine biologist, can join the Marine Biologist for a Day program for a perfect opportunity to spend a day behind the scenes where all the scientific action happens. Experience close encounters with exotic species from the deep sea to shallow reefs and everywhere in between. You'll even get to dissect a squid! This program includes a guided tour, biologist dive show, squid dissection, animal feedings and more! T-shirts and lunch are included, so come prepared to get your hands dirty and learn something new.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Aquarium.

For a more personal experience the Animals Meet and Greets program will give an up close encounter with one of the ambassador animals. Depending on the animal, you may be able to feed, touch, train, and even take a picture with them. From sloths to porcupines and everything in between, this is an opportunity you won't want to miss. Available by appointment only, so reserve your spot today!

The Wild Dreams Overnight program is a unique opportunity to explore the rainforests of the world and learn about conservation through the eyes of a tiger. Yes the aquarium even has its own tiger! Spend the night in the company of these magnificent creatures and learn all about them through crafts, games, and scavenger hunts. Perfect for scout groups and birthday parties. You’ll get a snack, T-shirt, and hot breakfast in the aquarium restaurant with this program.

The Sea Safari Summer Camp offers a fun and educational experience for kids aged 7-12. Each week our Sea Safari Camp has a unique theme that is sure to excite everyone! All camps include hands-on activities, games, crafts, snacks and lunch, up-close animal encounters, rides, and aquarium tours. Please check their calendar for specific camp dates and call or email the Education Department to receive your registration packet.

For teenagers interested in a career working with animals, the Working on the Wild Side program is the perfect opportunity to learn more about animal care, training, conservation, and the zoo/aquarium industry.

To register, make reservations and check availability for any family programs, please call 713-315-5112 or email [email protected]. Make sure to check the 2023 calendar of events if you’re looking for an activity on a specific date.

Can you find anything to eat at the aquarium?

Yes! The Downtown Aquarium has a one of a kind dining experience available to visitors and non visitors. You’ll be seated around a 150,000 gallon aquarium that reaches all the way up to the ceiling from the floor, offering you the best view of over 100 species of aquatic life from around the globe. You’ll get a front-row seat to see amazing creatures swim right by your table like moray eels, reticulated rays, shovel-nosed guitarfish, giant groupers weighing over 250 pounds, and a rare napoleon wrasse from Australia.

The restaurant offers not only a visual feast with the aquarium but some yummy morsels for your palate as well. You have a choice between a delicious selection of seafood specialties, steaks, chicken, salads, pasta dishes, and delightful desserts. Here’s a link to the hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday 11 AM - 8:30 PM and Friday-Saturday 11 AM - 10 PM.

The Snack Shack offers quick grab and go concessions located in the lucky lounge. Take a look at the menu for a full list of offerings.

If you’re interested in grabbing a drink The Dive Lounge located on the second floor is an upscale bar where you can relax after a long day of work or before you visit the theater district. You can find the hours of operation here.

How much are tickets?

Single day admission tickets are $27 for anyone 12 and up. If you are visiting with any children under 12, in college or the military, or 55+ admission is $22. In addition to daily admission there are annual passes as low as $70. Be sure to check out the annual pass options on the website to find discounts!

Is there parking at the aquarium?

When it comes to parking, the Houston Aquarium offers a variety of options for its visitors. The parking lot is located directly behind the building and currently only accepts cash payment.

Self-parking is available for $15, while valet parking is available for $18. For non-aquarium guests, the lot is open from 9:30am until 12am and charges $30 for parking. Houston Aquarium members can enjoy discounted self-parking with proof of membership.

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