Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, Dallas
One of my favorite places to visit in Dallas is Fair Park, and not just during the State Fair. The old buildings, most of which were built in the 1930’s, give it a wonderful sense of history and character. Although the Perot Museum relocated the Museum of Science and History, there is still plenty of fun to be found here, and one of our favorite places to visit is the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. Inexpensive by comparison to the other aquariums in the metroplex, the Children’s Aquarium offers fun, interactive exhibits to entertain the entire family.
Check out my 14 Mommy Tips for a fun filled day at the Children’s Aquarium.
Know Before You Go
Open 9am – 4:30pm, 7 days a week.
Parking is FREE except during Fair Park Special Events.
1. Come ready to explore!
While there are plenty of amazing animals on exhibit to watch, such as the moray eels, upside down jellyfish, black-tipped sharks and an albino alligator, there are lots you can also touch at the aquarium! When you first walk in, wash your hands and enjoy the “Touch Tank”, where you can get a hands-on feel for lobsters, conches and sea urchins.
2. Stingray Bay
Another great sensory experience is Stingray Bay, where you can “pet” docile stingrays as they swim around their tank. Their barbs have been removed, so they are perfectly safe to touch, unlike those in the wild. You will find that some are extremely friendly!
3. Hand Feed the Stingrays
Check the schedule for stingray feeding times. $2 gets you 2 fish, which you hold between your fingers and the rays come and take it from you! It’s amazing!
- Bring cash for the stingray food.
4. Fall in love with M.J.
M.J. is a rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtle that washed up on Padre Island some years ago when she was just a baby. Unable to be returned to the wild due to 3 severly injured legs, she was located to the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park last year. At approximately 13 years old, she is still half her full size. Watch her from the observation deck, or below at the large viewing window, where she will swim right up and say hello. Be sure and notice her blue eyes, a rare trait in a very endangered species.
5. Don’t miss the shark feeding
We really enjoyed the alligator and piranha feeding, but the shark feeding in Stingray Bay is not to be missed! The demonstration is led by the shark handler, who answered questions for the crowd, and we were able to approach him afterwards so that my marine biologist wanna-be daughter could meet him and ask questions. Click HERE to see the schedule.
6. Best way to get there
Fair Park is 277 acres of BIG SPACES. While parking is usually FREE, they charge $10 during special events, such as the State Fair. Use Parking Gate 6 for the closest access to the aquarium. Past the gate, turn left and park as far to the right side as possible. Walk in the entry gate, you will pass the Texas Discovery Gardens on your right and turn left at the large fountain. The Children’s Aquarium is on your right, look for the seahorses.
7. Save a little money
You can purchase tickets at the entrance to the aquarium. Dallas Zoo members get a $2 discount.
Annual memberships are $20/adult, $15/child and you get a $5 discount if you are a Dallas Zoo member.
A Pogo Pass gives you a complementary visit to the Children’s Aquarium, along with many other entertainment venues in Dallas. Click HERE to read more!
The Aquarium DOES allow outside food and drinks, and they have 3 picnic tables down in Stingray Bay where you can eat. There are also picnic tables out in Fair Park where you can eat. They do not sell food or drinks at Aquarium, except for a couple of vending machines down by the restrooms, and in the aquarium gift shop.
The Old Mill Inn is the only restaurant located in Fair Park, and it’s open Sat. and Sunday for lunch, year round. Also built in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Expo, it began as a flour mill. Now a Dallas landmark, the restaurant offers good food at low prices, and they throw in some fun with tales of their “benevolent spirit” of Helga that roams the restaurant! Ask the waitstaff, and they will share some fun stories with you of their unearthly experiences with her. The Old Mill Inn also offers a Murder Mystery Dinner on select Saturday nights, click HERE for more information.
8. Enjoy the Historic Art Deco building designs
The building that houses the Children’s Aquarium was built in 193 as an aquarium for the Texas Centennial Celebration. The aquarium underwent major redesigns in 2009, but has retained it’s architectural integrity.
9. Special Events at the Aquarium
The Aquarium host birthday parties as well as group and family overnights. During the summer, they also have summer camps for kids. For more information, please click HERE.
10. Volunteers at the Aquarium
We spent about 2 and a half hours at the Aquarium, looking at the exhibits, petting and feeding the stingrays, watching the shark feeding and talking to the aquarium volunteers. The volunteers have so much knowledge of the aquarium, and were happy to share with us stories about the animals and their personnel experiences. Be sure and ask them lots of questions, that is what they are there for!
Youth volunteers go an approval process at the Dallas Zoo. They take applications each year starting about November for the following year. A youth volunteer works one day a week during either the spring, summer or fall session. For more information on being a volunteer, please click HERE.
11. Visit Fair Park
Since the Daily Feeding Demonstrations all take place at 2:30pm, consider arriving early to see and play at some of the other sites in Fair Park. There are plenty of picnic tables to enjoy lunch.
The Texas Discovery Gardens is another one of our favorite places, and it’s open daily. Click HERE to visit their website.
12. The Leonhardt Lagoon
We love exploring around the Leonhardt Lagoon, and the huge sculpture at both ends of the lagoon. The kids run around and jump, often startling some big fish and turtles that call the lagoon home. We always take a little fish food to throw out, and the turtles will come almost completely out of the water to avoid competing with the fish at the steps in front of the old Science Place Museum. The cypress trees that line the banks give plenty of shade to sit under and watch the kids as they play. The flowers and plants that surround the lagoon are also beautiful.
13. The Swan Paddle Boats
Put on a life jacket and enjoy the lagoon from one of the swan shaped paddle boats. It’s a perfect accompaniment to reading E. B. White’s (author of Charlotte’s Web) the Trumpet of the Swan.
- Bring cash, they don’t take credit cards
14. Cool off in the fountain
Bring a swim suit and towel (change in the Aquarium restrooms) and let the kids cool off in the fountain outside the aquarium before heading home!
Things To Do in Dallas (near Fair Park)
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema runs new movies, and has lots of great events for families! Click HERE to read more.
Get a sky-high view of Dallas from Reunion Tower Geo-Deck! Click HERE to read more!
Head Uptown and take a walk on the Katy Trail! For more information, click HERE!
We like to make the short drive over to the Dallas Farmers Market, with plenty of great dining options! Click HERE to read more.
Craving Ice Cream? Check out Carnival Barkers Ice Cream in Oak Cliff. Click HERE to visit their facebook page.
Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park
1462 1st Ave, Dallas
Click HERE to visit their website.
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