Please don’t let the strip-center location fool you, this is a really fun aquarium that kids will love because it’s so interactive! Visitors are actually encouraged to put their hands inside the tanks and touch the fish, conch shells (with living conch inside), starfish, stingrays, even the sharks! Afterwards, my only regret was that I had only planned 2 hours for our visit!
Austin Aquarium invited us out for a day of fun, and they did not disappoint! While they offered complimentary admissions, I did not receive financial compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.
Know Before You Go
Wear short sleeve shirts that allow you to be interactive with the animals!
Wear closed-toed shoes because the birds LOVE pecking on them!
Visit early when the fish are still hungry, and weekdays are, of course, better than weekends.
My FAVORITE thing about the Austin Aquarium was that you can touch the animals in ALMOST all the tanks! Be sure and wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER!
Some of the tanks are enclosed, and for good reasons, like the occupants either bite, or just look like they might!
I LOVE stingrays, and the big stingray pool allows plenty of space to reach in an touch their soft bodies, and get an up-close look at them! They enjoy the interaction, and will swim right up to you!
Feed the Stingrays! Purchase food, which in their case is little fish, and you can hold the fish clasped between your fingers and they will immediately come up and take the food from you!
There is also a fun shark photo-op by the stingrays!
Winky lost an eye when he was very young, but has been able to grow up in an aquarium with other fish. The fish swimming behind him is a Moorish Idol, who your kids will recognize from Finding Nemo. There are also several similar looking bannerfish in the tank, which are unique to see because they eat coral polyps and most hobbyist can’t afford to keep them. Many fish start off young in this tank and move to larger tanks, then they are even transported to the Austin Aquarium’s big sister site, the San Antonio Aquarium.
You won’t read on the walls any of this trivia, but you’ll hear it along with lots of other interesting information during the keeper talks! Get your daily schedule when you arrive, and plan your visit around those talks! They are interactive enough for even the younger visitors, and a great way to get children excited about learning!
Lorikeets and Parakeets
Step inside the aviaries to hand feed the birds at the Austin Aquarium! This is such a fun experience and definitely worth the wait, if there is one!
Lorikeets sip flower nectar, so you hold a cup which they will sit on your hand and drink from!
We loved feeding the parakeets, which all swoop down just as soon as the last person sits down and the cups of seed are passed out! They loved exploring the stitchings on your shoes, so prepare kids that they can’t move their feet and don’t wear open-toed shoes.
This makes an adorable photo-op, but since you can’t move it’s hard to get that great shot. If you have 2 adults, leave one outside the aviary to get the pictures, and take turns feeding, otherwise, try to sit across from each other to get the best pictures!
We love Testudines, the order that includes turtles, tortoises and terrapins and my daughter couldn’t wait to feed the one at the Austin Aquarium! Be patient, because like any good tortoise, he’s a little slow.
The highlight of the Austin Aquarium, for us, was feeding the sharks in the shark tank! The sharks, which are mainly bottom-feeding, inlet sharks such as bamboo and eastern gray sharks, are not your frenzy feeders, but instead will gently come and take the food from your hand. You do need to be patient, and hold the food as low as possible for them. The tank also houses the unique-looking guitar fish and a young, open-water black tip, who will reach an adult size of about 5ft and outgrow this habitat!
Be sure and visit the small enclosed tank near the shark tank, which has more bamboo sharks and there is an bamboo shark egg attached to the side of the tank, which when lit up will show the live infant sharks swimming around inside.
If you’re looking for a feeding frenzy, then be sure to throw some food to the carp, which go a little cRaZy when they are fed! Step back and look for the pretty fantails, with long, flowing tails!
I was thrilled just to LOOK at Scarlet, their Giant Pacific Octopus in her enclosed tank, but after seeing her, I REALLY want to do one of the aquarium’s Octopus Encounters, where you actually get to touch her and feel her arms and suction cups! Prices are $39.95 for non-members, and members save $10, but what a once in a lifetime experience!
We loved the cute little caimans, who sit still as a statue, sunning under their lamps! While you can’t touch them, you can purchase food to throw to them. Here’s my Mommy Tip, save your food for the sharks because chances are they’ll miss it or it just won’t get eaten. Instead, purchase a Morning Rounds ticket, which takes place before the Aquarium opens! Walk along with the staff as they test the water, feed the animals and learn one on one about their care! Check with the aquarium on feeding schedules, especially if you have a preference, since not every animal will eat daily.
The BEST part about the 45 minute Morning Rounds is that your aquarium admission is included in the price, which is on a limited time special of $14.96, only $3.00 more than a regular price adult admission, and a savings of over $15.00!
Each Saturday and Sunday your child can meet a mermaid, which is a thrill even when your daughter is taller than the mermaid!
The Mermaids will also make special appearances at birthday parties at the Aquarium! Yet another reason to be jealous of Austin locals….
Located in the back of the Aquarium is a fun play structure for the kids! This is your chance to sit down and enjoy something to drink from one of the vending machines while they play! Rest up, there is still plenty more to see in the aquarium!
This post was our first stop of my Hostel Weekend in Austin trip. During this visit, my daughter and I explored the Austin Aquarium, followed by a pork chop lunch at Shady Grove under the huge trees. To work it off, we climbed to the top of Mount Bonnell, with incredible views of the Colorado River below! We left our mark at the Castle Hills Graffiti Park, and waited in the never-ending line at the Magnolia Cafe, where I spiced up my life with a new love affair with Yellowbird Habanero Hot Sauce, made in Austin and incredible! Our after dark window-shopping in the funky stores of South Congress Ave., or SoCo, was the follow-up to dinner at the legendary Threadgills, and dessert at Hey Cupcake! a food truck advertised with a bright pink cupcake on top! It was a hard decision, as we also love Amy’s (naughty) Ice Cream, but that Sweetberry cupcake has never lied to me yet. We also stayed at our first hostel, HI Austin, on the shore of Ladybird Lake, where we met people from around the world! The 10-mile Austin Hike and Bike Trail winds right past the backdoor of Hi Austin, and we brought our bikes for a Sunday ride! We rode the still-new Austin Boardwalk, petted pups in the dog parks, envied swimmers in Barton Springs year-round 70 degrees waters, and posed with Stevie Ray, but our biggest adventure was what we found lying on the trail under Congress Ave.! To read more about it, please click HERE.
Things To Do in Austin
Barton Springs Pool is the one place you MUST visit in Austin, closely followed by the Texas State Capital! I meant that as a joke, but I’m not really sure it is… Click HERE to read more about it’s cold, spring waters in this city park where Robert Redford learned to swim when he was 5 years old.
13530 N. Hwy 183 #101, Austin
Click HERE to visit their website.
Click HERE to visit their facebook page.
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