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Dive into Fun at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium

Dive into Fun at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium

Our daughter had been asking to go for months. She is an animal lover. She really likes dogs. She also really likes aquatic life. We set up a fresh-water aquarium in her room. But, she had been asking to visit the Downtown Aquarium, Denver for some time now. When we put a trip on the calendar, she was ecstatic.

Denver Aquarium
The Downtown Aquarium in Denver

The Downtown Aquarium is located near many landmark Denver attractions, including the Children’s Museum, Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, the Pepsi Center (home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche), and Mile High Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

Sea life at Aquarium
Our son sizes up this fish at Under the Sea

The aquarium is home to a number of fresh-water and sea animals, in addition to tigers, sloths and river otters. It is open every day.

Mystical Mermaid Show

Mermaid Show at Denver Aquarium
The Mystical Mermaid show

Our tour started with a mad dash to get to the morning Mystic Mermaid show. We had to rush through the exhibits, kids arguing to stop at this or that tank along the way, so that we could catch the performance of the three mermaids at the Under the Sea exhibit.

Mystical Mermaids Show
The Mermaids talk to the audience during the show

The 10-minute show delights the crowd as the mermaids speak to the audience from the tank, swim, dance, and inform the audience about conservation efforts in our waterways. Our kids enjoyed watching the show and marveled at how the “mermaids” were able to swim and talk under water. After the show, you can meet the mermaids on a dry shore and get pictures with them.

North American Wilderness

After the show, we swam upstream like spawning salmon, to the entrance of the aquarium to start our tour officially. Our first exhibit was the North American Wilderness, where we saw many fresh water fish, including those indigenous to Colorado’s mountains.

Aquarium fish
Our daughter was captivated by the fish in the North American Wilderness tanks.

We found sturgeon, river otters, trout, alligators, and snapping turtles. Many of the tanks in the exhibit hall are waist high, allowing you to peer over the tank to the fish below. The hall also has an area where you can mine for gemstones in a running sluice.

Under the Sea

Next, we moved to the desert where we found bearded dragons, tarantulas, and desert pupfish, while learning about the highly adaptive features of these creatures.

Salt Water fish
One of the fish in Under the Sea

The hall was a stark contrast to the next exhibit, Under the Sea, showcasing a large tank of coral filled with sea life like rays and sharks, along with smaller tanks that serve as homes for seahorses (a favorite) and moray eels.

Aquarium Eel
Eek! An eel!
Aquarium Seahorse
We love seahorses

At the Wharf

Next, we entered At the Wharf, my wife’s favorite, where we could touch sea stars and admire sea urchins, barnacles, sea anemones, and rock fish. This smaller exhibit had a lot of hands-on experiences that we really liked.

At the wharf
Our daughter checks out the fish from a different vantage point

Rainforest Hall

The Rainforest Hall was next, with piranhas and the Sumatran tigers. We were fortunate to see the tigers gnawing on some treats, and even heard one roar. The kids, however, were not as excited to listen to the loud call of the Macaw in this hall.

Sumatran Tiger Feast
Sumatran Tiger gnaws on a treat in the Rainforest Hall

Coral Lagoon

Colorful fish
The colors in the Coral Lagoon were vibrant

The Coral Lagoon had my favorite underwater specimen in the aquarium – the spiny lobster. We laughed as we watched one lobster scratching its head. The Coral Lagoon also had some of the most colorful fish with amazing patterns, including polka dots and stripes.

Crustacean
This lobster scratched its head and made us laugh.
Amazing Design
This was one of our favorite fish at the Aquarium.

Sunken Temple

The Sunken Temple is home to Zebra sharks, lion fish and batfish. You would think you were at the zoo instead of the aquarium with all of the fish that look like other animals.

Anemone and Clown Fish
A clown fish in an anemone.

Shipwreck

Finally, we headed to the Shipwreck, an ecosystem next to the coral reefs where one can sometimes find sunken ships. Here, one also finds sharks, sea nettles and colorful jellyfish.

Shipwreck Exhibit at Aquarium
Rays and skates at the Denver Aquarium

At the Beach

As we wound our way through this last hall, we emerged At the Beach, a wharf-like locale which looks a lot like Coney Island or any other wharf, and where you can play games on the boardwalk, grab a snack at the food vendors, see the mermaids, check out a cagey octopus, and get your face painted.

Tide Pool with Rays
The rays swarm around our kids at feeding time

The area also has an artificial coconut tree you can climb (although you need to have shoes with laces to climb the tree) and a ray pool where you can pet or feed the rays.

Aquarium Theater
The 4D Theater shows features that put you very close to the action

We upgraded our exhibit tickets to include a showing at the 4D Theater outside of the aquarium building. We saw a National Geographic feature on Sharks, and jumped and screamed as we were blasted with air and water while watching the sharks swim right up to us through the magic of 3D glasses.

In addition to touring the aquarium, you also can book animal meet and greets, including a shark cage dive where you are immersed in the Shipwreck exhibit with five different sharks breeds.

The aquarium also has a restaurant where you can dine while watching the underwater creatures and gift shop for guests.

Unfortunately, there is only one restroom area in the midst of the second floor exhibit halls. This makes it a bit difficult with young kids (or adults) who have an urgent need to go.

Do you like aquariums? Have you visited Denver’s Downtown Aquarium? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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16 thoughts on “Dive into Fun at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium”

  • although i don’t live in denver, this post actually reminds me of the fact that it’s been awhile since the last time i visited the sea world in my hometown. reading this makes me want to spare some time just to see how it is now. it’s always a great experience to see how they live. 🙂

  • Always loved aquariums and try to visit them whenever we are traveling. Though, sadly, have never been to the one in Denver, despite traveling through and staying in the city more times than I can count in the last two decades. Need to change that. Thank you for the visit inspiration and prompt. 😉

    • Thank you. I don’t know what the answer is for the animals in captivity. I do know that the places we visit make a concerted effort to make the best life possible for those animals, most of them unable to go back in the wild. I too wish we loved in a world where they could roam free without the threat of human poaching, etc. Our kids have learned so much from the aquarium and other habitats, and have such a respect and appreciation for protecting these animals.

  • I am so happy to see how much you daughter loves animals and animal life. I think zoos and aquariums provide a fantastic glimpse into the lives of animals you may not know existed otherwise. They are also fantastic educational tools and help protect those species. It seems like a great aquarium too.

  • The tiger was certainly unexpected! haha
    They seem to have done a really nice job with the different exhibits – making them unique to each other. I love seeing the brightly colored fish with various designs (stripes, dots, etc), as you mentioned. There are so many kinds of fish and they all look so different!!

  • I’m a big fan of aquariums and have never been to the one in Denver. Fun that they have a mermaid show! Usually, it is scuba diving, and that is not quite as magical. Thanks for the tip!

  • Visiting an Aquarium with children is always a good idea! We don’t have kids, but when we were both kids we loved watching exotic fishes in aquariums and could stay there all day long. So we can imagine how much fun your daughter had there! Keep traveling and visiting aquariums and museums with her! 🙂

  • When my kids were younger, they wanted to go to aquariums in every city we visited. We never made it to Denver, though, but I’ve heard it’s spectacular. We always appreciate a good touch tank.

  • Nice! Looks like you guys had the best time, I have to say this aquarium has many different species of fish. I was’t expecting the tiger hehehe

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