Welcome back to To-Do Tuesday! Installment number two took us to the SEA LIFE Aquarium Arizona at Arizona Mills. We’ve been regular visitors here for awhile now. As much as our kiddo loves trains (see last week’s post), he loves turtles even more. Like, REALLY loves turtles. For awhile, turtle was he answer to every question. (What lives on the moon? “Turtle!”) He just recently figured out how to say sea turtle. It’s just about the stinkin’ cutest thing I’ve ever heard.
Needless to say, when we discovered the aquarium, it was love at first “turtle!” There’s lots of different exhibits to look at, and even three tanks where you can touch creatures, including sea stars, shrimp and anemones. Ollie loves this part, but has yet to pet any of the critters. He also loves the tidal pool and the giant lobsters.
There’s a great shark and ray exhibit, with stairs (!) leading up to a raised viewing platform. You can watch them feed the fish in this tank, and learn about the animals from an aquarium staff member. The next big viewing window after the ray tank gives you your first glimpse into the BIG tank, and is the best spot to view the sea turtle.
Pro tip: the green sea turtle (her name is Ziva, they call her Ziva the Diva) can be seen in the tank only until about 11, and then again later in the afternoon. They put her in a separate holding tank while the sharks and other fish are fed. If you’re there for feeding (around 11:30) you might catch a glimpse of fish heads being lowered into the tank for sharks to snatch or even a handler sitting on top of the tunnel, feeding and petting the fish. Yup, I said petting. You can see all the feeding and interactive times here.
The crowd favorite is, of course, the walk-through tunnel. I’m spoiled by the aquarium at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, but this one isn’t too shabby. You’re surrounded on all sides by water and fish. Super cool! Oh, and the website says the giant Pacific octopus isn’t on display right now, but it sure was when we were there. Wow.
There’s a playground for bigger kiddos after you exit the main aquarium, but we haven’t field tested it yet.
A bonus to the aquarium being located in the mall is that you can extend your play date right up to nap time! At least, that’s what I do. After you exit the aquarium, there’s a little setup of four vehicles for kids to ride. Pro tip: the airplane goes WITHOUT having to put coins in! Just hit the start button. Ollie discovered this one by accident. Yay! After they spend what feels like and HOUR on the rides, make your way over to the food court.
There used to be a line of car strollers available for rental outside the aquarium, and thank god they moved them to the food court because Ollie wanted to ride in one every damn time. It’s $5 to rent a stroller, which seems steep, but if you’re in need of a distraction so you can shop in peace for a mere 10 minutes, it’s totally worth it.
The food court was recently remodeled and has some pretty good food. We like the Mexican restaurant and usually share a chicken and rice bowl. Pro tip: if you eat your meal over by the Italian restaurant, in the farthest, way back corner, you can eat in peace, out of view of the carousel. If the carousel can be seen, ain’t no eating getting done at our table.
After lunch, we sometimes take a ride on the carousel. It’s $3 for the kids to ride, free for parents (to ride with them, not by yourself. Which might be just as enjoyable.). It’s cash only, and there’s a (very expensive) ATM near the carousel. If you’re feeling particularly generous, you can also ride the train. You have to squeeze in with your kid, so I suggest the caboose, which is a little roomier. Ollie was waving like a royal to
all his subjects the people in the mall as we rode by. This one is expensive, $5 per rider, including the parent, which I find ridiculous. Obviously, I wouldn’t be riding that damn train all by myself. Kids under three are free. The train at the Paradise Valley mall is only $3 if you’re looking for a cheaper train fix.
And that’s it! It’s nap time! Your sweet angel falls asleep on the way home, and transfers perfectly to his/her bed. Right?
Kid rating: Awesome. Especially if your kiddo loves turtles. Or fish. Or sharks.
Mom rating: Pretty fun, loads to see. It’s hard to do this one with other mommas, but you can, if you don’t mind a break in your conversation every three minutes when you each run in opposite directions to chase your babies. So, you know, the usual.
Admission is, in my opinion, a little steep. If you buy tickets at the counter, it’s $18 for adults, $13 for kids over 3. If you purchase tickets online in advance, it’s just $15 for adults, $11 for kids. Children under 3 are free. If you like the aquarium, I’d suggest buying an annual pass. It’s $45 per adult, so you make that up in just three visits. I bought mine at full price, and bought another for my husband when they had a Groupon sale. We go just about every week, so it’s totally worth it! Tickets are also $10 Monday through Thursday, 4-6pm.
Pro tip: People start lining up before the aquarium opens at 10. If you have a membership or have purchased tickets online, you can line up at the sales desk rather than the general admission line. This line is not always the shortest, but it’s fast since they just have to scan your card.
- Monday-Saturday: 10am – 7:30pm*
- Sunday: 10am – 6:00pm*
Fall/Winter Hours (September 8 – February 26)
Monday-Saturday: 10am -7pm*
Sunday: 11am – 6pm*
- *Last admission is one hour before close