The largest aquarium in the Southwest offers families a chance to get an up-close look at unique and exotic sea life. Attractions include river exhibits, touch pool, penguins, otters, stingrays, sharks, and more.
The new OdySea Aquarium opens up opportunities for residents and visitors to the Phoenix desert to experience up-close encounters with exotic sea life. My 10-year-old daughter and I had a great time exploring over 50 exhibits at the largest aquarium in the Southwest.
The entrance has glass globes suspended from the ceiling filled with colorful live fish. That was one of my daughter’s favorite parts. The bathroom downstairs also has a fun surprise—instead of a mirror over the sinks, you see directly into the shark tank. So cool to watch sharks swim by your face as you wash your hands!
The tanks here are huge. There is plenty of room to see all the creatures living inside each habitat without having to fight for a space to see among the crowds. There is also a lot of space between tanks, leaving lots of room to maneuver a stroller if you have one.
Aquarium employees are all over the place, answering questions, giving animal facts, and showing off cool artifacts, like sea turtle skulls and sea lion whiskers. Every employee we talked to was very knowledgable about the animals in the exhibits, including knowing their ages and how they were acquired.
There are some unique and exotic creatures here that families will love to take time to watch, including penguins, otters, sharks and sea lions.
Most tanks have a cement step around the edge that allows smaller children to be able to step up and see inside without their adult having to hold them.
A touch tank lets families feel sea stars, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, and more.
There is a huge café area to stop for a snack or drink, or just to take a break as you're exploring the 200,000 square-foot aquarium.
The Living Carousel lets families take a sit-down break while still exploring the aquarium. The seats rotate through different rooms to allow passengers to see the shark, sea turtle, and sea lion tanks while hearing amazing animal facts. If I were a nursing mother, I would definitely take the opportunity to do that here. The carousel takes about 20 minutes and is the only place to see the sea lions and turtles.
The flow of the aquarium is mostly one-directional. Stay at each exhibit until you’ve seen enough because it is tricky to maneuver your way back.
The 3D movie has uncomfortable seating, but is only 10-minutes so it’s not too bad. You won’t want to skip it, though, because the movie is really cool and after the show, the screen lifts up to reveal a fun fish tank you can only see from the room.
It is hard to find signage to determine what is in each tank. There are video screens between exhibits with information but you have to wait for it to scroll through to find the right creature and facts about it.
For an additional fee, there are some super cool experiences for guests. In the SeaTREK, participates don an underwater helmet and wetsuit, then walk around a giant tank among colorful sea creatures from the Indo-Pacific region. The “PIP” or Penguin Interaction Program provides nice photo-opps as you get up-close and personal with the resident penguins. Guests can also take a behind the scenes tour to explore the inner workings of the OdySea aquarium.
If you can manage it, don’t bring a stroller. There are a few times you have to go up escalators to get to the next exhibits. Although there are elevators, you will miss the “Escalator to the Deep Ocean,” which is an escalator that is surrounded by a glass tank holding sharks, stingrays, and more. Also, the elevators are small so if the aquarium is busy, you will have to wait a while to get your turn.
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours here. My daughter and I went at a steady pace, but faster than we would have gone if I had my little ones, and we took exactly 2 hours to explore the aquarium.
The pricing here is on the higher end at $35/adults and $25/kid, but you will get unique experiences here you can’t find other places in Arizona. While I wouldn’t pay to bring my whole family (because I’m cheap and have a big family) I would splurge to bring the sea creature fans for a day of fun.
OdySea Aquarium is a great aquarium with unique experiences and animals to visit. I would recommend checking it out if you are in the area, especially if you or your family has a love of sea life.
*Disclosure—I was hosted at OdySea aquarium during their press day for the purpose of review. As always, I received no other compensation and all opinions expressed are completely my own.