The Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park first opened in 1936 as the Hall of Aquatic Life. It was built by the City of Dallas for the Texas Centennial Exposition celebrating 100 years of independence. The building is a beautiful example of 1930s Art Deco and is a designated State and National Historic Landmark. The aquarium was the very first in Texas and only the twelfth in the entire United States at the time. It opened with forty-four tanks. 

The firm that designed Highland Park Village was involved in the original plans for the aquarium, the exterior being modeled after the Seattle Art Museum and interior reflecting the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Famed female sculptor and artist Allie V. Tennant was commissioned to create the elaborate decorative reliefs of sea life carved into the exterior.

After the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition came to a close in 1937, the Hall of Aquatic Life became known as the Dallas Aquarium. The building’s north hallway received a 68-foot addition in 1963, making the attraction the third largest aquarium in the nation during that period.

In 2010, the facility underwent a $9.5 million renovation and was renamed the Children’s Aquarium of Fair Park as management of daily operations transitioned to the Dallas Zoo. Among the many improvements, both public-facing and behind the scenes, Stingray Bay, a large, outdoor habitat with sharks and a stingray touch-tank. 

KID-FRIENDLY FOCUS
The Children’s Aquarium is unique because its entire design is optimized for children. All aquarium exhibits are placed at eye level, so they are much more accessible to younger guests. 

The Children’s Aquarium is unique because its entire design is optimized for children. All aquarium exhibits are placed at eye level, so they are much more accessible to younger guests. 

We also know that children learn through experience, so we have taken care to ensure that interactive areas throughout bring the aquarium to life in fun, interesting ways. Our offerings include daily feeding experiences, touch tanks, aquarist chats, and more.

ANIMAL LIFE
We currently have six exploration zones: Freshwater, Intertidal, Near Shore, Shore, Offshore, and Stingray Bay. Although it is hard to name our single oldest animal in the facility, we do have one species who can live to an AMAZING old age – the alligator snapping turtle. We currently have one, named Bowser, who is approximately 25 years old. Bowser could live up to 200 years of age! 

Our expert animal care team manages our collection. Animal care staff monitor our current animals round the clock to ensure they are receiving the best possible care – from daily water chemistry tests, to food preparation, to enrichment creation, and more!  

STAFF
Aquarists and animal care staff members are required to have a bachelor’s degree in marine science, biology, zoology, or another related field. Dallas Zoo & Children’s Aquarium veterinarians and vet techs go through many years of training, both in school and in the field, and they are highly specialized experts in their field.  

Our incredible team of guest services staff are trained to provide a fun, exciting day at the aquarium for every single one of our guests.

VOLUNTEERS
Volunteers play a huge role in creating a positive experience for Children’s Aquarium guests. There are always new and interesting opportunities for youth ages 14 and up, from educating guests about aquatic life at the Coastal Touch Tank, to assisting the aquarists in their daily duties, and serving as conservation ambassadors. Learn more and apply at DallasZoo.com/Volunteer.

GENERAL INFORMATION
The Children’s Aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. year-round, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Feed shows accompanied by aquarist talks occur daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Regular admission (ages 12 and up) is $8 per person. Children ages 3-11 are $6 per person; ages 2 and under enter free. Discounts are offered for seniors (65+) and Dallas Zoo members. In addition, Annual Passes are available and range from $15 to $20. 

Guests can purchase food to feed the stingrays for $3. A gift shop is also onsite.

We host night programs periodically throughout the year, where guests can camp out at the Aquarium overnight. The evening allows families with children ages 6 and up to get a special look at the Aquarium and our animals after dark.

Snapshot: Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

  • Six zones
  • 256 species
  • Over 2,000 marine animals
  • Tanks up to 58,000 gallons

Get to Know: Stingray Bay

  • Home to Cownose Rays (Rhinoptera bonasus)
  • Found in coastal western Atlantic from New England to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico
  • Spend warmer months farther north and migrate south in colder months
  • Diet comprises shellfish and some fish
  • Typical width is 24 inches with a maximum of 48 inches

MEET BOWSER
Bowser is about 17 years old, but he has a potential life expectancy of 200!  He came to us when he was just three, as a donation from the public on May 11th, 2005. Bowser prefers to keep to himself, but sometimes spends his day following his tank mates (Rio Grande Cichlids) around. They will actually pick at the dead skin on his feet and legs (which, in turn, helps to keep Bowser healthy), so they have a mutually beneficial relationship! When he needs a break from his tank mates, and the busy days at the aquarium, Bowser likes to hide under a tree stump in the back of his habitat with just his tail sticking out for us to see. When he is being more active, he seems to enjoy climbing up on rocks and a wood structure in order to stick his face out of the water so he can investigate what is happening up top. His favorite food tends to be Tilapia, but he enjoys most food that is offered to him, including mice and trout. We did try to offer him pumpkin this past Halloween, as a new form of enrichment, but he was not a fan. His name came from one of his former keepers, named Alicia, who still works as an aquarist here at the aquarium. She chose that name because she felt like he resembled the popular video game character ‘Bowser’.  He is not as social as some of our other animals, so it is difficult to understand if he has a special relationship with any of his keepers individually, but his former keepers and I very much enjoy taking care of such a special and unique animal.

Chase Stryhal
Aquarist
Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park