It’s been too long since our last Arizona Adventure. Sometimes I get it in my head that they need to be A Big Deal…planned well in advance, probably a lot of driving to get there, that kind of thing. But you know what? There are SO MANY fun things to do in our area, and the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale is one we’ve been eyeing ever since it opened.
Since it’s a little pricier, I wanted to be sure we could spend as much time there as we wanted. Then last week the stars aligned: Mila had an early release day, Margot only had morning preschool, and we had no plans for the entire afternoon. We wouldn’t be fighting holiday or spring break crowds. It was perfect!
When I told the girls my plans, Margot literally started jumping up and down and sobbing happy tears. She’s so easily pleased that we probably don’t need to go to Disneyland any time soon. And my bank account heaved a grateful sigh of relief.
(Scroll to the bottom of this post for tips for visiting OdySea Aquarium or read on to see photos and hear about our visit.)
Our adventure started upstairs with the freshwater exhibits. We saw several different kinds of turtles, river fish from the Mississippi to the Amazon, and even got to pet some Russian sturgeon. Poor Margot’s arms weren’t quite long enough to reach them on her own, but with a little boost she was able to barely touch one fish’s back.
In the jungle section, we saw parrots and toucans, archer fish that spit water at insects they want to eat, but the highlight for me was the sloth. His name is Squidney and he is ADORABLE. Unfortunately there were too many people for me to get a good photo, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
We also had great timing, as we stumbled into a presentation with the river otters. One of the keepers was dropping shrimp into their tank, and they dove and rolled and wrestled and played as they ate their snack. It was so fun to watch! The staff encouraged us to play with them, seeing if they’d play peek-a-boo or chase us back and forth along the window. Ryan couldn’t decide if they were dogs or monkeys. Ha!
There were tide pools to explore and stingrays to touch, both of which were fascinating to me. My kids, though, were far more entertained by a hands-on water table. They could turn levers + move walls to direct the flow of water to different areas, starting water wheels, making waterfalls, and generally getting themselves thoroughly soaked.
(They didn’t care one bit and neither did I. Honestly, I kind of want one of these in my back yard!)
But the best stuff, in my opinion, was definitely all the ocean life. In addition to all the fish—huge + tiny + everything in between—we saw a giant octopus, a hammerhead shark, penguins, sea turtles, nautiluses (nautili?), lobsters, sea lions, and more. I could’ve watched the jellyfish alone for an hour.
After three hours exploring, we were all wide-eyed and exhausted. Definitely an afternoon well spent.
Every other Thursday-ish, OdySea Aquarium is open late for the 21+ crowd, and I really want to take David for a date night. With a “strolling dinner” option, it sounds like so much fun. I mean, it’s not cheap to visit, but they do such a great job!
I may need to invest in an annual pass so we can go more often.
Tips for visiting OdySea Aquarium:
- Location: Via de Ventura and Loop 101. Exit the freeway and head east; you can’t miss it.
- Hours: daily from 9 AM to 6 PM, open till 8 PM on Saturdays. It’s open 365 days a year. Last admission is 1 hour before closing.
- Admission cost: $37.95 for adults, $27.95 for children ages 2-12. Senior + military discounts are available, as are annual passes. You can buy combo tickets with Butterfly Wonderland, the lazer mirror + maze, or the bumper boats too. See the OdySea website for details.
- Plan for at least two hours to see everything.
- The aquarium is stroller + wheelchair friendly, but it does get crowded, making maneuvering a challenge. (I was glad we didn’t bring our stroller.)
- You’ll enter downstairs then take the escalator or elevator to begin upstairs in the freshwater exhibits. There’s a definite traffic flow, so unless you want to go through the entire aquarium more than once, I suggest spending as much time as you want at each exhibit before moving on.