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Field Trip: Dallas World Aquarium

The Dallas World Aquarium
1801 N. Griffin St., Dallas
214/720-2224; dwazoo.com
Hours: 9am–5pm daily
Admission: $20.95 adults; $12.95 children ages 3–12; free for children ages 2 and younger.
Parking: Nearby parking is available for $5–7.

Nestled inside the urban jungle of Dallas’ West End district is a jungle of another kind –one that’s been painstakingly built to simulate Venezuela’s Orinoco River system, tropical rainforests, and marine and plant life from all over the world.
 
The Dallas World Aquarium was first converted from a vacant warehouse into an aquarium in 1992 and built upward over the years. Arguably the coolest attraction is the Mundo Maya exhibit’s 400,000-gallon shark tank formed like a cenote, a deep natural well that the Mayans believed to be sacred and used for human sacrifices. But no danger here. Walk through the shark tunnel underneath, lit with natural light, and sit safely on the stone benches to watch as the brown sharks, bonnetheads and eagle rays glide overhead. At feeding time watch aquarium staff toss food into the tank for the sharks, and check out more feedings and animal talks throughout the building each half-hour starting at 10:30am. Divers will slip into the pool – teeming with Arrau turtles and arapaimas, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish – to hand-feed the aquarium’s two manatees, an endangered species. On Saturdays at 11:30am, watch from the bamboo footbridge as the two Orinoco crocodiles below are fed chunks of chicken. (No divers or hand-feeding for them!)
 
And don’t let the name – Dallas World Aquarium – fool you. There’s more than aquatic life. Free-flying in the rainforest canopy are more bird species than you could see in one trip, including red-capped manakins, famous for their mating-season “moonwalk,” and the barred owls whose hoots ask, “Who cooks for you?” Grab a blueberry from the attendant to feed the toucanets and aracaris and slide your hand through a glass opening. Their long beaks will pluck the fruit from your open palm before you can say, “You’re welcome.”
 
Kids will get a kick out of the giant anteaters, giant river otters, pygmy marmosets – which the DWA says is the smallest monkey in the world – two- and three-toed sloths, and animals of every shape, size and color in between. Have your kids search for the conehead lizard, the leaf-tailed gecko or the other animals camouflaged in the vegetation. We’re sure they won’t mind. They feel right at home.