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The Sea in the City: Your Guide to the Downtown Aquarium in Houston

The Sea in the City Your Guide to the Downtown Aquarium in Houston

If you’re looking for some place to take your kids or you’re just a kid at heart, you might want to check out the Downtown Aquarium in Houston. This water wonderland will have aquatic creatures swimming beneath your feet and above your head. 

Without having to leave Houston, you can have access to live sea animals and plants. Through the huge tanks and the various exhibits, you can learn and interact with these creatures without getting wet. 

Let’s dive into this guide to experience exotic marine life, thrilling rides, delectable dining, and awe-inspiring attractions at the Downtown Aquarium.

What is the Downtown Aquarium? 

The Downtown Aquarium in Houston is an aquatic entertainment and dining complex that encompasses six acres of land. 

The aquarium is home to a 500,000-gallon tank where over 300 species of aquatic life from various parts of the world live. 

Visitors to the Downtown Aquarium can explore a range of attractions and amenities. The aquarium offers captivating aquatic and geographic exhibits that provide educational insights into marine life and the world’s different ecosystems. 

If you’re looking for more excitement, the Downtown Aquarium provides everything from thrilling rides to engaging games. 

The complex has a full-service restaurant where guests can dine, an upscale bar for those looking for a sophisticated experience, and a fully equipped ballroom for special events and gatherings.

Since exploring the facilities will take a lot of walking and moving around, make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes. For the outdoor exhibits, you might want to wear a hat or at least wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the Houston heat. 

Address: 410 Bagby St, Memorial Dr., Houston, TX 77002, United States

Contact Number: +1 713-223-3474 


Operating Hours: 

  • Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 8:30 pm
  • Friday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Ticket Prices: 

  • All-Day Adventure Pass – Adults: $25.99;  Children (under 42″): $23.99


  • Parking building behind the Aquarium: Cash Only

Things to do at Houston’s Downtown Aquarium 

Explore the Aquarium 

Explore the Aquarium
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

You can immerse yourself in the stunning 500,000-gallon tank teeming with aquatic species from around the globe. The giant aquarium houses vibrant all sorts of fish, starfish, other marine animals and even plant life. 

You should keep an eye out for divers when they feed the fish or clean the tanks. Some of them even perform enchanting bubble tricks that will delight the little ones. 

Don’t miss out on the built in tunnels that allow you to be surrounded by the tanks. You can watch stingrays, sharks, and other fish swimming above and around you. 

Watch an Exhibit 

The Downtown Aquarium features these exhibits that let you see and interact with different animals in their natural environments.

  • Texas Bayou: You can encounter animals that call the Gulf Coast’s marshes and bayous home.
  • Shipwreck: This exhibit takes you to the 17th-century Spanish galleon where you can explore the sunken hull.
  • Rainforest: You can explore the rivers at the rainforest and encounter fascinating creatures like the red-bellied piranhas and venomous freshwater stingrays. 
  • Sunken Temple: Inspired by “El Dorado”, this exhibit is a replica of the lost civilization with equally intriguing animals.
  • Underwater Rig: Here, you get to witness the captivating marine life that surrounds offshore rigs.
  • Discovery Zone: You can engage with interactive monitors that allow you to explore coral reefs, the arctic seas, and the mysteries of the deep ocean.
  • Tigers of the Maharaja’s Temple: This exhibit transports you to the jungles of Rewa in central India and watch tigers lounging and playing in the ruins of the ancient temple.
  • Stingray Reef: At the Stingray Reef, you can touch and feed live stingrays. You get the chance to get up close and personal with them through the touch tanks. 

Go on a Ride 

If you’re an adrenaline junky like we are, then you’d be glad to know that the Downtown Museum also features these rides at the compound. 

  • Diving Bell Ferris Wheel: 100 feet into the sky, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the downtown Houston skyline from the Diving Bell Ferris Wheel. You can take in the city’s architectural wonders and capture stunning photographs.
  • Aqua Wheel: For the little ones who might be a little hesitant in riding the big Ferris Wheel, the Aqua Wheel is a mini Ferris wheel designed just for them. They can enjoy the excitement of going round and round without being too scared.
  • Aquatic Carousel: This aquatic-themed carousel lets you choose if you want to ride on the back of a dolphin or an alligator. This ride isn’t extreme so it’s perfect for little ones who aren’t ready for the big-boy rides.
  • Lighthouse Dive: Calling all adrenaline enthusiasts! On the Lighthouse Dive, you plunge 65 feet down while the skyline blurs by. This exhilarating drop will leave you with an unforgettable rush of excitement and maybe a hoarser voice. 
  • Frog Hopper: The Frog Hopper is the tamed version of the Lighthouse dive. It propels you 22 feet into the air and back down again again for a hoppin’ time. Both children and adults can enjoy this exciting ride. 

Play Some Games

Play Some Games
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

The Downtown Aquarium features several carnival-style games. You can step right up and take a chance to win exciting prizes in an atmosphere filled with laughter and excitement. 

They have everything from classic games of skill like ring toss, balloon darts, basketball shoot, or the timeless favorite, skee ball. With each game, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your precision, aim, and coordination. 

What sets the games at the Downtown Aquarium apart is the chance to win unique and eye-catching prizes. Where else can you walk away with a pink shark adorned with leopard spots? 

These one-of-a-kind prizes make for fantastic souvenirs and mementos of your visit.

Take a Ride on the Aquarium Train 

Take a Ride on the Aquarium Train
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

This charming train takes you on a journey around the entire location, offering panoramic views of the surroundings. 

This train ride takes you through an area where you can get an up-close encounter with a variety of shark species in a massive 200,000-gallon tank. 

You can watch these creatures in their natural habitat and gain a deeper appreciation of  their beauty and power. The Aquarium train gives you a convenient and enjoyable way to navigate the expansive grounds, so you don’t miss any of the sights and attractions.

Learn with the Family

Learn with the Family
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

The Downtown Aquarium is a fun place to be, but it can also be educational with these fun activities you can do there.

  • Marine Biologist for a Day: You can experience the life of a marine biologist as you get up close and personal with exotic species from the deep sea to the shallow reef. 
  • Animal Meet and Greets: Depending on the animal, you may have the chance to feed, touch, train, or even capture a memorable photograph. 
  • Zoologist for a Day: This program is designed for young animal enthusiasts who want to explore the world beyond fish. They can gain insight into the care and well-being of non-marine creatures.
  • Wild Dreams Overnight: This overnight adventure will take you to the rainforests of the world. You can learn about tigers, create crafts inspired by their natural habitat, go on a scavenger hunt, and sleep within inches of them.
  • Sea Safari Summer Camp: You can make the most of your summer with the Sea Safari Camp. Each week, they offer a unique theme so check the website for  their calendar of camp dates and also to secure your spot. 
  • Working on the Wild Side: This is geared towards teenagers with a passion for animals. This program teaches animal care, training, conservation, and the zoo/aquarium industry. 

Enroll Your Kids in a Class 

Preschool Classes

Preschool Classes
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 
  • Move & Groove! – Through songs, dance routines, and live animal encounters, young learners will discover how animals like fish, snakes, and birds, navigate their unique habitats. 
  • Spectacular Story Time – Preschoolers enjoy an animal-related story animatedly read by staff followed by a craft activity that connects to the story’s theme and a live animal meet and greet.
  • Something’s Fishy – Kids can learn about the basic anatomy of fish, the different body parts, and their functions through engaging games and activities. 

Classes for Grades 1 to 6

Classes for Grades 1 to 6
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 
  • Coral Communities – Kids get the chance to explore the vital role coral plays in supporting a vast array of sea creatures. They also get to understand the importance of coral conservation.
  • Rockin’ the Rainforest – The layers of rainforests, their unique characteristics, and the animals that inhabit them are taught to kids through hands-on experiences and encounters with rainforest creatures.
  • Crazy About Carnivores – Students can explore the distinct characteristics that set carnivores apart from other animal types. They will get the chance to observe and interact with live carnivores like tigers to deepen their understanding.
  • African Animals – Safari guides take the kids on an exploration of African animals and their habitats through games and interactive activities.
  • Radical Reptiles – Kids will be introduced to the world of reptiles with over 10,000 species of reptiles worldwide. They will discover the diverse habitats these creatures inhabit and get up close and personal with them.
  • If the Beak Fits – This program showcases different beak shapes and sizes. Through watching and touching different birds, students will gain an understanding of how different species have unique beak structures for survival. 
  • Stupendous Sharks – With around 440 known species of sharks, kids will discover the natural history of these fascinating creatures and explore their adaptations for survival in the ocean and how to contribute to shark conservation.
  • Web of Life – Participants can learn about food webs and the flow of energy from producers to consumers to decomposers. Working together, they will build a model of a rainforest food web.
  • Creatures of the Night – Kids can immerse themselves in the world of nocturnal animals in the and learn about the different behavioral patterns of diurnal,  crepuscular, and nocturnal animals through discussions and live encounters.

Classes for Grades 7 to 12 

Classes for Grades 7 to 12
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 
  • Training 101 – This program offers students a behind-the-scenes look at the crucial role of animal training. By watching demos and trying it out themselves, students will learn the basics of animal training and its importance.
  • Squidy Anatomy –  With approximately 300 species of squid in existence, students will explore these creatures’ body parts through a hands-on dissection led by an actual biologist. 
  • Where’d You Get Those Genes? – Students get introduced to genetics. Through activities using lab equipment, they will discover how slight genetic variations can impact an animal’s ability to survive and thrive in its environment. 
  • Physics of Flight – Students get to explore the principles of flight by conducting experiments and interacting with different birds. 
  • Fishy Anatomy – Kids will examine how fins facilitate swimming, the respiratory systems that allow fish to breathe underwater, and the differences in the body parts of male and female fish.
  • Life in the Gulf of Mexico – This program explores the diverse ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico. They’ll play with an interactive life-sized board game to explore the different habitats and species in the gulf. 

Sign Up for a Free Event

Sign Up for a Free Event
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

The Downtown Aquarium also hosts a plethora of special events throughout the year. Make sure you check their calendars if there are any you’re interested in before planning your visit. 

They have all sorts of events celebrating everything from holidays and animal related happenings to just plain good old fun times like our favorite salsa night where professional dancers offer free classes to participants. 

Celebrate a Special Event 

Ultimate Tiger Sleepover Birthday Party

Ultimate Tiger Sleepover Birthday Party
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

The birthday party guests will be treated to a delightful dinner, complete with party favors to make the celebration extra special. 

The highlight of the evening will be a magnificent white tiger birthday cake. Plus, each guest will receive a wristband for unlimited rides and a Wild Dreams T-shirt to commemorate the occasion. 

The evening will be filled with crafts, a scavenger hunt, and snacks to keep everyone entertained. A chef-cooked breakfast will be served in the morning, followed by a captivating live bird show. 

Bottom of the Sea Birthday Party Package

Bottom of the Sea Birthday Party Package
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

During the Bottom of the Sea Birthday Party package, guests will be taken on a guided tour of the Aquarium Adventure Exhibit, where children will have the opportunity to explore and discover the wonders of the ocean. 

Following the tour, a dinner with an ocean-themed birthday cake will be served at the restaurant before the guests are given All Day Adventure Passes for unlimited access to the Aquarium Adventure Exhibit, Stingray Reef, and the amusement rides.

Each child will be treated to a kid’s meal with a beverage to keep them energized and a plush keepsake to commemorate the celebration. 

Banquets and Meetings

Banquets and Meetings
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

The Nautilus Ballroom, on the third floor of the Downtown Aquarium is a venue that can accommodate a wide range of events, including corporate meetings, retirement parties, weddings, rehearsal dinners, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras, anniversaries, and birthdays.

It spans across 6,000-square-foot space seats 50 to 450 guests for a seated event, while a stand-up reception can accommodate up to 600 guests. 

Renting the venue comes with event coordinators, décor, audiovisuals, entertainment, and a fully customizable menu that features a diverse range of international and specialty cuisines to cater to every palate. 

Hit Up the Gift Shop 

Hit Up the Gift Shop
Image Source: Downtown Aquarium Website 

Before you end your visit to the Downtown Aquarium, make sure to visit the gift shop to grab a souvenir. 

This delightful store offers a wide array of aquatic-themed merchandise like apparel, plushies or stuffed animals, toys, and home décor inspired by marine life. 

Where to Stay When Visiting Houston’s Downtown Aquarium 

Lancaster Hotel

Address:  701 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Phone: +1 713-228-9500

Pricing: $$$

Book Now

The Lancaster Hotel is a renowned boutique hotel, nestled in the heart of the city’s popular Theater District and a stone’s throw away from the Downtown Aquarium. 

The Lancaster Hotel seamlessly blends artistry with sophistication  with over 200 masterpieces by celebrated contemporary Texas artists adorning its walls.

Having recently been honored as the top hotel in Houston by Conde Nast Readers, it has been providing unparalleled service and hospitality for a century since its establishment in the 1920s. This historic gem has welcomed a diverse array of guests.

With over 200 masterpieces by celebrated contemporary Texas artists adorning its walls, the Lancaster Hotel seamlessly blends artistry with sophistication.

C. Baldwin Curio by Hilton

Address: 400 Dallas St, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Phone: +1 713-759-0202

Pricing: $$$

Book Now

If you’re into more of a modern and upscale experience in downtown Houston, the C. Baldwin Curio by Hilton offers a sophisticated and stylish retreat. This boutique hotel features contemporary design elements. 

The hotel boasts a variety of dining options, including a vibrant lobby bar and a chic restaurant known for its innovative cuisine. You can unwind and rejuvenate at the hotel’s fitness center or just relax in the beautifully decorated lobby. 

Hotel ICON Autograph Collection

Address: 220 Main St, Houston, TX 77002, United States
Phone: +1 713-224-4266

Pricing: $$$

Book Now

Stepping into Hotel ICON is like entering a world from a differnt time. Housed in a landmark building dating back to 1911, this historic hotel seamlessly blends classic charm with modern amenities. 

The rooms reflect the same classic and timeless vibe of the hotel, but our favorite part is the built in bathtub. Nothing like a great soak after a long day! The hotel’s award-winning restaurant is known for its American cuisine and extensive wine options.

Westin Houston Downtown

Address: 1520 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Phone: +1 713-228-1520

Pricing: $$$

Book Now

The Westin Houston Downtown offers modern luxury at a prime location that’s a short distance to the Downtown Aquarium, as well as other popular attractions and entertainment venues in the downtown area. 

You can enjoy the panoramic city views available to each room or appreciate the skyline from the extensive rooftop pool like we love to do. This hotel also has one of the prettiest lounges we’ve seen with Asian architectural influences and live plants. 

JW Marriott Houston Downtown

Address: 806 Main St, Houston, TX 77002, United States
Phone: +1 713-237-1111

Pricing: $$$

Book Now

If you look for luxury and elegance in your hotels, the JW Marriott Houston Downtown is the perfect place to stay. This 4-star hotel blends modern sophistication with historic charm in a restored building from 1910. It also has a wide range of amenities for guests. 

Each guest room and suite is designed with contemporary furnishings and luxurious bedding for a truly wonderful stay. You can indulge in some good food at the hotel’s restaurant, state-of-the-art fitness center, and a full-service spa for ultimate relaxation. 

Where to Eat near Houston’s Downtown Aquarium 

Aquarium Restaurant

Address:  410 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002, United States
Phone: +1 713-315-5126

Pricing: $$


If you’re looking for a dining experience like no other, the Aquarium Restaurant. You can enjoy your meal surrounded by a mesmerizing 150,000-gallon aquarium, teeming with over 100 captivating species from across the globe. 

From seafood specialties to succulent steaks, chicken, fresh salads, and pasta dishes, the Aquarium Restaurant offers something for classic American dishes, but make sure you save room for their shrimp platter with grilled, fried, and enbrochette shrimp. 

Dive Lounge

Address: 3rd Floor of the Downtown Aquarium 

Phone: +1 713-223-3474

Pricing: $$


Located on the second floor, the Dive Lounge is an elegant and upscale bar where you can unwind and indulge. Whether you’re looking for a pre-dinner drink or a relaxing spot to retreat to after exploring the aquarium, this sophisticated lounge is the perfect setting. 

The lounge is still in theme with a column aquarium at the center of the spiral staircase and waterfalls inside. Their crafted cocktails, fine wines, and a wide selection of beverages are great too! Drop by during happy hour on weekdays from 3 to 7 pm. 

Diana American Grill

Address: Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002, United States
Phone: +1 713-315-2562

Pricing: $$$


Situated within the Downtown Aquarium, Diana American Grill offers a stylish space if you’re looking for a refined dining experience. This elegant restaurant takes pride in its spins on classic dishes, with a particular focus on steak, seafood, and pasta.

The portion sizes are notably big too, so you get your money’s worth. We recommend giving their Wagyu Beef Bolognese made with cavatappi pasta, parmesan, and dried herbs a try. For seafood, the scallop and shrimp mushroom risotto is a must-try. 

Kati Roll Wala

Address: 411 Smith St, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Phone: +1 713-405-1427

Pricing: $


For a taste of Indian street food with a modern twist, you can head to Kati Roll Wala. This vibrant eatery captures the essence of the bustling streets of India, serving up kati rolls and rice bowls bursting with flavors. 

You can sink your teeth into their wraps filled with marinated meats, spices, and fresh vegetables, all wrapped in warm paratha bread. You can try favorites like chicken tikka and lamb seekh kebab or vegetarian options like paneer tikka and aloo masala. 

Horu Sushi Kitchen

Address: 411 Smith St, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Phone: +1 972-846-4255

Pricing: $$


Calling all sushi enthusiasts! Horu Sushi Kitchen  is a haven for lovers of this Japanese delicacy. Horu Sushi Kitchen offers quality sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri served on a moving train. The restaurant focuses on freshness and presentation for their dishes. 

You can sample an array of traditional sushi dishes like California rolls and spicy tuna rolls or try new daring combinations that push the boundaries of flavor. Our favorite is definitely the Chef Steve roll made with spicy tuna, crab, jalapenos, and taro chips. 

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