The Denver Aquarium is a Must-See For Families and Kids of All Ages

Denver Aquarium

The Downtown Aquarium in Denver, Colorado is a unique and fascinating destination that combines the wonders of aquatic life with dining and entertainment. Located at the intersection of I-25 and 23rd Ave, this impressive facility spans 107,000 square feet on a 17-acre site along the South Platte River.

History and Ownership

The aquarium first opened its doors on June 21, 1999, under the name “Colorado’s Ocean Journey”. Founded by Bill Fleming and Judy Petersen Fleming as a nonprofit, it was initially funded by a $57 million bond loan and loans from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a total cost of $93 million.

Despite earning accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the aquarium struggled financially and filed for bankruptcy in April 2002 with a $62.5 million debt. In March 2003, Landry’s Restaurants, Inc. purchased the facility for $13.6 million and, after a brief renovation in 2005, reopened it as the Downtown Aquarium.

Exhibits and Animals

Denver Downtown Aquarium offers a variety of exhibits and attractions:

  1. Colorado River Journey: This exhibit showcases native species like endangered desert pupfish, gamefish such as bass, and North American river otters. It culminates in a large exhibit representing the Sea of Cortez, where the Colorado River ends.
  2. Indonesia River Journey: This exhibit features exotic species like Asian arowanas, rainbowfish, and even endangered Sumatran tigers. It concludes with a massive southern Pacific Ocean exhibit.
  3. Stingray Reef touch tank: Visitors can interact with and feed the stingrays at this popular exhibit. It’s located at the end of the aquarium tour, just before the gift shop and restaurant.
  4. Horseshoe crab touch tank: Another interactive experience where visitors can get up close to these fascinating creatures.
  5. Sea otter exhibit: The aquarium is home to a large sea otter exhibit.
  6. Flash Flood Experience: An immersive exhibit simulating a flash flood that occurs in slot canyons, designed to educate visitors about this natural phenomenon.
  7. Aquarium Restaurant: A unique dining experience featuring a 150,000-gallon marine aquarium for diners to enjoy.
  8. Dive Lounge: An upscale bar within the complex.
  9. Nautilus Ballroom: A fully equipped ballroom for events.
  10. 4D Theater: Visitors can purchase combo tickets that include admission to the aquarium’s 4D theater.

Overall, the Downtown Aquarium houses over 500 species of animals in more than a million gallons of underwater exhibits, highlighting fascinating ecosystems from around the world.

Conservation and Education

The Downtown Aquarium is committed to conservation, housing 12 species of endangered or threatened fish, six reptile species, two mammal species, and two bird species. It also participates in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan for Sumatran tigers.

Education is another key focus, with the aquarium offering a volunteer program through the Deep Blue Sea Foundation, a nonprofit formed after Landry’s purchase to ensure the original aquarium’s educational goals were met. The facility also hosts periodic educational seminars.

Dining and Entertainment

One of the unique features of the Downtown Aquarium is its full-service restaurant, bar, and ballroom, which were added during the 2005 renovations under Landry’s ownership. The restaurant area even includes a 150,000-gallon marine aquarium for diners to enjoy.

Visitor Information

The Downtown Aquarium is open daily, with hours varying by season. Admission prices range from $21.99 for children to $27.99 for adults, with discounts available for seniors, military, and groups. Visitors can also purchase combo tickets that include admission to the aquarium’s 4D theater.

Parking is available on-site for a fee, and the aquarium is accessible via public transportation, with the nearest light rail station just a short walk away.

In conclusion, the Downtown Aquarium in Denver offers a unique blend of aquatic wonder, dining, and entertainment that makes it a must-see destination for locals and tourists alike. With its commitment to conservation, education, and providing an unforgettable visitor experience, this remarkable facility continues to delight and inspire all who pass through its doors.