The Downtown Aquarium in Denver is a great place for families and kids with interactive exhibits and lots of hands-on activities. The Downtown Aquarium is a triple-concept venue: There’s an aquarium, a hotel, and, just recently opened in March 2009, a brewery.
The Downtown Aquarium sits right on the Denver River in downtown Denver. There are three entrances to the building: One faces the river where you can watch boats go by; one at 16th Street Mall where you can take the stairs or elevator down from street level to the aquarium; and another entrance at Platte Street which comes out into their restaurant/bar area overlooking the tanks. Each tank has its own exhibit details about where it came from and why that type of fish lives there (climate change, pollution). There is also some information about each exhibit along with models of animals already extinct.
Each tank has a different theme: Colorado River, Tropical Rainforest, Rocky Mountain Habitats (mountains and caves), Desert Boneyard (the eastern portion of the state), Aquatic Playground (younger kids play area with an island to climb on), and the Shark Lagoon where you can feed blacktip reef sharks through viewing windows in a cave-like room that is only one-foot thick glass! A few days before we went to the aquarium, I had read on their website that they were reopening their tanks due to increased algae growth from river flooding so I was concerned about what we would see when we got there but it turned out okay; some of the plants had just started growing back again.
The shark lagoon cave room is a big hit with kids and adults alike. I’ve seen sharks in an aquarium before (Baltimore) but they never had the windows that you can watch them through. These sharks, blacktip reef sharks, usually grow to be 3 1/2-4 feet long but these ones are around 2 feet long so were probably born there a little while ago. It’s easy to see how people would get too close – it’s so dark inside the cave and hard to tell where the glass ends even if you’re not looking through your camera! But don’t worry, there are signs all over saying “20-foot safety barrier” so at least we know their job is on the line if something happens 🙂
I especially liked the desert exhibit that included a small snake, tarantulas, and scorpions. It was interesting to see how they protect themselves from extreme weather conditions (cold in winter).
It’s also great to go into between exhibits since it’s like traveling through different ecosystems without any of the hassles! There is an elevator inside to take you up several floors where there are more displays and you can watch their aquarium life video. Our favorite part seems to be the feeding times for alligators, sharks & stingrays. There is a sign posted in front of each tank stating when they will feed them. Since we didn’t have time to stick around and wait, I think we just happened upon one feeding because we happened to come across a big crowd watching them feed the stingrays. Stingrays are fascinating because they don’t have brains!