Jun 11 2012
Since Mall of America opened 20 years ago, an aquarium beneath the mall’s east side has been one of its entertainment anchors. Originally known as Underwater Adventures, the aquarium underwent a name change and transformation about a year ago and now is one of a handful of Sea Life Aquariums around the United States.
We had visited Underwater Adventures a few times when our kids were younger, and were mostly underwhelmed with daily visits, although we found their educational programs to be well-done when we attended a special event. The moving walkway was a novelty, but it made it difficult to stop and look at specific things in the aquarium tunnel, and visits were often completed in 30 minutes or so.
I am happy to report that I see the changes at Sea Life Aquarium to be mostly positive. For those who have been to Underwater Adventures, these are the things you’ll find to be different:
- The order of your journey through the aquarium is reversed. Visits now begin at the touch pools and end after going through the tunnel and up the winding ramp.
- The winding ramp is now known as Mysteries of the Rainforest. It previously had a Minnesota theme.
- The moving walkway through the tunnel is gone, allowing you to move at your own pace.
- A scavenger hunt “quiz trail” keeps kids engaged.
Old favorites are there as well:
- The jellyfish (my favorites).
- The tunnel where you can have a shark swim over the top of you.
- The opportunity to touch various sea creatures (though now just tidepool creatures, not sharks).
We spent about an hour going through the aquarium on a quiet summer Monday morning, looking at everything from the eels and an octopus to corals and sea horses and frogs.
My children enjoyed the Quiz Trail, although some of the questions prompted a look at the “fin facts” for a clue when there were no fin facts to be found in that area.
They viewed the rays from the overlook area and looked at the caiman at both below-water and above-water vantage points.
They were more impressed with Sea Life Aquarium than they had ever been with Underwater Adventures.
A few notes of caution, however:
- I had been shown around the aquarium by a Sea Life representative earlier in the spring, on a busy day with both school groups and families there, and it was very crowded and loud. If you go, try to figure out a quiet time (first thing in the morning or later in the evening, avoid school holidays) so that you’ll be able to move more freely throughout the tunnel and other areas of the aquarium.
- Explore your ticket options before you go. Walkup prices currently range from $17 for kids to $22 for adults. You can save money by buying tickets online ahead of time or buying a combo ticket. There are often coupons to be found around town, so keep your eyes open for them. The good news is that admission is for a full day, so you can walk through a few times if you’re spending the whole day at Mall of America. Memberships are also available if you’d like to visit more frequently.
Overall, we found the Sea Life renovations to be an improvement over Underwater Adventures and my children enjoyed our visit. Merlin Entertainment, the owner of the Sea Life as well as Legoland (in both Florida and California) and Madame Tussauds, generally adds a new attraction each year, so repeat visitors should be able to see something new at the aquarium annually.
Have you been to Sea Life Aquarium, either in Minnesota or one of its other locations? What did you think?
Disclosure: Our family was provided with complimentary admission in order to review Sea Life Minnesota.