Whether you seek the thrill of walking through a tunnel under a shark tank, the shiver of touching the slippery back of a cownose ray or the calm that washes over you in front of a glowing tank of comb jellies, there’s a Texas aquarium for you. Check out these five favorite fishy attractions sprinkled throughout the state: one is a working fish hatchery, one is a downtown restaurant, and all are perfect for a rainy day — or any day at all.
Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi
The Texas State Aquarium is one of the largest in the nation, home to nearly 13,000 animals representing over 460 species. The expansive Caribbean Journey exhibit is a colorful celebration of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a biodiverse region off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The exhibit includes a jungle, a shark tank and several vibrant coral reef tanks. Meet Gina, the two-toed sloth, an adorable mascot. Much of the ticket money goes to research and rehabilitation, including the rescue of more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles this winter.
Sea Center Texas, Lake Jackson
Begin your Sea Center Texas tour on a boardwalk stretching over native salt marsh, home to blue crabs, hermit crabs and more. Inside the aquarium, see a coastal bay habitat, a barnacle-encrusted jetty, an artificial reef and the 50,000-gallon open Gulf exhibit, home to tarpon, red drum, cobia and three nurse sharks. Sea Center Texas is also a saltwater fish hatchery, where TPWD biologists raise redfish, spotted sea trout and southern flounder.
Moody Gardens Aquarium, Galveston
The iconic glass pyramid beckons visitors to the newly renovated Moody Gardens Aquarium to learn about the biodiversity surrounding Gulf oil rigs in the two-story central exhibit. Animal husbandry manager Greg Whittaker recommends checking out the most varied exhibit of penguins in the state, including cold-weather penguins from the sub-Antarctic and their sun-loving cousins hailing from near the equator. A conservation lab, with a storefront window and a speaker system, shows visitors the inner workings of Moody Gardens’ science research.
Downtown Aquarium, Houston
Houston’s Downtown Aquarium offers a full-day, dine-in entertainment experience. Take a train through a shark exhibit, eat a seafood dinner (surrounded by, well … seafood), ride a Ferris wheel or an aquatic-themed carousel, or simply admire the collection of over 200 saltwater and freshwater species from around the globe. Exhibits showcase the Louisiana swamp, shipwreck reefs and the aquarium’s special residents: four majestic white tigers.
Dallas World Aquarium, Dallas
Dallas’ historic downtown seems an unlikely place to encounter an electric eel or a three-toed sloth, but the Dallas World Aquarium offers a combination of zoo animals and marine and freshwater creatures. Multi-story, immersive exhibits highlight the Orinoco rainforest and ocean ecosystems from all corners of the globe. The shark tunnel takes visitors beneath a 20,000-gallon tank of Indo-Pacific fishes, sawfish and hammerheads and the smiling mouths of stingrays. The aquarium is part of a cooperative breeding program with zoos around the country dedicated to preserving threatened or endangered species.