When you think of large aquariums, you generally think of Atlanta, Monterey Bay, San Diego, and other coastal or semi-coastal spots. Now you can add the Valley of the Sun to the list thanks to OdySea Aquarium, which opened in fall 2016.

The 200,000 square foot facility hosts more than 10,000 animals in 2 million gallons of manufactured sea water. It doesn’t quite surpass the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium — although it beats the aquariums in most other cities — but considering the challenges of creating an aquarium in an inland desert, it might be more impressive.

Your journey starts in the Aqua Lobby, which features 9 world-first, 1,000-pound suspended globe aquariums. The spectacle only gets more impressive as you move on to other massive tanks that feature unique and beautiful fish from around the world, a tunnel that takes you through a replica of the Great Barrier Reef, an Underwater Escalator that leads to a tank brimming with sharks, touch pools that let you get up close with a range of sea life, recreations of river habitats from around the world and plenty more.

When you want something too look at besides fish, you can enjoy cute otters and penguins at Otter Banks and Penguin Point, respectively. The aquarium even boasts the Penguin Interaction Program that will let you personally interact with the penguins. Then watch the 3-D movie “Underwater Giants,” drop by Lighthouse Cafe for a meal and browse the OdySea Treasures Gift Shop.

For a real underwater adventure, OdySea Aquarium partnered with SeaTREK Helmet Diving. It allows you to don a wet suit and helmet, and embark on an hour-long underwater walking tour surrounded by colorful fish and other sea creatures. If you don’t want to get wet, the aquarium also offers behind-the-scene tours so you can see how the massive operation runs.

Location: 9500 Via De Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85256


Sunday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Admission: $34.95 adult, $29.95 students (13-17 or college ID), $24.95 children 3 to 12, free for children 2 and under $32.95 sensiors.

SeaTREK: $99.95

Behind the Scenes Tour: $29.95

Penguin Interaction Program: TBA

Note: To keep the facility from overcrowding, tickets are limited to a certain number per time slot. Buy your tickets well in advance, especially for weekends and holidays.

Website: http://www.odyseaaquarium.com

Get more nature next door with at Butterfly Wonderland. Combo tickets are available for both attractions.

– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org