Sea Life Aquarium in Tempe Makes a Big Splash

Categories: Fun

This poisonous lionfish is no coward.
When locals heard that Sea Life aquarium would replace the Hi-Health store at Arizona Mills Mall, everyone balked. Especially when it was revealed that the attraction, owned by British entertainment company Merlin Entertainment Group, would receive major tax breaks.

Apparently that didn't stop locals from checking out the aquarium. The mall was packed at the Mid-May opening, and even now -- weeks later -- lines for Sea Life still run outside and around the building. At least they were nice enough to install misters and shades. (Tip: Buy your tickets one day in advance online or at the Sea Life kiosk in the food court and you'll skip the line.)

So was the aquarium good enough to warrant long lines and an $18.50 price tag? Find out after the jump. 

Is this stingray smiling, or trying to eat us? You decide.
Despite the mall digs, Sea Life turned out to be surprisingly large and impressive. It took nearly an hour just to navigate through the aquarium's exhibits, which ranged from touchable starfish tanks to a bay of stingrays with a crow's nest observatory platform above.

Everything is decorated in a kitschy sea theme, from the wood plank drop ceilings to tropical themed exhibits with faux palm trees.

Go under the sea in a bubble dome.
The Pros

  • Get Tanked: With over 5,000 sea creatures and 30+ tanks, there's no shortage of displays here. The giant octopus, stingrays, seahorses and sharks were the highlights.

  • The Revolving Door: Have your hand stamped at the ticket counter and you can come in and out as you please the whole day for no additional cost.

  • Brain Food: Educational talks on stingrays, sharks or reef life every hour.

  • Be a Flasher: Scrapbook photos! Sea Life allows photography, though you'lll have to leave the flash off for the giant octopus and a few other creatures that can be damaged by the bright light.

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