When you think of Las Vegas, you might not picture kids connecting with nature. But we certainly do plenty of nature exploring whenever we visit.
In fact, one of the kids’ favorite places to play whenever we’re in Vegas is the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.
Turns out the Shark Reef isn’t just any aquarium. It’s North America’s only predator-based aquarium. The facility’s 14 exhibits feature some 100 sharks plus exotic fish, reptiles and sea turtles, a rare golden crocodile, piranha, plenty of jelly fish and rays, a touch pool experience and a 1.3 million gallon shark exhibit.
All this is presented with décor designed to make you feel as if you’ve been transformed into an ancient temple that is slowly sinking into the bottom of the ocean. The grand finale is a 360-degree view of the shark tank in surroundings designed to replicate the inside of a sunken ship.
Our Notes from the Field
Exhibits are arranged along a more-or-less one-way path that eventually leads you to the final huge shark tank. Big hits with both kids during our 45-minute visit included the golden crocodile, Kimodo dragon, the rays (always a hit no matter where we go), the jellyfish, the touch pool experience, and of course, the sharks in the 360-degree “shipwreck” tank (sorry, too dark for pictures!), where we ogled at shark rays.
I must admit that we enjoyed this place a lot more before the kids turned 5. That’s because kids 4 and under get in for free, while kids 5 and up cost $11. Add to that the $17 entry fee per adult and the fact that the Aquarium only offers about an hours’ worth of entertainment, and things get pricey fast.
- Open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last admission one hour prior to closure)
- Admission is $16.95 for adults, $10.95 for children ages 5 through 12, children 4 and under are free
- A free audio tour is provided (via wand), but even the 5-½ year old was only mildly interested
- The Aquarium has two sets of restrooms (one even has a changing table!)
- The facilities are stroller-friendly, though you’ll need to use the elevator to enter & exit
- Food & drinks are not available or permitted within the Shark Reef Aquarium, so plan your visit accordingly
- Beware of the exit – it’s through the Aquarium’s gift shop!
My Tips for a Great Visit
- If you’re taking young kids, skip the audio tour and let the kids wander at their own pace. The 5 ½ year old was only mildly interested in listening to the voice coming out of the wand – and he’s a nature enthusiast.
- Play “I spy” using the Aquarium “Passport” to guide your search. This free, 20-page full color booklet is the perfect size for little kids. It’s divided up by sections with several animals pictured on each page, making it perfect for “I spy.”
The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay is located at:
3950 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
This review is based on my family’s personal experience. I did receive any compensation for sharing my opinions. If you have any questions, read our full disclosure policy
* This post originally appeared on GoExploreNature.com.