Spring officially ends Thursday, which means there will be a quick transition from when the sun leaves a pleasant feeling on the shoulders to when its oppressive waves sear them brick red. For the next few months, indoors is the place to be, but staring at the same four walls can be as suffocating as the heat index outside. Leaving the air conditioning takes chutzpah when it involves crossing a blistering parking lot just to enter a car that's like an oven on wheels.
However, the Dallas World Aquarium is a welcome relief from the sun-drenched city. Both expansive and climate-controlled, the aquarium devotes several stories and untold gallons of fresh and salt water to accommodate the animal habitats and foliage in its simulated rainforest and adjacent fish tanks. The water-induced alleviation is worth the price of admission, which is about equal to the cost of a movie and Milk Duds. The aquarium doesn't provide empty calories, though--it helps the ticket holder burn them, guiding one through the rainforest section on winding paths that mingle baby buggies with colorful toucans among the bamboo. A waterfall plunges through its heart and enters a pool containing Manati and Ayurami, the two manatee that laze about with turtles, stingrays and big ol' bass. A jaguar, a crocodile, howler monkeys and other simians of varying cuteness and hairstyles are also star attractions. The vampire bats are pretty darn cool, the exotic birds are beautiful, and the guy in the scuba gear cleaning the tank was an interesting anomaly, looking klutzy among more graceful (albeit confined) creatures.
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Back out in the heat beyond the gift shop, toddling penguins play it smart and stay in the shade of their rocky home while enjoying a water-jet propelled current. Fortunately, they come from South Africa and are accustomed to a climate similar to that of Dallas. Lucky them.