At some point a few weeks ago, I stopped scanning local arts calendars looking for events and activities that were the most stimulating for Baby's now eleven-month-old brain and started looking for things with the best air conditioners. Hell hath no fury like an overheated infant, and so the criminally underappreciated Children's Aquarium at Fair Park met all our criteria for a summer cultural trip for Baby: It's cold; it's visually arresting; and there's a carefully rendered artistic interpretation of the Trinity River bottom that I'm going to go ahead and proclaim as art. It's art, ok? See how that works?
Really, though, this little oasis in Fair Park is a quaint alternative to the fancy Dallas World Aquarium downtown. It's way cheaper, and it's not as overwhelming for the under-2 set who need to get in and out before naptime. And if you can time it after all the field trips leave in mid-afternoon, it's a quiet place where the little one can take his or her time to appreciate all of the exhibits, most of which are at eye-level for optimum kiddo perusal.
I halfway expected that Baby would be detached from what was going on behind the glass in the exhibits, which are categorized by zones (Freshwater Zone, Intertidal Zone, Offshore Zone, etc.), but she was entirely captivated by the colors and movement of the aquatic life inside. The antics of albino alligators were good for a few giggles, but real fascination set in as we checked out angel fish, colorful red-bellied piranhas, creepy eels and vivid sea urchins.
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The real winners of the day were the stingrays and sharks. The tanks are in a covered patio area--which technically doesn't meet my air conditioner requirements--but Baby was so mesmerized by the giant fish that I made an exception. I sat her down in front of a pane of glass and watched her take it all in for nearly a half hour--a virtual attention-span eternity.
We were in and out of the Aquarium within about 90 minutes. It's not a big place, and it appears that a handful of exhibits are currently awaiting their inhabitants. But I was impressed by this little offshoot of the Dallas Zoo. It's easy to navigate, and for older kids there are plenty of interactive exhibits, including a daily feeding frenzy at 2:30 p.m.
We picked up an annual pass for $20, and I'm seeing frequent appointments with the stingrays in our future. And when it's not hot as blazes, the Fair Park setting is a great place to experience some of Dallas' finest architecture, outdoor spaces and museums.
The Children's Aquarium in Fair Park is open from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily, and admission is $8 per adult, $6 for children under 12 and is free for kids ages 2 and younger. Visit childrensaquariumfairpark.com.