The new 2 million-gallon OdySea Aquarium opened its doors Saturday September 3rd located just off Loop 101 and Via de Ventura in Scottsdale.
It’s the largest aquarium in the Southwest and can hold more than 10,000 visitors daily.
“The futuristic entertainment component of the OdySea Aquarium goes far beyond delivering a standard aquarium experience,” Amram Knishinsky, the aquarium’s founder, said in a press release. “It will offer experiential engagement like no other in the country.”
The exhibits begin with freshwater species like Siamese crocodiles, piranhas and Asian small-clawed otters.
About two dozen African penguins greet visitors before they descend into a shark tank via an escalator encased in an acrylic tube. Jellyfish, eels, crabs, sea horses and the giant Pacific octopus await at the bottom.
After a 3-D movie called “Underwater Giants” about humpback whales and whale sharks, the aquarium experience predictably ends at an expansive gift shop.
“We believe that we have built a center court that will act like the new Times Square: People will come and spend time with lots of activities,” said Amram Knishinsky, OdySea’s founder.
The aquarium also houses sharks, turtles, jellyfish, electric eels, stingrays, octopus, penguins and more.
In total, the facility will have more than 50 exhibits housing more than 30,000 individual animals across 500 species.
The state-of-the-art facility even has windows in the restroom so you can watch the shark exhibit while you wash your hands.
The aquarium also offers unique interactive experiences like large-scale exhibits, touch pools, a 3D theatre, and the SeaTREK experience, which puts visitors in the water for a guided tour walking along the “ocean floor.” The experience does not require you to know how to swim or have a diving certificate.
Food and beverages — including beer and wine — are available for purchase.
The OdySea Aquarium joins two other attractions that are already located in the same space: Butterfly Wonderland , OdySea Mirror Maze and a separately-owned swim-with-the-dolphins attraction that is set to open Sept. 17.
From fresh water to salt water, bayous to swamps and coral reefs to the ocean’s deep abyss, some of the diversified exhibits include:
Aqua Lobby: Upon entering, guests view nine massive globe aquariums suspended from the ceiling, each weighing 1,000 lbs. and filled with colorful schools of fish.
Rivers of the World: Grab your passport because you’re about to travel around the world! The first stop on this journey of a drop of water is a trip through the diverse Rivers of the World. You’ll get a glimpse at everything from yellow bellied freshwater turtles to fierce piranha to the behemoth alligator gar. Enjoy the variety of animals that inhabit the American and Rainforest rivers, interactive displays, and demonstrations.
Otter Banks: Extremely social with a vocabulary of over a dozen calls, there will never be a shortage of excited chatter going on at the Otter Banks. Watch as they wrestle, play, and demonstrate lively underwater acrobatics.
Touch Pool: The Tide Touch Pool is a thrilling and interactive way to examine marine life up close. At 37 feet long and holding over 2,000 gallons of water, this just may be the largest aquarium touch pool you’ve ever encountered!
Penguin Point: One of the most popular exhibits, this experience begins with animatronic characters (“Pip & Polly”) who answer important questions about penguins’ natural behaviors. Guests can observe the playful South African penguins and their agile and graceful swimming patterns through underwater portholes. In addition, a special “PIP” (Penguin Interaction Program) allows visitors to get up-close-and-personal with these happy penguins where photo opportunities are abundant.
Escalator to the Deep Ocean: Step onto our fully enclosed Deep Ocean Escalator and you’ll be transported through the Sharks of the Deep Exhibit. The first of its kind, this fully enclosed escalator draws you deeper and deeper into an underwater world where you’re completely surrounded by thousands of mysterious ocean creatures. On your ride, don’t miss the giant rays flying overhead, gliding like kites in the wind, or the whitetip reef sharks emerging from the shadows. See if you can spot our rescued sea turtles, all 8 shark species, and 3 different large schooling fish!
Reef Jewels: Get a closer look at some of our more unique reef inhabitants like the clownfish, scissortail chromis, banded butterflyfish and more. Learn do-it-yourself techniques from the giant jawfish, who will demonstrate that you don’t need a heavy duty shovel to dig an impressive hole and that a first-rate nursery already exists right inside of its own mouth!
Ocean Art: A martini glass-shaped aquarium is part of a living “art gallery” that features the peaceful painted anthias, seahorses, and thousands of sparkling tropical schooling fish.
3D Movie: Hosted by Salty, our savvy resident Sea Captain, this 10-minute state-of-the-art 3D film created by award-winning filmmakers MacGillivray Freeman takes you on a journey with ocean giants.
Gift Shop: OdySea Treasures is an appealing gift shop stocked with memorable keepsakes ranging from books and videos, to an assortment of tee shirts, art and aquarium-related merchandise.
Café: Offering locally sourced ingredients, an artisan pizza oven, and gourmet burgers, the menu at the Lighthouse Café will appeal to the tastes of all ages and palettes. The aquarium experience continues into the café with a stunning art exhibit and amazing aquatic views.
Event Space: Customized events, ranging from weddings and baby showers to cocktail receptions and corporate meetings, are available in both indoor and outdoor spaces–all amidst fascinating sea life. Other unique experiences, such as an underwater marriage, can also be arranged.
OdySea Foundation: The OdySea Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit entity administering all the educational programs and conservation of marine life.
Odysea in the Desert: This 35- acre, multi-million-dollar entertainment complex includes Butterfly Wonderland, the largest butterfly pavilion in the country, and the OdySea Mirror Maze. Debuting summer 2016 are the OdySea Aquarium and the Shops & Restaurants at OdySea, an open-air marketplace with innovative “themed” restaurants and retail stores centered around a bustling courtyard with lively stage performances.