Weekend road trip: Enjoy a window into local marine life at Seattle Aquarium

A diver swims inside the 120,000-gallon Window on Washington Waters tank at the Seattle Aquarium during a presentation by aquarium staff. (Photos by Doug Petrowski)

The Seattle Aquarium, located on Pier 56 of the iconic Seattle waterfront, has been a popular destination for locals and tourists to the area since its opening in 1977. In 2007 the aquarium completed a $41 million renovation and is hoping to soon put into motion a $113 million expansion that could be open to the public as soon as 2023.

Is the Seattle Aquarium worthy of a visit today in its current configuration? Judging from the number of enthusiastic visitors on a recent Sunday afternoon, the answer is undoubtedly yes.

The aquarium consists of six major exhibits: Window on Washington Waters, Life of the Edge, Tropical Pacific, the Underwater Dome, Birds & Shores and Marine Mammals; the first four are located inside while the latter two are outside but under cover (still, bring a jacket on chilly days).

The Window on Washington Waters 120,000-gallon exhibit is an impressive eye-opener to begin one’s trek through the attraction. Be sure to catch the Diver Show as a scuba diver enters the tank and interacts with aquarium visitors three times a day (four on weekends), answering questions through a special speaker system and pointing out specific fish in the exhibit.

: The Life on the Edge exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium includes tide pools meant for reaching into and touching the marine life.

The Life on the Edge exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to see marine life of the region up close, including jellyfish in a unique ring tank and a pair of local octopuses. There are also tidal pool exhibits that invite visitors to touch the sea stars, hermit crabs, sea urchins and sea cucumbers found in such habitat.

The Tropic Pacific exhibit houses a large collection of fresh water fish and sea creatures, including the trumpetfish.

The Tropic Pacific exhibit sends visitors deep into the life of a Pacific Ocean coral reef. The 25,000-gallon community tank contains a wide array of warm-water fish — puffers, tangs, triggerfish and more — while smaller displays give a more intimate look into the world around a reef. (Don’t miss the seahorses!)

The Underwater Dome gives visitors a unique look at the gigantic 400,000-gallon tank at the Seattle Aquarium.

The Underwater Dome is one of the highlights of the attraction; visitors get a 360-degree experience beneath a 400,000-gallon tank, the largest at the Seattle Aquarium. Inside the tank are a large collection of Puget Sound marine life, including salmon, lingcod, sturgeon, rockfish and dogfish sharks.

Seals, otters and birds can be observed in the upper level of the aquarium’s outdoor exhibits. The harbor seals and sea otters are quite popular; aquarium staff host three daily talks to teach visitors more about these frisky mammals.

A sea otter frolics in the Marine Mammals exhibit of the Seattle Aquarium.

While the Seattle Aquarium presents much for visitors to see and do, walking through the entire attraction can be done in just a couple of hours, giving visitors a chance to check out the gift shop or upper-floor cafe. And with no parking onsite, travelers can use the extra time to hunt for parking on the ever-changing Seattle waterfront.

A Tufted Puffin enjoys the waters of the Birds & Shores exhibit.

Seattle Aquarium

Address: located on Pier 56 on the Seattle waterfront; 1483 Alaskan Way

Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. (last entry into the aquarium is at 5 p.m.)

Admission: $34.95 for adults age 13 and older; $24.95 for youth ages 4 to 12 (Washington state residents get a $5 discount from admission prices, seniors age 65 and older, persons with disabilities, active military and tickets purchased online get a $2 discount); children ages 3 and younger are free

— By Doug Petrowski

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