Located in Bloomington, Minnesota within the Mall of America, Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium is a marine wildlife aquarium featuring a 1.2-million-gallon aquarium tank containing thousands of marine animals, including sharks, stingrays, octopuses, sea turtles, and a variety of freshwater fish native to the United States.
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The Mall of America was opened in 1992, designed by architectural firm Triple Five Group, a subsidiary group of Canada’s Ghermezian brothers architects. As the largest mall in the United States by area space, the mall is host to more than 42 million annual visitors and features more than 500 retail stores, restaurants, and attractions, including the Nickelodeon Universe theme park, Crayola Experience museum, and FlyOver America flying ride. The history of aquariums at the Mall of America dates back to 1996, when the mall’s original Underwater World aquarium was opened to the public. In 2000, the aquarium was remodeled and reopened to the public as the Underwater Adventures Aquarium, and in 2008, the facility was acquired by the Merlin Entertainment group, which rebranded it as one of its chain of Sea Life Centres in 2011. As part of the branding transition, several new exhibit areas were opened, including a touch pool exhibit and the most comprehensive jellyfish exhibit at any aquarium in the world. A rainforest habitat was added to the facility in 2012, and in 2016, a new shark exhibit with a focus on conservation was opened.
Permanent Exhibits and Animals
Today, the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium is home to more than 4,500 marine creatures, including collections of sharks, stingrays, octopuses, sea turtles, and freshwater fish from a variety of habitats throughout the northern United States. The aquarium contains more than 1.2 million gallons of underwater exhibit space, including a 300-foot underwater tunnel that allows visitors to travel underneath animal habitats for up-close observation.
Upon entering the aquarium, visitors enter the Stingray Adventure exhibit area, which features the Pacific Northwest Rockpool touch tide pool, where young visitors can touch sea cucumbers, fish-eating anemones, and leather sea stars. At Ray Lagoon, visitors can experience a simulated shipwreck exhibit and feed cownose and southern stingrays and shovelnose guitarfish within the exhibit’s 15,000-gallon ray pool.
The aquarium’s Jellyfish Discovery exhibit, the largest exhibit of its kind anywhere in the world, offers dioramas and displays with jellyfish facts and trivia and showcases moon, lagoon, spotted, cone, and blue blubber jellyfish and Pacific sea nettles. At the Seahorse Kingdom exhibit, six varieties of seahorses are highlighted, including lined seahorses, broadnose pipefish, and potbelly seahorses. Pregnant seahorse fathers are also showcased as part of the aquarium’s seahorse breeding conservation program. Clownfish and blue regal tang fish, popularized as the stars of the Finding Nemo film franchise, are also displayed at the Coral Caves exhibit.
The aquarium’s 300-foot underwater tunnel travels through four exhibit areas, including the Shark Cove exhibit, which showcases sandtiger sharks, green sawfish, and loggerhead sea turtles. The Rainbow Reef exhibit area is a sanctuary for coral reefs, serving as a habitat for puffer fish and schooling stingrays, and the Sturgeon Lake exhibit highlights native Minnesota freshwater fish such as alligator gar, large mouth bass, and muskellunge. At the end of the tunnel, the Mysteries of the Rainforest habitat is home to a variety of reptile and amphibian species, including spectacled caiman, red-bellied piranhas, and poison dart frogs.
Ongoing Programs and Events
A variety of ticket discount packages are offered for general admission tickets, including annual aquarium passes and combination tickets offering admission to both the aquarium and the Mall’s Nickelodeon Universe area. Group tours of the aquarium are offered for school groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students. A Homeschool Week program is also offered for homeschool students, featuring a variety of nature- and science-themed workshops and activities. Teachers-only discounts and professional development opportunities are also offered periodically.
A 45-minute Behind the Scenes tour program is presented for an additional fee, taking visitors through the aquarium’s food preparation kitchen, research laboratory, and over the top of several aquarium tank areas to get as close to the animals as possible. A Snorkeling with the Fish experience is also offered to the public, allowing visitors over the age of nine to get into the water with more than 75 marine species during hourlong snorkeling excursions. Groups may also book Sleeping Under the Sea overnight adventures, which offer a pizza party, group breakfast, and behind-the-scenes activities. Birthday party packages are offered for young visitors, and facility rental may be scheduled for private special events such as weddings and proposals.
120 E Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425, Phone: 952-853-0612