Las Vegas is, in the opinion of most, America’s chief entertainment hub. The city boasts captivating neon signs and advert screens, lush sidewalks and stores, and most importantly, an assortment of venues and locations that serve a variety of entertainment, business, and commercial purposes. Hosting many attractions like Caesar’s Village, Tivoli Gardens, the famous Vegas strip, New York Hotel and Casino, and the Bellagio, the city boasts tons of beautiful places to visit.
One thing that people get wrong, however, is the idea that Las Vegas’ entertainment options are only limited to mature activities like gambling, concerts, and clubbing. There are actually a lot of child-friendly activities to be enjoyed in the city of lights. In the following paragraphs, you are going to find out the history of the Shark Reef Aquarium, discover the best exhibits in the facility, and read a few tips on how to make great memories out of a visit to the aquarium.
First, Some Background
Mandalay Bay serves as the aquarium’s location and was established in March of 1999. Described by its management as a “luxury resort and casino”, it sits on the Vegas Strip – an area that is chock full of prime, coveted real estate.
Mandalay Bay is managed by MGM Resorts International and owned by MGM Growth Properties and The Blackstone Group. Importantly, there are other independent establishments within Mandalay Bay’s many towers. In that regard, the Four Seasons Hotel operates within Mandalay Bay’s main tower, occupying floors 35-39. The Delano, another luxury hotel, occupies one of the towers on the property.
The actual Mandalay Bay hotel has over 3,200 rooms, a 135,000-square-foot casino, a 2,000,000-square-foot convention center, and 24 elevators for easy transportation to its 43 floors.
Aside from Shark Reef, the hotel hosts other popular attractions including the Mandalay Bay Events Center and the House of Blues. There are also a number of fine-dining restaurants including Aureole, Red Square, Stripsteak, Fleur by Hubert Keller, and Border Grill Las Vegas.
A Short Refresher on Shark Reef
Shark Reef is a public aquarium owned by the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and located in its main tower. A spectacle of aquatic vastness, beauty, and diversity, the facility holds more than 2,000 aquatic and non-aquatic animal species including giant manta rays, green sea turtles, sharks, octopi, and more. It also prides itself on its concentration of exotic sharks and other large animals.
Already used to breaking records, the main tank at Shark Reef has a capacity of a whopping 4.9 million liters, making it one of the largest in the continent. The facility as a whole covers 95,000 square feet of space and houses a variety of sharks, rays, marine invertebrates, and even reptiles.
The aquarium was opened to the public, following months of construction hiccups, on June 20, 2000. at a cost of roughly $40 million. As part of Mandalay Bay’s insistence on building the best possible home for the animals that would live there, officials from the Vancouver Aquarium were brought in as consultants on the project.
Exhibits and Attractions
Shark Reef has more than 16 exhibits, each showing a different animal. With upbeat names like Caribbean Reef, Jungle, Temple, Moon Jellies, Burmese Pythons (yes, there are snakes too), Elasmobranch, and Touchpool, these tanks are something to behold. Each of these exhibits, aside from housing different animal species, are built in such a way that visitors can experience them differently both in a visual and auditory way. The aquarium has since replaced the signage and audio wands on each exhibit with vibrant, interactive touchscreens in order to provide visitors with even more information on the animals.
Dive With Sharks Program
Shark Reef is one of the only aquariums in the country to provide users with the ultimate, immersive (literally) diving experience. Here, visitors, alongside trained dive guides, are treated to a comprehensive tour of the aquarium and finally, a dive into the large shark tank. There is a wide selection of shark species to experience including Sand Tiger Sharks, White Tip Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks.
Animal Encounters Program
Expertly crafted to appeal to your love for animals, this program places you close to the animals where you can watch and even feed them. Through a touch pool, adults and kids can reach in and feed horseshoe crabs, stingrays, krill, and shrimp.
For those looking for more thrill, the program takes it up a notch with the Shark Feed section. Visitors can stand alongside in-house aquarists and learn visually how the sharks eat, how the food is prepared, and how it is made available to the animals. If you are a big shark lover, these ones for you.
Tips For Visiting Shark Reef
- First of all, note that all animal encounter programs are temporarily closed to the public (due to COVID-19).
- Wear grippy shoes to avoid slipping as some of the floor areas can get wet.
- For the safety of the animals, make sure to stow away your sunglasses, bracelets, and other loose accessories.
- Eat properly before heading to the aquarium, as food and beverages aren’t permitted.
What’s the Price of Admission?
General admission tickets for children (aged between 4-12) are $14. For visitors above 12 years old, tickets are around $20. Admission for a family of four starts at $68
Is There an Annual Ticket/Pass?
Yes, in fact. The annual pass costs $50 per adult and $30 per child (4-12). Infants under the age of 3 get free entry. This pass allows unlimited entry into the aquarium, but, some other attractions come at an added cost.