We were able to take another look at OdySea and was really happy to see their improvements!
Driving to OdySea Aquarium is about an hour drive (with no Traffic) from Surprise. Located right off Loop 101 on Via de Ventura Blvd, it has easy access to the highway.
Unfortunately as of the writing of this post, Google Maps does not have the complex on the map, but should be updated soon.
It had been a while since we had been over in this direction, and it sure had been built up a lot since we had last been over! The Butterfly Wonderland exhibit I thought was huge before, but the new aquarium dwarfs it in comparison. The OdySea Mirror Maze and Laser Maze is also still at this location as well. Polar Play and a host of other restaurants-Johnny Rockets, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Nektar Juice Bar, Modern Grove, Carousel Arcade, El Encanta Restauraunt, Frozen Penguin Ice cream sandwiches, It’s Sugar, Arizona Territory Trading post and Four Peaks Mining will be joining this complex soon.
The parking lot that we were directed to was off of Dobson (so East Via de Ventura and take a left on Dobson and a left into the parking lot. I have heard that there were a lot of parking issues the first week that it was opened, and hopefully more parking areas will be developed as they expand the area and add in more features.
The complex where OdySea is a large circle. We had semi close parking, and as you can see, its a bit of a walk. The parking area where we were directed is on the far side from the aquarium. There is not too much parking close to the aquarium.
A view of the whole complex when we were on the second floor. It is very much an outdoor area. The grass in the middle was fake with a small stage like structure and shading. There was music playing. There was also seating all around, and on each one of the large water feature was a bench. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have outdoor music/entertainment at some point.
The entrance to OdySea is on the bottom level, and facing in towards the center of the circle.
Lots of stanchions for the lines, but luckily there wasn’t much going on when we visited!
This sign stated that there was filming going on. After reading the press release I was given, it said that there was a live camera feed for guests to extend their viewing of the shark’s activities at home. As of the writing of this post, it is not in operation. As you enter, you get your wristband scanned and you pose in front of a green screen for souvenir photos. The staff was very polite.
This was the main entrance lobby with the water orbs that were aquariums. They each weigh 1000lbs! There was also the desk for questions.
We went to the bathroom quickly (it’s an hour drive!) and we were told this bathroom was pretty amazing.
Right above the sink was this really cool view of the shark tanks! (yes, only above the sinks, not while your in your stall!).
So, here’s where I think where there was a miss with the restroom situation. The first floor restrooms had maybe 10 stalls in the women’s restroom. And, only one family restroom. I didn’t see a changing table/station in the one of the first floor women’s bathrooms, and I checked every stall. And, there was just one family restroom per area. They had the changing station in the family restrooms, but not in the regular restrooms. Also, under the OdySea Aquarium’s FAQs there is a question about nursing areas, and they point to the family restroom (or you can contact the Guest Relations Specialist…). All there was in the family restroom I went into was one toilet. Big, big, big miss on this.
Also, don’t bring double strollers as they are not allowed. Strollers in general are going to be hard since the elevators are pretty small, but they are right by every escalator.
It’s a very tall escalator, and Giggles was a little uncertain. There was a sign by the escalator about no sandals, no bare feet,no strollers and some other no nos (I was wearing sandals!), but I didn’t catch them all. Usual esclator protocol, I’m sure.
The first exhibit we came across when we reached the top was Rivers of the World. There were some great displays.
Signage has greatly improved and now there are signs at each tank of what you are viewing! YAY!!
The Rivers area had the most information, and it had beautiful videos with different rivers and information.
There were some interactive elements but we didn’t really try them.
I was happy to see that they added a lot of step ups for the little ones! It made a huge difference in the enjoyment factor for Giggles!
Those are BIG!!
This is StingRay Bay where people can also do the Seatrek (you go underwater with a helmet on that weighs you down, it kind of looks like a snork if you remember those) and you can interact with the animals. It also looks like you will be on a “stage” so, be prepared to be watched by lots of people!
Here is where you can walk up and touch the Sting Rays.
When the Stingrays go up on the ledge, you can feel them as they swim by. It’s only a few inches deep at this point, but then it drops off about 15′ feet at least, as this is where the people go on the SeaTrek (closer look). You can also see the Stingrays from a different angle before you get to this point.
There is a hand washing station as well, and there were stools this time!
Right near the Stingrays was more creatures to touch. There were star fish and some mollusks (I think-I need more marine biology in my life). There were staff members at each station to make sure that the animals were being treated correctly and to answer questions!
The big lighthouse provided a small transitional barrier between the food cafe/court and the Stingray bay and the Tide Touch pool where the sea stars were.
There was a large, whimsical area to sit in, with movie “posters” of anything sea like on the walls. Another bathroom was near by, as well as a small outdoor seating area.
It was sponsored by Coca-Cola, can you tell? haha! There were some usual items on the menu, but we didn’t stop to eat here.
They also extended another exhibit of sting-rays since we were there last. There was less seating for the restaurant, but more areas to interact with the animals! Just wash your hands!
This was the penguin exhibit. This time we got to see the Penguins moving and realized there was a little space for kids to crawl into (well, adults could crawl in there too) and watch the penguins under water!
What had been a movie area was replaced by an area for kids to interact with a big oversized light brite, a huge water table and an area to draw a fish and have it come up on the screen.
The Light Bright and Water table could have been played with all day. The kids really loved the huge table. This was all across from the Penguin exhibit and new since we were last there.
Then there was the scanner. I kept scanning pictures and thinking a holographic would pop out or something. I must have scanned a picture about fifteen times. I was looking around, but didn’t realize it was going to the big screen (which I mistook for one of those interactive screens where you pop a bubble). Maybe there could have been more information on that! However, near the discovery desk was a screen on the floor where you could interact with a screen!
I just really thought this light fixture was cool looking. The picture doesn’t do it justice.
We next headed down the Deep Ocean Escalator, and..well, I thought I’d be more amazed honestly. I thought from the top to the bottom of the escalator would be fish over you, but most of it was a mural. Toward the end the tanks were over you and it was cool, but not what I imagined from some of the pictures.
I actually went backwards up the escalator because I wanted another shot (until someone came behind us and looked at me as if I were losing my mind!), but as you can see, at the top of the escalator is murals and towards the bottom you can see the aquariums. Once again, forward moving and forward momentum.
This area was sharks of the deep. It didn’t look like the elevator had any views, but it is possible.
In this room, while we waited for the 3D movie (not an extra charge), we saw some creepy crawlies of the ocean.
There was also a bathroom that connected to the next section of the tour if you wanted to skip the 3D video.
The bathrooms in this level were really gorgeous, I felt like I was back on a swanky cruise ship. Unfortunately, no area in this place to sit, nurse if you needed to or if you had to change a baby, there wasn’t another station other than in the family restroom.
We sat at the very right of the room and were right in front of the robotic fisherman which kind of reminded me of the Presidents of the United States in Disney. The video was interesting, but not very captivating for Giggles. My eyes are a bit crazy and we weren’t in the center of the theater, so I saw some 3D but not a ton. It wasn’t like a 4D one where they spray you or put any scents in the air, just 3D. At the end of the show they let you look into the aquarium, but when the lights go on, exit the theater. The escalator and the theater were the only places to really look at this tank, so it was hurried.
Next there were a few other displays and then you went through the tunnel of the Great Barrier Reef, which was really pretty cool but narrow. Very pretty!
After the tunnel there are a few displays and then someone asks to scan your wrist. I was a little worried about this part thinking-are you timing me? Did I get lost? The scanning was for the photo shop to develop your pictures that you took at the beginning of the experience. The last step was the Carousel, which was renamed the Voyager. I think this makes a lot more sense to have it be called the Voyager. While you wait for the next round, you can also check out some bones and skulls and play with a “pressurizer”.
Ok…I’m going to be perfectly honest here. I thought that I was going to go on a a carousel horse around and look at the sea creatures while riding a horse. I really did! The people who were loading the carousel were like “hurry, we are about to go” so I hurried. We got into a room and I was confused, which is why I am really glad they renamed it “voyager”. Now it looks more nautical-almost like you are going on a submarine expedition. Kudos, OdySea. I like this MUCH better!!
You can look at the aquarium map here, but if you don’t want to click away and want to keep reading my humor, the “carousel” is like a trivial pursuit piece with five seating areas that move around the different aquariums. Not what I expected at all.
The first room once we moved a position in our wheel, had two video screens where two different people were talking to each other. Once again, we sat on the far side of the carousel (felt more like one of those lazy susan pieces where you put all your spices on…that would have been more accurate in my mind!) so it was hard to see both screens.
I tried to take a panarama photo here, but you can see the difficulty, so sit in the middle if you can. However, the further up you go, the further you are from the tanks. The closer to the bottom you are, the more likely you might have a kid who tries to jump off the lazy susan and go to the aquarium. Choose your adventure wisely.
The last click before exiting was the other side of the shark tank (from the bathrooms earlier), and yes, you could see the bathrooms! This water was nice, clear and easy to see. The two narrators played some scary music but then we learned more people are killed a year by coconuts to the head than by sharks. Drink that coconut water CAREFULLY! Know the sacrifice!
A few of the exhibits here had little ledges on the floors, but they were sort of marked by handrails. But, for those of us who have young ones who fit under the handrails and are not too steady on their feet, beware!
Those pictures that were taken earlier are waiting for you! Here the team meets with you to go over the book and the pictures. The book was nice, but pricey and a bit out of my range for the day. Nice enough photos, cute book, but…maybe another time.
And, the last stop up the tall escalator toooo…..
….the gift shop! What attraction is complete without going through the gift shop at the end? Toys, science stuff, shirts, coffee mugs, food-you name it, they had it. If you have gotten a little turned around from all the spins, you are on the second floor now! There are escalators and elevators to go back down or stairs as well. We walked around the top floor and took this picture.
When we reached the ground floor I let Giggles check out the water. The seating areas all have Tohono O’odam words for English words and pictures. Pretty nice artistic touches.
Well, you made it to the end of my review! Congrats!
I’ve already been asked what do I suggest about this place?
-go on a weekday afternoon!
-check out their calendar to get the most out of your visit (when people are talking about certain exhibits)
-get extra maps so you know what is in each case
-a carrier for the little ones if they can’t walk, or wait until they are older (or bring someone who loves to carry them-it’s a pretty decent walk just from the parking lot). Skip the stroller if you can.
-there is no reentry-once you leave OdySea you can’t go back in. So, come prepared with a full stomach! The food court is half way through the aquarium, and it is not easy flow going backwards through the exhibits.
-they do have wheelchairs available, but if you have someone that doesn’t walk very well or has mobility issues, there is virtually no seating available throughout the aquarium for a rest (other than the theater and carousel) . Hopefully that will change and some will be added in later.
9500 East Via De Ventura
Check out our posts about Polar Play, Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs, Four Peaks Mining Company, Butterfly Wonderland, OdySea Mirror Maze, Four Peaks Mining Company and of course the Bumper Boats as well!
We were invited for a Media/Press day and my daughter and I received complimentary admission. All opinions are 100% my own.