3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
$19 Kids 4-12
Vegas4Visitors Rating: B
At a Glance
What is it?
A massive 90,000 square-foot aquarium packed to the brim with all manner of sea life (and other near the sea critters), including an up close and personal look at sharks of all sizes (hence the name).
Where is it?
At Mandalay Bay on the South Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
Fans of fishies and their kin will enjoy this.
What else do I need to know?
The location, at the far south end of the hotel is quite a hike from the front door or monorail station. Bring comfy shoes.
What’s the bottom line?
Great for families with kids.
The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay remains one of the more popular tourist attractions in Vegas, especially for parents who don’t have a lot of choices in town for family-friendly fun. Kids will probably be amused by the critters on display here but grown-ups may be itching for the inevitable gift shop that you always have to exit through at things like this.
Encompassing more than 90,000 square feet, the facility has a lot more than just the titular sharks. In fact, there are about 2,000 different animals from over 100 different species.
You start wandering through a maze-like series of habitats done to look like a jungle temple. Here you’ll find reptiles like the Komodo dragon and golden crocodile; tropical fish including Moray eels and stingrays; jellyfish; piranhas; and more. The exhibit graphics are informative and educational but ultimately what you have are a bunch of animals behind glass that are either lazily swimming around in their tanks or just kind of lying there, looking bored. If you were hoping you’d get to see the piranhas devour Jerry O’Connell you’ll be disappointed.
Piranha 3D, from 2010. IMDB it.
More interesting and interactive is the shallow pool filled with stingrays and horseshoe crabs, which you can lean in and (carefully) touch as they glide or crawl by. Parents be warned – your children will never want to leave.
The centerpiece, of course, is the 1.3 million gallon shark tank. Done as a sunken shipwreck, the glass tunnels and viewing platforms are completely surrounded by water – above, below, and in front of you, as the toothy beasts glide non-stop through the murky depths. It’s a cool effect although if you, like I, never quite got over Jaws, it can be a little anxiety provoking. Luckily there is little chance of bad weather in the fully enclosed aquarium, meaning you probably won’t have to deal with Tara Reid.
Sharknado, 2013. IMDB it, too.
New as of 2020 is a virtual-reality motion-simulation theater that will be showing live-action, immersive movies about whales and sharks but not, unfortunately, Piranha 3D or Sharknado. Admission is included in the regular ticket price.
The prices are not cheap. It’s $22 for adults – and they consider an adult anyone 13 and up – and $15 for kids 4-12. They also occasionally throw a couple of extra bucks on the price during peak periods so go at off times. Whether this is worth it to you will depend heavily on how many children you have with you that really need to be entertained.
It’s worth noting that the facility is located at the furthest possible place it could be located at Mandalay Bay while still in the actual hotel. To get there, look for the restaurant row where Fleur and Citizens Kitchen are located, go past them, past the events arena, past the convention center, past the food court, and past the California/Nevada border. Okay, I’m just kidding on the last one but the rest is true. It’s a long walk is my point.
This isn’t my personal favorite attraction in Las Vegas but I can absolutely understand its appeal, especially for families and those who are just aching to say “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Jaws, 1975. You know what to do.