The Downtown Aquarium is a restaurant and public aquarium that was formerly known as Colorado’s Ocean Journey. The main building, which is 107,000 square feet, sits on a 17-acre site and is the largest aquarium between Chicago and California. The site is adjacent to the South Platte River. The aquarium exhibits a variety of fish and other animals. For its freshwater and marine aquaria, there is an approximate total of 1,000,000 gallons of water.
The relationship between the ocean and inland freshwater ecosystems is the major theme for this landlocked aquarium. Originally the design of the aquarium was zoogeographic, focused on the path to the ocean taken by the two rivers. One river was the Colorado River in North America and the other river was the Kampar River in Indonesia.
The Colorado River Journey included exhibits of game fish, endangered fish, northern river otters, and other species. It ended with a large exhibit depicting the Sea of Cortez, which is the Gulf of California. This is actually where the Colorado River empties.
The Indonesian River Journey included fish, the endangered Sumatran Tigers, and other species. It ended with a large exhibit depicting the southern Pacific Ocean. There was also a large sea otter exhibit.
The aquarium was renovated in 2005 and though the two journey paths remain, they are no longer arranged in a strict zoogeographic pattern. The large sea otter exhibit was also removed to make way for the large aquarium in the dining area. The facility now features several interactive exhibits such as a horseshoe crab touch and a stingray touch and feed tank. The aquarium still focuses on conversation with the housing of endangered or threatened species. These include 12 species of fish, six of reptiles, two of mammals, and two of birds. The aquarium also participates in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan for Sumatran Tigers.
A “must do” at the aquarium is to dine there. When you are seated, you are seated around the 50,000 gallon centerpiece aquarium. This allows for a phenomenal floor-to-ceiling view from all the tables. In this tank there are more than 100 species of colorful tropical fish from Hawaii, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific. A diver makes feeding twice a day in full view of the dining room, much to the great delight of both adults and children.
The exhibits you will find there are called:
- North America
- In The Desert
- Under The Sea
- At The Wharf
- The Rain Forest
- Coral Lagoon
- Sunken Temple
- Ship Wreck
- At The Beach
The Downtown Aquarium offers family programs, school programs, and scout programs with two different overnight adventures and a Sea Safari Summer Camp.