The Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk – Branson Aquarium Review and Tips
Have you heard about the new aquarium in Branson MO? While the Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk opened back in November 2020, it still feels like a new and exciting addition to the city!
Aquariums are a perfect vacation activity for pretty much anyone, from a solo traveler like me to a family getaway to a fun date night. The colorful Boardwalk theme at the Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk is definitely kid-friendly without being over the top, making it a hit with visitors of all ages.
Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the Aquarium at the Boardwalk to facilitate my posts, but no payment was received and all opinions are my own. Some links in this post may be affiliate links, which help support this site at no additional cost to you.
If you’re planning a visit to the Aquarium at the Boardwalk in Branson, I’ve got all the info you need for a fantastic visit!
What Kind of Animals Can We See Inside the Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk?
I’ve seen a lot of people ask “Does the Branson aquarium have sharks?” and the short answer is yes, but the longer answer is way more fun. Whether you’re a fish fanatic or just looking for fun rainy day activities in Branson, there’s something for everyone here. If you’re anything like me you’ll be completely charmed by more than one of the aquarium inhabitants. The diversity of species and enchanting exhibits make it impossible not to get excited about exploring this underwater world.
There are more than 260 different species living in the 400,000+ gallons of salt water inside the Aquarium at the Boardwalk. These amazing animals have come from all over the world and great care was taken to make sure every one was ethically sourced. Just a few of the creatures you’ll see inside (as of the time of this post’s publication) are:
- Brownbanded Bamboo Sharks
- Blacktip Reef Sharks
- Clownfish (Yes, you can find Nemo!)
- Fluorescing Corals
- Dragon Eels
- Cownose Rays
- Eagle Rays
- A Giant Pacific Octopus
Yes, the amazing octopus statue out front is definitely eye-catching, but it’s not the only octopus you’ll see here! Aquarius the Giant Pacific Octopus is the mascot for the Aquarium at the Boardwalk, and you’ll spot him in several locations inside!
First, at the souvenir photo spot as you enter:
…and then “in person”! (In fish?)
But the octopus fun doesn’t end there! There are several sneaky sculptures of Aquarius the Octopus hidden throughout the aquarium. You’d think that finding them would be easy, but some were quite tough to spot! Octopuses are masters of camouflage – they can change colors in an instant and even change their texture to blend in with rocky or smooth surfaces!
You’ll also meet Aquarius and Finn the golden puffer in the fun 5-D movie/ride experience that transports you down into the underwater world you’re about to explore.
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Meet Finn! I was torn between this or Coldplay’s “Yellow” for this reel. Did I make the right call?
Okay, I was planning to only use my photos here but I just Googled what a golden puffer looks like when they puff and I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED.
How Long Does It Take To Go Through the Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk?
The average visitor spends around 60-90 minutes, but my visits have been more like two hours and up because fish are awesome.
My absolute #1 tip for visiting the Aquarium at the Boardwalk: Slow down. Take time to experience each exhibit fully. It’s easy to notice the big charismatic animals like sharks, but if you just take a minute to pay attention, the little guys in there are just as fascinating. For example, in one of the small tanks pictured below you might spot a colorful little striped fish that’s rare to see in person because they live in such deep water that they’re out of reach for SCUBA divers. This cool little fish was collected via submersible submarine and made the journey from the Atlantic Ocean to Branson, MO so that you can have a peek at him without descending to great depths.
This is one of those spots where I really recommend taking a few minutes to stop and look closely! Each tank gives you a little peek into life underwater and how different species interact with their surroundings. They may be small, but you’ll see some of the aquarium’s most unusual animals here!
Take your time or you might miss something incredible like the leaf scorpionfish, which has venomous spines and sheds its skin twice a month!
Also, be sure to read some of the signs near each exhibit. They’re filled with interesting information and traits you can look for, plus a little humor thrown in when you least expect it.
Mirror Mirror On The Wall…
(Aquarius is the fairest of them all. You won’t change my mind.)
Two of the most photographed exhibits in the Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk use multiple mirrors to create the feeling of infinite space, a bit like being surrounded by the seemingly endless expanse of the ocean. The Bloom Room, which is filled with cylindrical tanks of moon jellies, is probably one of the coolest exhibit designs I’ve seen. (Although I do have to give a shoutout to the fantastic flashlight fish exhibit here, too.)
While the jellyfish themselves are a translucent white-ish color, there are buttons you can push to change the color of the light in each tank. The moon jellies are hypnotizing to watch! They’re almost like a living lava lamp.
The other mirrored exhibit leads to a really beautiful tank filled with colorful tropical fish. I could easily get lost in watching this one for hours.
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Get Your Cameras Ready!
The mirrored rooms above aren’t the only popular photo spots inside the Aquarium at the Boardwalk!
You’ll find a few specially-designed photo spots throughout the aquarium where you can become part of the action! Try on a mermaid tail, sit atop a seahorse carousel, or hop into the dive suit for instant Instagram-worthy pictures! (Dear Jason Momoa, if you’d like to come pose with the tail and the trident, I will 100% buy you a ticket. Just sayin’. 🧜♂️)
The glass tunnel that runs through the Grand Aquarium is also a great spot for photos!
Speaking of photo fun, please be sure your flash is OFF when taking photos of the aquarium exhibits! Not only will a flash give you terrible photos because of the glare from the glass, but a lot of the fish are sensitive to light and will definitely appreciate your consideration.
Family Friendly Fish Fun
While the entire Aquarium at the Boardwalk is family-friendly, there are a few activities specifically designed to keep children engaged.
In some exhibits, you’ll find a tunnel that kids (or limber adults!) can crawl through for a unique perspective on the aquariums. Scurry through a shark-filled shipwreck or pop up among a school of lionfish!
The Finn-Tastic Creations station lets kids color a picture of a fish and have it come to life on a big screen, while the 24-foot tall Kelp Forest offers energetic kids the perfect place to stretch their legs!
Those fish are pretty cute. Can I cuddle them?
I get it, I’ve definitely been tempted to smooch a stingray or two. While you can’t exactly snuggle up with a shark (Netflix and Krill?), the Aquarium at the Boardwalk does have two awesome touch pools where you can safely get up close and personal with several different animals! Feel the rough skin of a small shark and the smoothness of a stingray in the coral reef touch pool, then visit the invertebrate tide pool to shake tentacles with an anemone and stroke a starfish.
Their tentacles will cling to your finger when you touch them! It’s like a tiny hug from a fishy friend. And yes, anemones are animals! They’re closely related to jellyfish.
Branson Aquarium Tickets
Ticket prices for the Aquarium at the Boardwalk vary a bit depending on when you visit: Weekends and peak season are a few dollars more, visiting in the off season and weekdays will save you a few dollars.
The best deal on Branson Aquarium tickets is the Five’r Pass, which covers not only admission to the Aquarium at the Boardwalk but also four other attractions including the Hollywood Wax Museum, mini-golf, Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, and the Castle of Chaos. You can purchase tickets at the aquarium or online here. They also offer discount tickets for local residents, groups, and military.
You can find the current Branson Aquarium Hours here!
Hotels Near Branson Aquarium
I’ve had a few people ask about hotels in Branson MO near the aquarium, so here are a few options if you’re looking to stay nearby!
- The Clarion Hotel Branson is just two doors down and puts you within a very short stroll of the aquarium and several local restaurants, but they do have some recent negative reviews on TripAdvisor.
- On the opposite side of the aquarium, the Radisson Hotel Branson is less than a quarter mile walk away. They’re a bit more expensive, but they get much better reviews.
- If you’re traveling with family or friends, I found a VERY cute VRBO cabin that’s less than a mile from the aquarium and sleeps up to 7 people for about the same price as two hotel rooms. It has a private deck, a charcoal grill, a jetted tub, and a fully-equipped kitchen. You can check prices and availability here!
Are you excited to visit the Branson Aquarium at the Boardwalk Yet??
You guys know that I don’t do anything halfway, so I have something extra for you! I chatted with some of the people who helped design and run the aquarium to put together a super fun list of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Aquarium at the Boardwalk in Branson! Read this before you go for the hidden gems you definitely want to look out for during your visit!
If you have questions that I didn’t cover here, feel free to drop them in the comments!