Photo Credit: 
Curtis Awbrey | The Chronicle

JENKS — An easy day trip away, the Tulsa area provides an exciting destination adventure filled with Oklahoma wildlife and some marine life not native to the Sooner State.

A self-guided tour through Jenks’ Oklahoma Aquarium includes tanks of giant Pacific octopi, starfish, stingrays, seahorses and the largest collection of sharks in captivity, which widened many visitors’ eyes. The aquarium’s interactive and educational exhibits highlight animals from various parts of the world including Amazing Invertebrates, Sea Turtle Island, Extreme Fishes and Polynesian Reef.

According to the 2019-2020 annual report, Oklahoma Aquarium opened its doors to more than 257,000 visitors last year; approximately half of those visitors were fellow Oklahomans. The aquarium also brought in two American river otters which seemed to enjoy lazily swimming circles around their manmade habitat.

While many kids were snacking on Dippin’ Dots and oohing and aahing at their favorite sea creatures, reptiles and, as one youngster said, “cute little fuzzies,” a few adults enjoyed adult beverages while taking in the cool, serene 90,000-square foot facility.

Shark Adventure’s plexiglass tunnel safely brings visitors within an arm’s length of a multitude of nurse and bull sharks. According to the National Wildlife Federation, male bull sharks can grow to about seven feet from nose to tail; females outgrow males measuring up to 11 feet in length. Nurse sharks are considered mostly harmless to humans and can grow to 14 feet long. Both seem at ease as they swim effortlessly atop and around the tunnel.

Among the current exhibits are recently added clownfish and jellyfish. Brightly colored orange, black and white stripped clownfish darted through the waters of the Polynesian Reef resembling the 2003 Disney Pixar classic “Finding Nemo.” Somewhat opaque jellyfish suspended in the clear water may also remind guests of their days spent trying to conquer the iconic Nintendo game, Super Mario Bros.

Other points of interest are the Extreme Amazon exhibit, which features a 3,800-gallon freshwater tank that plays host to several types of peculiar fish, such as the piranha. Also, for an additional fee, guests can ride a mechanical bull shark, safely experience the effects of a hurricane or virtually dive with sharks, swim with humpback whales or a number of other preprogrammed options.

Annually, more than 200 groups decide to make the Oklahoma Aquarium their field trip destination, which brought in 11,468 visitors in 2019-2020. Additionally, with a maximum capacity of 700 visitors, the aquarium has also become a popular venue for birthday parties, weddings, baby showers and other private events. To schedule a field trip or book an event, contact the events department at events@okaquarium.org or call (918) 528-1532 or (918) 528-1577.

The Oklahoma Aquarium is at 300 Aquarium Drive in Jenks. It is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. all other days.

Adult tickets are $18.95; veterans, seniors and children (ages 3-12) tickets are $14.95 each and are available online or at the door.

Day Trip Destinations: Oklahoma Aquarium