About that ocean we don’t have: It’s mostly a matter of needing the sand. The Dallas Aquarium has the fish-more than 3,000 of them-as well as nearly 75,000 gallons of water and numerous aquatic wonders inside the cool blue walls of its art deco facility at Fair Park (situated across from the Band-shell). Entering its 50th year this month, this too-often neglected attraction is the second-largest inland aquarium in the United States and it affords visitors, free of charge, an enlightening and entertaining fish’s-eye view of freshwater and saltwater life around the world.
There’s the regal Axolotl fish, a white freshwater specimen with a shocking red ruffled collar; intimidating pink-tentacled tube anemones; glass catfish, whose skeletons and inner workings are visible; and the blatantly non-conforming Mudskipper, a fish that spends most of its time on land, taking an occasional swim for lubrication. There are theme tanks, such as the “Hawaiian Reef and the Asia tank, which recreates a flooded bamboo forest. And children particularly like to watch the other-worldly-looking seahorses and the nasty, 5-feet-long moray eels, who slide around large rocks like the Grinch who stole Christmas.
The Aquarium should be just one of several good reasons for exploring the fairgrounds this summer, which are presently gussying up for the Texas Ses-quicentennial. The Museum of Natural History, in addition to its permanent collection of fossils and fragments and its well-marked special exhibits, sponsors 20 four-day, one-and-a-half-hour summer courses and workshops for children, such as “Me and Nature,” a class for 4- and 5-year-olds that teaches nature and animals by letting the students use their five senses. Nearby, the Science Place gives scheduled and special planetarium showings. And, of course, the architectural and artistic merits of Fair Park become all the more visible with time-and with the dusting-off the park is getting.
The Aquarium, the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Science Place are all open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m., and all offer free admission. The Dallas Aquarium, 428-3587. The Dallas Museum of Natural History, 421-2169. The Science Place, 428-8351.