From the January 2015 issue

Real Big Splash: SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium

Lionfish and reef sharks and octopuses – oh, my! Find these and tons of other deep-sea critters at SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium, slated to open Jan. 29 at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills.

And it’s set to give southeast Michigan its biggest, most diverse aquarium yet. This fished-filled experience checks in at 35,000 square feet with 250 different species in 22 themed tanks that transport families to underwater worlds to see and learn about the unique animals that live there.

One very Michigan touch – this’ll be the brand’s seventh U.S. location – is a fresh-water exhibit similar to the Great Lakes, says marketing manager Debbie Gibb. There’s also a harbor full of lobster and angelfish, a jellyfish area where kids can change the color of the tank (and jellies) and a 360-degree tank of pilchard fish that swim one way and then change direction suddenly. There’s even a touch pool where you can handle crabs, urchins or sea stars – with a kids play area at the end.

“Some of the tanks are built at a lower level for kids,” Gibb says, “and there are some where kids can pop up and put their head right in the middle of the tank.”

At the heart of the aquarium is a 120,000-gallon ocean tank with a 180-degree tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays, a temporary turtle tank and a shipwreck exhibit that is the home of a very intelligent giant Pacific octopus.

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SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium is one of 42 total all over the world run by England-based Merlin Entertainment. A portion of proceeds from ticket fees helps the company’s conservation programs and charities.

SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium

Hours: noon-9 p.m. opening day (Thursday Jan. 29); then 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays; last entry one hour prior to close
Costs: $17.50/all ages in online pre-sale (till Wednesday Jan. 28); then regular admission is $23.50/ages 13-plus, $18.50/ages 3-12 (free/kids under 3)
Where: Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, 4316 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills (in District 7, near Rainforest Café)
Contact: 866-622-0605,