Updated May 5th, 2021
The poker tables aren’t the only places you’ll find sharks on the Las Vegas Strip.
For tucked away in the a corner of a busy casino in the Mojave Desert, lies a fun and informative world-class aquarium, that offers a quiet, peaceful reprieve form the action-packed noise and excitement of the Las Vegas Strip just outside its doors.
Since its opening in the summer of 2000, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay has been a hit for both families looking for fun things to do with kids on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as regular gambling visitors just looking for something different than the typical shows, bars, games, and nightclubs of Sin City. In fact, the aquarium receives around 1 million visitors a year.
Ocean Explorer Experience
On August 1st, 2020, it added to the experience, with the opening of the Ocean Explorer Virtual Reality Theater – a 36-seat motion-platform theater with 360 degree 3-D views that takes you under the sea to virtually swim with sharks, humpback whales, and other sea life. The theater is included with the ticket price.
The popular Shark Reef attraction is situated on the far south end of Mandalay Bay, near the convention center. It’s a long walk from the casino floor, past the walkway to the events center, and past the Border Grill and the wedding chapel.
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay Ticket Prices 2021
Prices below include entry into the Ocean Explorer Virtual Realty Experience. Here are prices from the resort itself:
Seniors: $27 (65 years or older)
Children: $24 (Ages 5 to 12)
Kids ages 4 and under: Free
If you do not want to visit the Ocean Explorer Experience, you can will pay nine dollars less than the prices shown above.
Tickets can be bought online from Mandalay Bay’s site here: Shark Reef Aquarium official site
Also, Vegas.com has $20 general admission tickets (without the VR experience) here:
(I am an affiliate with Vegas.com and will receive a commission should you purchase tickets through them)
Mandalay Bay continues to offer combo package deals that includes your entry into Shark Reef, along with a 6 by 9 inch souvenir photo and a gift from the gift shop. This package costs $43 for adults, and $37 for kids 5-12 years of age.
You should also know that the red Tix4Tonight booths found prominently on the Las Vegas Strip do not sell discounted tickets for the Shark Reef.
Other Shark Reef Experiences
In addition to the tour, you can extend your stay by paying extra for some smaller, more in-depth experiences with your underwater friends, by actually going underwater with them.
However at this time, Animal Encounters and Shark Reef’s “Dive with Sharks” programs have been temporarily suspended, and we’ll update this article once they resume.
You can still participate in the “Shark Feed” and/or “Sea Turtle Feed” programs. Each costs $80 per person, and gets you entry into the Shark Reef Aquarium, along with an “intimate, interactive feeding session” with either animal, along with photos of the experience.
Nevada Resident & Military Discounts at Shark Reef
(Editor’s note: since the re-opening, $3 off discounts for Nevada residents are only offered at the box office (and not online). There no longer appears to be a Military discount offered.)
Once in, it’s a self-guided tour, where you can stroll by the exhibits at your own pace. Inquisitive minds will be entertained by the numerous displays offering up informative tidbits about each of the exhibits – unless you’re like me, in which case you’ll spend your time making sure your 2 year old doesn’t accidentally climb into the piranha tank.
For most guests however, a normal walk through the entire aquarium will take anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour – depending on how you sit and watch the sharks at the end.
Speaking of which…the sharks are, of course, both the namesake and highlight of this undersea adventure. The aquarium has 15 different species and boasts of having 100 sharks swimming in its giant tanks. In total, the Shark Reef has over 1.6 million gallons of water, not including the bottled Fiji sold in the gift shop.
The self-guided walking tour ends with a stroll through a glass enclosed tunnel, where sharks are swimming both above and below you. It can get crowded, but if you find a spot on the bench, sit there and be mesmerized by these beautiful killers all around you.
The highlight for my 4 year-old was the touching pool, which is sort of like a petting zoo. On this particular day, we got to touch the sting rays.
Other fish and animals at the aquarium (none of whom you can touch), include a golden crocodile, octopuses, jelly fish, sea turtles and a komodo dragon.
While prices for tickets to the Shark Reef may appear to be steep, they’re still reasonable for Las Vegas standards. For me, time spent at the Shark Reef is very affordable. It’s financially beneficial for me to be away from the tables as much as possible.
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay Aquarium Hours:
(These are new hours. Before the shutdown, the aquarium was open until 9 PM on weekends. We’ll update this if and when there are any changes).
Sunday – Saturday: 10 AM to 5 PM
Please note: the 5 PM closing time above reflects the last admission into the aquarium. They actually close and have you leave an hour (6 PM), after the last admission time.
The box office to purchase tickets opens at 9:30 a.m. every day of the week.
The Shark Reef’s phone number is: (702) 632-4555.
All-in-all, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is beyond just a way to kill time away from the tables or slots. It’s an enjoyable diversion giving you two things you usually won’t experience on the Strip: education and quietness.
(Photos courtesy of MGM Resorts and kennejima via Flickr.)