When we planned our visit in Dallas, we planned indoor activities fearing the Texas sun. (It was a wise choice. While driving a day before we learned that there was an Ozone Watch). The Dallas World Aquarium and Zoological Gardens was more than an aquarium. It had various fish and sea mammals as well as, many species you would find at a rainforest. The main theme was based on a river. The Aquatic level had the see through part of the river. We learned that it was one of the largest freshwater exhibits in the world and one of its inhabitants was the endangered Antillean Manatee. When a diver was feeding at 12:30, one of the Manatees was there to play with him. With its big body (may be a 1000 pounds) the Manatee followed the diver around even when he went into a hole to get some more food. Being one of us (a mammal that is) they seemed intelligent and social. During the feeding we were given a little lecture on the habitats of the river: Arapaima, Arrau turtles, various catfish.
The next section had aquariums representing various parts of the world: Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Palau, Southern Australia, Solomon Islands, etc. Next to the Aquarium there was a touch-screen computer if you wanted to learn about the inhabitants of that tank. At 12:00 we attended the feeding of the South African Penguins at Cape of Good Hope. The Black-footed penguins were tiny and liked it hot. The temperature of Dallas was ideal for them.
We were very disappointed on the size of the Aquarium until we discovered that stairs from the River exhibit led to other levels. The Understory level and canopy level had many different exotic animals and plants. At the Understory level you could see the top of the River exhibit and there was a small Monkey Island in the middle. Pale-faced Sakis, Emperor Tamarins, Black-necked Swans and others lived around this island. A walkway took us through various exhibits of eel. frogs, crocodiles, bats, and snakes. The walkway made circles and took us to the Canopy level where we say Red Howler monkeys, otters, and various birds. My favorite was the toucans. I had previously seen in nature howler monkeys in Costa Rica, but although we tried very hard we weren't able to see any toucans. Of course seeing the exotic animals in a zoo or aquarium is not the same as seeing in nature but it is the second best thing.
It is a nice place to bring your kids, they will love it and you can make a half-day visit. The Dallas World Aquarium and Zoological Gardens also has two places to eat: The Jungle Cafe at the Canopy level and eighteen-O-one restaurant at the Aquatic level.