The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station Christmas Day grand opening

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ST. LOUIS - Christmas Day has brought the long-awaited opening of the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station.

The former 19th-century railway hub has been going through a transformation. Construction began in November 2017.

The $187 million family entertainment facility contains more than a million gallons of water on two floors and features more than 13,000 aquatic animals, including more than 60 sharks and rays. The aquarium brings together state-of-the-art technology, animal care, education, and conservation.

As visitors enter the aquarium via the Grand Lobby, a curved 4-K LED screen arches high overhead to unveil a stunning video show featuring marine life. The lobby's centerpiece is a working clock filled with discus fish that mirrors the landmark clock tower at Union Station's Market Street entrance.

A 3D virtual reality train ride on one of two full-size replica passenger rail cars takes guests inside the aquarium. The ride honors St. Louis Union Station’s railroad past with a multimedia experience that rumbles through a trip to the rivers and oceans of the world, narrated by actor and St. Louis native John Goodman.

Playful North American river otters—named Sawyer, Finn, and Thatcher after Missouri author Mark Twain's famous literary characters—frolic in a two-story environment including a deep pool, waterfall, and a land-based play area. An animated otter chat gives guests a chance to take part in an interactive talk with Tommy the Otter and learn more about their lives in America's rivers.

Hands-on opportunities continue on the aquarium's upper-level, where touch tanks are filled with stingrays and invertebrates. Visitors can feed the rays or take part in turtle feeding. Nearby, Lord Stanley, the rare blue lobster named for the NHL's Stanley Cup and the St. Louis Blues' 2019 championship, lives in his own habitat.

"Visitors on Christmas left the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station with wet hands and a greater understanding of the planet's rivers, oceans, and aquatic life," said Tami Brown, the new attraction's executive director. "They will be able to feed turtles and stingrays and interact with invertebrate animals in our touch tanks. Our staff also will have a variety of other animals such as sloths, reptiles, and birds to explore with the guests."

Admission will be $25 for adults, $18 for children 3 to 13 years of age, and kids 2 and under are free.

The aquarium is also expected to roll out a $55 membership that gets you through the aquarium and experiences inside Union Station for an entire year.

More than a million people are expected to visit the aquarium each year.

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