Take a sneak peek inside Tacoma's revamped Pacific Seas Aquarium

TACOMA, Wash. -- Have you ever wanted to hold hands with a sea urchin?

A revamped aquarium years in the making has opened at the Point Defiance Zoo.

The Pacific Seas Aquarium opened to the public Friday (Sept. 7). It's a bigger and better version of the former North Pacific Seas Aquarium that the city replaced as part of a $198 million bond initiative approved by voters in 2014.

The new aquarium features marine life from the entire Pacific Ocean, rather than just the North Pacific. That means you'll get to see animals that are unique to both the South Pacific and North Pacific -- and touch sea urchins and starfish with your bare hands -- among many other features. From hammerhead sharks to green sea turtles to thousands of fish, there's no shortage of species to explore inside the 35,000-square-foot facility.

It's the biggest expansion project in the zoo's history, said Alan Varsik, director of zoological and environmental education for Metro Parks Tacoma.

“One of the best parts is watching people come in and experience it for the first time. Because it’s a huge leap for Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Guests are reacting with awe and that’s exactly what we were going for," Varsik said.

The Pacific Seas Aquarium is free with the purchase of a zoo ticket. It's also free for members.

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