An old warehouse at 1801 North Griffin Street, near the Historic West End District in downtown Dallas, became the original site of The Dallas World Aquarium, opening to the public in October 1992. Built in 1924, the empty warehouse had been occupied until 1982. During those years it was used for various industries, including the Mohawk Rubber Company and Pioneer Steel Rule and Die.
The adjacent building at 1815 North Griffin was purchased in 1996. Built in 1929 as a warehouse for the storage of rubber goods, it was later used by a Venetian blind company in the early 50s and lastly prior to the aquarium's expansion, as a restaurant/bar known as "Tejano Rodeo." As with the first building, the interior was completely demolished, leaving only the brick walls and support structure. The alley between the two buildings became the "channel" between the freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. The ORINOCO - Secrets of the River opened to the public in October 1997.
The vacant lot at 1814 Laws Street (behind 1801 North Griffin) was purchased in May 2000 for the first newly constructed portion of the facility. Construction on the Mundo Maya exhibit started in April 2002 and opened to the public in August 2004.
The Dallas World Aquarium has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1997 and a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) since 2000.