We’ve already taken you on a grand tour of the best aquariums in New England. They’re all a great opportunity for educational family fun on a staycation or a quick New England getaway. In this article, we’ll introduce you to five of the best aquariums throughout the nation. Planning a trip to Florida, Tennessee, Chicago, Monterey, or Seattle? Then read on and get the low-down on the best aquarium in each region. Let’s get started on our American Aquarium Tour.
First up is the Shedd Aquarium. Located between the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is a great place to for a day of fun and educational exploration on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Shedd Aquarium first opened in 1930, which makes it 84 years old. If you make a visit, be sure to meet Granddad, the Australian Lungfish who has resided in the aquarium since 1933. That not only makes him Shedd’s oldest resident, but also the animal that has lived in an aquarium than any other in the history of the world!
This aquarium is known for its many diverse and ever-evolving set of exhibitions. Its oldest
continually running exhibit is entitled “The Caribbean Reef”, which has been going strong since 1971, and for good reason. Here, a diver swims along the fish and interacts with them while simultaneously carrying on an informative dialogue with the human visitors.
Another amazing attraction at the Shedd Aquarium is its 4-D Theater, which was completed in 2009. The 4-D Theater boasts a super-sized screen with 3-D graphics and cutting edge audio and interactive stimuli such as bubbles, scents, motion, sound, and more.
Location/Contact Information: 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL, 60605 (312) 939-2438
The nearest airports are Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare International Airports.
If you’re going to Florida, then you’ll want to make a stop at the Florida Aquarium, located in the city of Tampa. This is one of the newer aquariums on our list, with its doors first opening for business in 1995. It houses more than 20,000 different species of sea creatures from all around the world. It is easily recognizable by its very prominent glass dome, which has earned it a place in history as a member of the Florida Architecture: 100 Years 100 Places list.
The Florida Aquarium is bursting at the seams with fascinating exhibits and fun activities for people of all ages. Its coral reef gallery gives visitors and up-close and in-person look at magnificent coral reefs and the exotic creatures that dwell within them. An interesting technique the aquarium has employed with this particular exhibit is using a set of different windows, each representing a different level of depth beneath the sea surface and the corresponding wildlife that would live in such regions.
One of the many family-friendly attractions at the Florida Aquarium is Explore the Shore.
This is the aquarium’s outdoor water park. It features several pools, waters slides, and even a 2-story tall pirate ship for children to explore. Parents meanwhile can kick back and relax at Explore the Shore’s Cantina Bar and Grill.
Location/Contact Information: 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa FL, 33602 (813) 273-4000
The nearest airports is Tampa International Airport.
Moving closer to America’s Heartland is the Tennessee Aquarium located in the city of Chattanooga. This aquarium has been entertaining and educating guests since 1992. It is divided into two separate buildings known as the River Journey Building and the Ocean Journey Building, with the latter having been completed in 2005.
The River Journey Building is very much unique among other aquariums in that it focuses heavily on freshwater species from Appalachian river environments. Here, you’ll find River Otters, several birds, Snapping Turtles, and many more other animals which might not immediately come to mind when you hear the word “aquarium”.
The Ocean Journey Building features many different oceanic species from around the world and is well-appointed with many hands-on and interactive exhibits. Many ocean invertebrates are available for viewing, including Jellyfish, Cuttlefish, Giant Octopuses and more.
There is always a steady stream of fun and exciting events going on at the Tennessee Aquarium. It strongly believes in the cause of freshwater conservation and has formed an organization called the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, or TNACI. This organization works to protect, preserve, and sustain the many aquatic creatures who make their homes exclusively in freshwater environments in the Southeastern United States.
Location/Contact Information: 1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402 (800) 262-0695
The nearest airport is Chattanooga Regional Airport.
Now we’ll take you out to the west coast. There are many fine aquariums along the Pacific Ocean, but one of the best you can ever hope to visit is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Located on Central California’s beautiful Pacific coast, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is now celebrating its 30th anniversary. With a constant flow of ocean water being pumped in through pipes, the aquarium’s tanks are well supplied with the water of its inhabitants’ natural habitat.
In all, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has more than 600 different species of aquatic plants and animals. Unique features that are available at few other aquariums include their Yellowin Tuna and Bluefin Tuna residents, which are very seldom seen in captivity.
A combination of amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, reptiles, octopuses, and mammals (though that category is limited to Otters) make up the aquarium’s population. Guests are always delighted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter exhibit. Watching these cute little guys romp about and clown around is always fun for the whole family and brings a smile to everyone’s face.
Another noteworthy exhibit is their “Rocky Shore” collection. This display showcases the diverse plants and animals that live right along the coastline, straddling the worlds of the land and the sea. Some of the starts of this attraction are California Mussels, Monkey-Face Eels, Sea Lemons, Hermit Crabs, Limpets, and more.
Location/Contact Information: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940 (831) 648-4800
The nearest airport is Monterey Regional Airport
We’ll head a little further north and introduce you to the last (but not least) aquarium on our list, which is the Seattle Aquarium. The Seattle Aquarium is located at Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay Waterfront in Seattle, Washington. This aquarium is one of the most notable of the Northwest, with more than 800,000 visitors passing through its doors each year. Since its inception in 1977, the Seattle Aquarium has been promoting marine conservation and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
One of the most compelling exhibits at this aquarium is called “Ocean Oddities”. It showcases exotic and amazing sea-dwelling creatures with whom very few people are familiar. Here, you’ll find Corals, Seahorses, Cowfish, Leaf Scorpionfish, and the colorful Harlequin Shrimp, just to name a few.
Another fun and educational exhibit is called “Life on the Edge”. This display is interactive and very much hands-on in nature. Visitors are allowed to reach over the inside of a shallow tank that houses many creatures unique to the tidal pools of Puget Sound. Sea Cucumbers, Sea Urchins, and Hermit Crabs are just a few of the many animals you’ll get to meet up-close and in person.
Two other attractions at the Seattle Aquarium that are worth a mention are their Cafe and Gift Shop. The cafe serves up delicious pizza, sandwiches, burgers, and other more sophisticated fare. No visit is fully complete without a trip to the gift shop, which offers many wonderful souvenirs for visitors of all ages.
Location/Contact Information: 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101 (206) 386-4300
The nearest airport is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
If you came to this blog post wondering where to go on vacation, we hope we’ve helped to influence your choice a little bit. All of these wonderful institutions prove that learning can be fun and that people of all ages can have a great time together and grow closer while learning about the many fascinating creatures of the deep.