Today’s aquariums feature fantastic exhibits of marine life from around the world. The U.S. is home to many amazing aquariums worth planning a trip to. Whether you fancy coming face to face with clownfish, penguins, seahorses or even sharks, these educational, inspirational and entertaining wonderlands will wow the family with their collections of underwater life. Here are the top 10 aquariums in America.
1. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL
The illustrious Shedd Aquarium is home to more than 8,000 marine animals that include dolphins, beluga whales, sharks, rays and more. The aquarium features awe-inspiring exhibits throughout its unique design. Aquatic habitats include the Amazon, a Caribbean reef, a polar zone and the Great Lakes ecosystem. The stingray touch pool and overnight sleepovers are always a hit with kids. The aquarium was built during the 1930s right on the shores of Lake Michigan, and it continues to be one of the city’s best-loved attractions.
2. Waikiki Aquarium, Honolulu, Hawaii
The second-oldest aquarium in the country, the Waikiki Aquarium was built in 1904 on the coast on Kapi‘olani Park near Waikiki Beach. With its living corals, South Pacific collections and exhibits that feature endangered sea creatures, the aquarium attracts many tourists and locals each year. Marine protection and conservation is a particular focus here. The Waikiki Aquarium is the first to have successfully bred the fascinating chambered nautilus.
3. Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN
Founded in 1992, the Tennessee Aquarium was once the largest freshwater aquarium in the world. In 2005, the aquarium opened its incredible ocean exhibit, which features amazing sea life like sharks, cuttlefish, jellyfish, and Giant Pacific Octopi. The new Alligator Bayou will give you a new appreciation of gator-filled swamplands. Located on the Chattanooga River, this aquarium is a must-visit attraction if you are passing through Tennessee.
4. Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, GA
With more than 550,000 square feet of exhibit space and 8 million gallons of water, the Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest. More than 100,000 animals from 500 species are represented here, including sea otters, dolphins and whale sharks. With a focus on protection, research and conservation efforts, it’s the only aquarium in the western hemisphere that displays these gentle giants. Don’t miss this mega aquatic attraction when you’re in the Atlanta area.
5. Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA
The Aquarium of the Pacific is a major West Coast attraction with exhibits featuring rays and sharks, among other species. It specializes in showcasing the life and habitats of the vast Pacific Ocean and is particularly family friendly. The aquarium is also famous for its California kelp forest ecosystem. This facility promotes itself as more than just a fish tank, but a think tank as well, delving into conservation issues, arts and scientific discoveries. Currently they have a display about the Fukushima nuclear accident and its impact on marine life.
6. National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD
The National Aquarium on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was founded in 1981. It features many interactive exhibits and more than 16,000 marine animals. Their open shark tank, tropical rainforest and Australian waters are known for their high-tech designs. There’s also a focus on Chesapeake Bay and its vast watershed. Don’t miss the gallery on survival adaptations under the sea, including giant Pacific octopus changing color and eels generating electricity.
7. New England Aquarium, Boston, MA
The prestigious New England Aquarium features a diverse array of life from the world’s oceans. Since 1969, it has been a global leader in marine conservation and ocean exploration. With its popular giant octopi, penguins, seadragons and sharks, the aquarium displays some breathtaking exhibits that appeal to all ages. Check out the Blue Planet Action Center which outlines issues like the impact of climate change and sustainable fishing practices on our oceans.
8. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, located in the heart of historic Cannery Row, features more than 100 tanks filled with a stunning array of marine life. With its incredible kelp forest and child-friendly touch pools, the aquarium appeals to the whole family. Check out the exhibits of sea otters, rays, jellyfish, deep sea creatures and more. This is one of the most respected aquariums in America. To really wow the kids, those age eight to 13 can even sign up for some guided surface scuba diving in the Great Tide Pool.
9. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, LA
New Orleans’s Audubon Aquarium is a world-class attraction is known for its cool walk-through tunnel and amazing Caribbean exhibit. You can take the plunge and go SCUBA diving or snorkeling in the Great Maya Reef. The Mississippi River and penguin habitats are always a big hit with visitors. You can even arrange for a backstage penguin pass to have a hands-on close encounter with an endangered African penguin. The Audubon Aquarium also helps coordinate animal rescues in the wild. There’s a zoo, butterfly garden and insectarium nearby to help further inspire you to the wonders of nature.
10. Florida Aquarium, Tampa, FL
Tampa’s Florida Aquarium is another one of the top aquariums in America, showcasing the ecosystems of Florida and the world at large. It has a roster of shows, encounters, swims, feedings and behind the scenes tours to educate and entertain visitors young and old. Scuba divers age 15 and up can even safely swim with sharks in the Coral Reef Exhibit. There’s a fun water park to complement the aquarium attractions, but they also take marine research and conservation seriously. This aquarium is actively involved in the rescue of sea turtles, the restoration of coral reefs and educational initiatives to promote stewardship of our natural environment.