Has it been a while since you last visited a public aquarium? If that’s the case, now might be a good time to go, especially with the winter weather that’s better suited for indoor activities. Moreover, if you have kids, a visit to one of America’s best aquariums is not only full of fun but also educational. Across the country, there are nearly 400 zoos and aquariums you can visit this year. But if you’re looking for some suggestions, here are ten of America’s best aquariums for visitors of all ages.
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08103
When you search for an aquarium in Philadelphia, you won’t find a listing in the City of Brotherly Love. On the other hand, Adventure Aquarium is just minutes away, in neighboring Camden. Straddling the shores of the Delaware River, this top attraction is the best in the Northeast and the entire country. That distinction is supported by housing over 15,000 marine animals and includes the Northeast’s largest collection of sharks. Furthermore, it’s the world’s only aquarium to feature hippos and one of a few American spots with little blue penguins. That’s not to mention fascinating marine life like sea anemone, eels, jellyfish and a rare blue lobster. Please note that capacity is limited and it’s best to make online reservations well in advance.
701 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 3360
With so many aquariums in Florida, it’s difficult to highlight just one. While some say the marine museum in Clearwater is better, the Florida Aquarium is the state’s largest. Not only is it the largest, it’s also the most visited. In fact, the marine institution set a record attendance of nearly one million visitors just last year. As one of the America’s best aquariums, there are plenty of attractions for you to enjoy. Among the 20,000 plants and animals for you to see are alligators, sharks, sea otters and sea turtles. In addition, you can visit the Coral Reef gallery with a walk-through tunnel and a jelly touch habitat, the only one in the Southeast. The family friendly attraction has a prime location along Tampa’s Riverwalk and just minutes from downtown.
225 Baker St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
When you visit the Georgia Aquarium, make sure to allow yourself enough time. After all, it’s America’s largest, with 550,000 square feet and over 11 million gallons in its tanks. Located just north of Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Aquarium is home to over 100,000 animals representing 500 species. What’s more, it’s the only North American marine exhibit to house manta rays and whale sharks, the world’s largest fish species. The enormous aquarium features seven major galleries, including the enormous Ocean Voyager gallery. In addition, you can see dolphin and sea lion shows, as well as animal encounters for an added fee. Please note that you must purchase timed entry tickets in advance of your visit.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
There’s no question that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is always mentioned among the world’s best. Moreover, it’s likely the most famous aquarium in America and ranks among the most visited. Located along historic Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to over 75,000 plants and animals across 801 species. The largest of its kind upon opening in 1984, the aquarium is distinguished by several industry firsts. For example, it was the first present a living kelp forest exhibit and the first to feature large-scale jellyfish exhibits. Both the kelp forest and the jellyfish are among the most popular attractions at the aquarium. However, there is so much more for you to see and do. For instance, you can touch bat rays, watch a sea otter feeding and penguin feedings. Equally important for you to see is the Open Sea exhibit, the scenic outdoor deck and the Doc Ricketts exhibit
501 E. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Set in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium is the most visited tourist attraction in Maryland. Yet despite its name, it’s not managed by the federal government or part of the Smithsonian Museum. Instead, it’s a non-profit organization and as a result requires you to pay for admission. Nevertheless, it’s among America’s best and once had a partnership with the National Aquarium in Washington D.C. With captivating views of Chesapeake Bay, the aquarium extends across 250,000 square and a water capacity of over 2.2 million gallons. The facility holds over 17,000 animals representing more than 750 species. As one of the largest in America, there are many highlights for you to see, particularly the Dolphin Discovery gallery.
New York Aquarium
602 Surf Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11224
Located along Coney Island’s famous boardwalk, the New York Aquarium is America’s oldest aquarium in continuous operation. It’s also one of the largest, encompassing 14 full acres alongside Atlantic the coastline. In other words, you may have to do some extra walking to see the top highlights. With more detail, there are five major exhibits, including Conservation Hall and the must-see Ocean Wonders: Sharks! At the shark exhibit, you can walk through a 40-foot long shark tunnel to see over 18 shark species and other marine life. If that’s not enough, you can also see a sea lion show, visit the touch pool or experience the 4-D Theater. Founded in 1896 at its original location in Battery Park, the attraction has been in Coney Island since 1957. When you go, don’t forget to see the historic Beebe’s Bathysphere outside the main entrance.
1483 Alaskan Way Pier 59
Seattle, WA 98101
The Seattle Aquarium is quite small in comparison to most of America’s best aquariums, However, it has just about everything you would expect to see in an aquatic museum. In detail, you can see several bird species, mammals like sea otters and marine life like a giant Pacific octopus, seahorses and jellyfish. When you go, make sure to visit the Underwater Dome, the harbor seal habitat and the tide pools. One of Seattle’s top family friendly attractions, the aquarium located along the Seattle Waterfront, near the Great Wheel. It’s also one of the attractions included with the Seattle CityPASS. For a discounted price, you can see up to five local attractions with the CityPASS, including the Space Needle.
1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
With breathtaking views of the skyline, the Shedd is one of three top attractions at Chicago’s acclaimed Museum Campus. Widely known as one of the world’s finest, the Shedd is also among the most visited, drawing 2 million guests annually. Also, as one of America’s largest aquariums, you can spend a full day to see the many notable attractions. For instance, the beluga whales are a crowd favorite as are the sea turtles and penguins. Also available for a separate fee are special tours where you can meet sea creatures like the beluga whales and sea otters. By the way, the Shedd is one of the featured attractions you can see with a Chicago CityPASS.
California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
Located in the California Academy of Sciences, the Steinhart Aquarium is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. One of the top attractions in Golden Gate Park, the Steinhart is home to almost 40,000 animals representing 900 species. One of the most enduring attractions is the presence of a rare albino alligator, with the newest one named Claude. However, there are other highlights, like one of the world’s largest and deepest coral reef displays. That’s to say nothing of the California Coast exhibit and the Twilight Zone exhibit. If you’re interested, another local attraction is the Smithsonian-affiliated Aquarium of the Bay, at Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf.
Texas State Aquarium
2710 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Corpus Christi, TX 78402
What better way to showcase a Texas-sized aquarium than the Texas State Aquarium? First and foremost, it’s the largest, covering 6.3 acres in picturesque Corpus Christi. In addition, it features over 13,000 animals across 460 species, including some you might see in a zoo. For example, you can see vampire bats, African servals and ocelots (both wild spotted cats). That’s not to mention Grace, a beautiful bald eagle from Alaska. As for marine life, top attractions include moray eels, sea nettles, sharks and sea turtles. In addition, you can see delightful exhibits like the flamingos in the Jungle, Stingray Lagoon and Otter Creek. Of course, the Dolphins! Show is among the most popular for families with children. Even better is that these shows are included with your admission.
About The Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.