Silhouettes of a family at the aquarium Iuliia Sokolovska | Adobe Stock

The 9 Best Aquariums to Visit in the U.S.

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New England Aquarium – Boston, MA 

Silhouette of family looking at fish tank at the New England Aquarium

If watching thousands of aquatic animals wasn’t enough, the New England Aquarium, located on Boston Harbor offers Whale Watches, giving you an up-close look at these magnificent mammals in their natural habitat. After you finish exploring the aquarium, getting your hands wet touching creatures in the tidepool, watching seals, or even touching a shark or a ray in the Shark and Ray Touch Tank, you can sign up to go on a whale watch (at an additional cost to the aquarium’s admission), where you will be guaranteed to see whales. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Monterey, CA 

Children pointing at fish tank

Prepared to be wowed when you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With over 200 exhibits and 80,000 different plants and animals, Monterey Bay has been a leader in showcasing and teaching ocean conservation. Here, you’ll learn about animals’ homes, from beach dunes, wetlands, to reefs and the deep sea. Explore fascinating exhibits like the Kelp Forest and the Splash Zone, where you’ll get up close and personal with penguins, clownfish, and other aquatic animals. 

Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, GA

Silhouette of tourists looking at fish tank

Containing more than 11 million gallons of water, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. Here, you can see whale sharks,  beluga whales, common bottlenosed dolphins, lizards, and hundreds of more aquatic species. For the more adventurous visitors, you can take a dive into a shark tank, or swim with “gentle giants.” Their special programs are numerous: you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the facilities, help train a sea lion, or try your hand at a shark/ray interaction. Please note: some programs are included with admission, but others have a separate fee. 

Related: The 17 Best Easy Coast Family Vacations

Shedd Aquarium – Chicago, IL

Family looking at fish tank

The mission of Shedd Aquarium is to spark “compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world,” which it does, and more. You’ll be awed by their 4-D experiences, smiling during penguin encounters, and you will even be able to feed the stingrays. Teens can try out their Teen Nature Days, where they learn, explore, and help conserve beaches, waterways and forest preserves. For younger children, in grades K-5, there is a Summer Splash Camp, where kids spend the summer up close and personal with the animals, learning the ins and outs of the aquarium, plus doing the usual arts and crafts activities that always come with summer camp! 

Aquarium of the Pacific – Long Beach, CA

Tank of tropical fish

The largest aquarium in California, the Aquarium of the Pacific holds about 12,000 animals, and, as its name implies, it represents the aquatic life of the Pacific Ocean. One of the main missions of the aquarium is “Sustainability for All,” which is evident in the facility’s programming, events, cultural festivals, responsible seafood initiatives, and more. Kids will love their summer camp, adults and children alike will love one of their boat tours. At the aquarium, you can check out the animal encounters, the shark lagoon, and the new Pacific Visions building, which holds a “state-of-the-art immersive theater, interactive art installations, engaging multimedia displays, and live animal exhibits.” 

St Louis Aquarium at Union Station – St. Louis, MO

Lobby of The St. Louis Aquarium

The St. Louis Aquarium is 120,000 square feet of pure fun. The entire family will be amazed by the 250,000-gallon shark tank, and can even touch a shark in one of the touch pools! Their High School Shadow Program allows aspiring biologists to get a glimpse at what the life of a biologist is like, and their Summer Camp is perfect for young aquatic animal lovers to discover more about aquatic life.   

National Aquarium – Baltimore, MD

Exhibit at the National Aquarium

Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the US, and is a dazzling display of aquatic life. Admission to the aquarium includes access to exhibits you may expect at an aquarium: a blacktip reef exhibit, Jellies invasion exhibit, and thousands of different fish and aquatic life floating and swimming along- all of which are exciting in their own right. If you’re looking for a little extra adventure, for an extra fee you can participate in a dolphin training session, have a private reptile encounter, take in a 4-D film, and more

Related: The 10 Best Whale Watching Destinations in the U.S.

Mystic Aquarium – Mystic, CT

Penguins at Mystic Aquarium

Believe it or not, Mystic is not just about the pizza. The Mystic Aquarium not only provides a home to thousands of marine wildlife but also is a premier marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center. Not only does Mystic allow you to view live animals, but dinosaur lovers will be delighted by their Jurassic Giants exhibit, which brings dinosaurs to life. Locals with toddlers may be intrigued by their preschool – the nation’s first and only licensed preschool in an aquarium! 

Newport Aquarium – Newport, KY

Families watching sting ray at aquarium

If an exhibition called “Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels” isn’t enough to entice you to head to the Newport Aquarium, I don’t know what is. Walk through a “shipwreck” and explore the world of eels in this new exhibit, which makes it well worth the trip to Newport, across the river from Cincinati, OH. If a shipwreck isn’t enough, the shark tunnels, amazon tunnel, and the shark tank overlook, one of the country’s largest open air tank displays, which features Shark Bridge, a suspension bridge that puts you merely inches away above the sharks. No matter what brings you to the Newport Aquarium, you will not be disappointed. 

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