You may automatically look for a zoo when you visit a new US city, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Don’t overlook the aquarium! Aquariums appeal to all ages, whether you want an educational experience or break from the summer heat. They provide a great change of pace in the middle of a hectic vacation. And did we mention sharks?
Here are the 12 best aquariums in the United States:
1 Baltimore National Aquarium
Over one and a half million people visit the Baltimore National Aquarium, located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, each and every year, so this one gets to be number one on the list. Visitors can see animals in their natural habitats within the Amazon River Forest, the Atlantic Coral Reef, Australia, Blacktip Reef, Shark Alley, the Tropical Rainforest, and more. The newest addition to this aquarium will be a dolphin sanctuary and they are currently working on this project. This will be the first of its kind in North America and it will ensure that the dolphins at the aquarium are receiving the care that they need and require. The dolphins will also be able to interact with fish and marine plants just like they would out in the wild.
2 Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium opened in Atlanta in 2005 with 120,000 animals and those animals encompassed more than 500 species. The aquarium is the largest in the Western hemisphere. Visitors will see one of the rarest animals kept in captivity in this hemisphere at this aquarium. The whale shark can only be seen in this aquarium and these mammals can grow to 46 feet in length and they can weigh more than 47,000 pounds. Inside the aquarium, people can also see dolphins, beluga whales, and manta rays. There are six different sections of the aquarium and each one has the environment that is needed for the animals living there. Once inside the aquarium, guests can choose from Dolphin Tales, Georgia Explorer, Ocean Voyager, Tropical Diver, Cold Water Quest, and River Scout as their first destination and then venture on their way from there.
3 North Carolina Aquarium
There are not too many albino alligators in the world, but guests can spot one at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, inside the albino alligator exhibit. As soon as visitors walk in the doors to the aquarium, they find themselves looking at the Cape Fear Conservatory. This is where all the freshwater animals live including the snakes, frogs, and box turtles. Inside the touch pools, people can touch and interact with crabs and touch a real bamboo shark.
4 South Carolina Aquarium
The sea turtle rescue program is located at the South Carolina Aquarium and the staff enjoys educating their visitors with information about the Loggerhead sea turtle. The aquarium also has a tank that is two stories tall and holds 385,000 gallons of water. Inside this tank is where a Loggerhead sea turtle lives amongst the pufferfish, sandtiger sharks, surgeonfish, and many other marine animals. People can interact with many animals at this aquarium including the hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, Atlantic stingrays, and sea urchins.
5 Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
The best time to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies is in the morning. This is when divers do routine maintenance and cleaning inside the Shark Lagoon. While performing their tasks, the divers interact with all the nurse sharks, tarpon, sea turtles, and other creatures inside the tank. People can keep busy with activities while at this Gatlinburg, Tennessee attraction, because there are different ones every thirty minutes. The entire family can watch a penguin feeding, learn in a marine science class, watch a stingray bay dive, and view a coral reef dive. Guests can get really close to the penguins when they crawl through the clear tunnels that go all through their exhibit, too.
6 Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium has been open since 1992 and this is where Keiko, the orca whale from the movie ‘Free Willy’ lived. The most popular exhibit at this aquarium is the Passages of the Deep and it is a passage of walkways that are underground. People can walk through these tunnels and see fish, sharks, stingrays, and more surrounding them. Inside the Seabird Aviary, people will see the tufted puffin, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and black oystercatchers. Larger animals like the sea lions, seals, and sea otters live outside in exhibits.
7 Texas State Aquarium
There are twelve different sections inside the Texas State Aquarium, yet the most popular one includes two dolphins named Kai and Shadow. The dolphins perform three or four times a day, much to the delight of the people who are visiting. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits and one of the outdoor pools has more than thirty stingrays that guests can touch and feed. One of the perks at this aquarium is that people can become a dolphin trainer for a day and spend four hours working and swimming with the dolphins.
8 Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in 1984 and sees even more visitors every year than the Baltimore aquarium does. All the water that the aquarium uses is pumped in from Monterey Bay, so the animals always have fresh ocean water to swim in. The largest tank in this aquarium holds 1,200,000 gallons of water and they are one of the few places where sunfish are on exhibit, since sunfish are huge and weigh 2,200 pounds on average. On occasion, the aquarium brings in great white sharks for their guests to see.
9 Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium was built in 1930 and is filled with architectural style and charm along with more than 32,000 animals. Inside the three level Oceanarium, people will find themselves watching dolphins, beluga whales, and many more sea creatures. The aquarium is located on the same campus as the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium. Save on admission to all three with the Chicago CityPass.
10 Newport Aquarium
The Newport Aquarium has seventy different exhibits as well as fourteen galleries and more than a million gallons of water that holds all types of sea life creatures. This Cincinnati, Ohio attraction is where the largest jellyfish collection can be seen in the Midwest and animals from all over the world now call this place their home. Inside the rainforest exhibit, people can see kookaburra, Burmese pythons, and colorful lorikeets, while Gator Alley is where Mighty Mike, who is the largest alligator outside of Florida, lives alongside a white gator.
11 Alaska Sealife Center
Anyone who travels to Alaska will find themselves immersed in an aquarium adventure like no other. Guests at the Alaska Sealife Center are allowed to shadow a researcher as they work with harbor seals or walk through the aviary with one of the bird keepers. There are two story habitats that are filled with sea birds and sea lions and the views of Resurrection Bay from the center is spectacular.
12 New York Aquarium
The New York Aquarium is the oldest one in the United States, so of course, it had to get a mention on this list. The aquarium was first located in Castle Garden in Battery Park in 1896. In 1957, it moved over to the boardwalk in Coney Island, where they now have fourteen acres of space for more than 350 species of animals. Many people visit the aquarium every year to see the Pacific walrus, sea otters, black-footed penguins, and the California sea lions. A new exhibit called Ocean Wonders: Sharks features sharks, rays, sea turtles, and an additional 100 species of marine animals.
Each one of these aquariums can claim that they are the best in the United States because they all offer something unique and different. The title of “The Best” is totally subjective; you’ll have to visit these top aquariums in the US to choose for yourself. Luckily, that’s a fun task to add to your travel itineraries.