Skydiving – 30 Best Aquariums in the US

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Aquariums are great to have on any travel itinerary. Many are good for rainy days, they’re places for people of all ages to learn and explore at their own pace, and often your patronage helps support conservation. Additionally, many aquariums offer animal encounters so that visitors can meet some of their favorite marine life face-to-face! Whether you’re looking for a place to take your kids, go on a date, have a different kind of birthday party, or have a new adventure with your grandparents, an aquarium is an excellent option. This list contains the best aquariums in the United States, and each of them has its own distinctive claim to fame.

Whale at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Georgia Aquarium


Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, Georgia

The Georgia Aquarium is exceptionally cool because it has some of the more uncommon animals living under human care. It’s rare to find aquariums with whales, but the Georgia Aquarium has a pod of beluga whales on display! This aquarium also has whale sharks, making it the only establishment outside of Asia to house them. These whale sharks are only one species in the aquarium’s extensive collection of elasmobranchs, which also includes manta rays and several other species of sharks. 

There’s much more going on at the Georgia Aquarium. The dolphin and sea lion presentations give visitors a chance to cheer on their favorite marine mammals, and there’s an extensive, international collection of fish of all sizes from many different biomes. And if you like reptiles, you’ll love the American alligators and the resident green sea turtle. You can even purchase paintings by animal artists such as African penguins and bottlenose dolphins! 

With an incredible range of animal species, the Georgia Aquarium is both one of the largest aquariums in the US and one of the very best.

Kelp forest at the Birch Aquarium in San Diego, California, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium – San Diego, California

In its partnership with the University of California San Diego and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Birch Aquarium’s educational mission is to “connect understanding to protecting our ocean planet.” Many of its displays include high glass walls so that visitors feel immersed in the experience and see the animals’ habitats as they’d appear in the wild. 

One such habitat is the Giant Kelp Forest, expertly created to reflect the kelp forests off the coast of California. Within this habitat live moray eels and leopard sharks and even a giant sea bass, which is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Additionally, the Hall of Fishes display is home to many species of Pacific marine life, including a rescued loggerhead sea turtle that washed ashore and was deemed unreleasable. Its commitment to education and conservation makes the Birch Aquarium one of the best aquariums in California.

Family at the Maui Ocean Center in Hawaii, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Maui Ocean Center

Aquarium of Hawai’i and the Maui Ocean Center – Maalaea, Hawaii

The best aquariums in the United States aren’t confined solely to the mainland. The Maui Ocean Center paired with The Aquarium of Hawai’i is an incredible institution and surely one of the best aquariums to visit. For starters, this is one of those aquariums with tunnels, and its tunnel is over 50 feet long! Above your head, you’ll see sharks and rays swimming through 750,000 gallons of saltwater.

Another incredible experience at the Maui Ocean Center is their Humpbacks of Hawaiʻi Exhibit & Sphere, which is similar to a planetarium in construction but which offers a cutting-edge display and surround sound. Visitors wear 3D glasses to watch an immersive 4K film exploring the lives of humpback whales and the deep waters they live in. 

Shark and Ray touch tank at the New England Aquarium, Boston, MA, USA
Photo: Courtesy of S. Cheng / New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium – Boston, Massachusetts

There aren’t many aquariums in Massachusetts, but the New England Aquarium is stellar. If you love marine mammals, you’ll definitely want to stop by. One of the residents less commonly found under human care is the northern fur seal, which has the second thickest fur of any animal and whose big eyes and fuzzy faces will melt your heart. Other resident mammals include California sea lions and Atlantic harbor seals. 

This aquarium also houses a family of cuttlefish and a color-changing octopus, inspiring joy in cephalopod fans. And with two different species of penguins, two touch tanks, and jellies in various habitats throughout the aquarium, this might be the best aquarium on the East Coast.

Kids watching dolphin at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez

Shedd Aquarium – Chicago, Illinois

One of the oldest US aquariums still in operation today, the not-for-profit Shedd Aquarium Society began in 1924 with the goal of creating an aquarium “exclusively for educational and scientific purposes.” The aquarium itself opened in 1930, and the Shedd Aquarium has been striving for excellence in science and education since. With architecture inspired by Greek and Roman temples, this aquarium has also been honored with a designation as a National Historic Landmark. 

One of the Shedd Aquarium’s coolest features is its Polar Play Zone, which is a great kids’ area and which also houses Magellanic penguins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and even sea otters, all animals that aren’t often found in aquariums. There’s also an area dedicated to celebrating the many life forms in the American Great Lakes, with animals such as sturgeons, bullfrogs, and turtles. Shedd’s most famous resident, however, might be Stella the rescued wood duck, who was born in the illegal pet trade and surrendered to a rehabilitation center. Since she couldn’t survive in the wild, Stella now enjoys a life with other ducks of her species, allowing guests to learn about her wild counterparts, and she’s often found saying hello to children at the window of her habitat.

Awesome shot of the underside of a playful stingray at the Florida Aquarium, Tampa, FL.
Brandon Caudill /

Florida Aquarium – Tampa, Florida

One of the coolest opportunities you’ll have while visiting the Florida Aquarium is the chance to visit Moon Bay, one of only four locations in all of North America where guests can touch and interact with moon jellies. And if you like seahorses, this facility is the perfect place to visit a whole family of seahorses plus several of their relatives, including dwarf seahorses, sea dragons, and pipefish.

Designed to walk visitors through the life of Florida water systems, this aquarium starts with animals that live in the freshwater springs of the Florida peninsula and takes guests on a critter-filled journey all the way through wetlands, bays, and beaches until it reaches the ocean. There are a few non-Florida detours, though, including the Journey to Madagascar section. Here, you’ll see some non-aquatic animals such as lemurs, tortoises, and geckos, as well as plenty of reef fish in a fully fleshed-out reef representative of life in the Indian Ocean. And if you’re not afraid of the creepy crawlies, you’ll want to take a peek at the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, too. 

Such an extensive celebration of Florida wildlife and the natural world undoubtedly makes this one of the best aquariums in Florida.

Kids watching penguin at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, LA, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute (© Rusty Costanza / Digital Roux Photography)

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas – New Orleans, Louisiana

Part of the Audubon Nature Institute, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas has captivating displays where ecosystems have been replicated for guests to see several animals from the same place together at one time. One of the most impressive collections is in the Amazon Rainforest section on the second floor, where birds live among trees from their native lands. Another eye-catching section of the aquarium is the Great Maya Reef display, a miniature representation of biomes found along the 620-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System off the coast of Central America. As you might imagine, it includes rays and lots of tropical fish. 

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is also one of the coolest aquariums because it is always striving to serve the community as an educational resource and looking for new ways to engage visitors in learning opportunities. In line with this mission, the aquarium is home to Escape Extinction: Sharks, an educational and interactive escape room-style game for everyone five years of age and older. Guests, guided by Captain Davey and his team, embark on an hour-long journey where they are tasked with solving puzzles to save the sharks and board an escape pod. You’ll learn a ton about sharks, the threats they face, and their importance to the world’s many ecosystems while also having a blast! 

Steinhart Aquarium – San Francisco, California

A division of the California Academy of Sciences, the Steinhart Aquarium is focused on scientific research to help further the survival and conservation of many species. These conservation programs help protect endangered animals that are suffering in the wild. Your visit helps support these goals, and you might just get to see some of that work in progress! For example, the aquarium participates in a breeding program for its critically endangered African penguins. A little chick named Stanlee joined the penguin colony in January of 2019, and guests had the chance to watch the fuzzy little one interact with her adult peers. 

For something exciting, check out the display Venom: Fangs, Stingers, and Spines to see creatures like spiders, scorpions, and lionfish who use venom as defense or as a hunting tool. Or cross over into the Twilight Zone to see some of the animals that live in water so deep that sunlight barely reaches them. Here you can learn how animals communicate with bioluminescent light and try to do the same with an interactive LED wall.

Sailfin Tang fish at the aquarium
Evikka /

Newport Aquarium – Newport, Kentucky

With its colorful and bright displays, the Newport Aquarium has lots of opportunities for exploration. One of its newest features is Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels, in which an interactive sunken ship gives guests the opportunity to explore the animals that make artificial reefs like shipwrecks into new habitats. The aquarium is also home to the world’s first Shark Bridge. Adventurous visitors can cross a 75-foot rope bridge suspended just inches above 350,000 gallons of saltwater and a whole load of sharks. 

And after walking above the sharks, you’ll have the opportunity to walk below a forest flooded by the Amazon River in the Amazon Tunnel. Here you can stand below 117,000 gallons of freshwater and catch a glimpse of the arapaima, one of the largest freshwater fish alive today.

Finally, this aquarium also has a whimsically named Frog Bog that’s home to many frogs and toads. 

Alaska Sealife Center – Seward, Alaska

Lots of the aquariums on this list provide the opportunity to meet penguins, sea lions, or dolphins, but the Alaska Sealife Center gives guests the chance to schedule a meet-and-greet with puffins, an octopus, and even the world’s smallest seal species. This facility’s location also allows it to be home to many other species not commonly found in aquariums, like the Steller sea lion and the Alaska skate. The collection of resident animals spans a great number of birds, fish, and invertebrates as well, so you’ll get to see the weird and wonderful critters that live in and around frigid northern waters.

The Alaska Sealife Center has a hand in many different conservation efforts across the state, helping to rescue stranded animals, run emergency response for oil spills, and rehabilitate rescued wildlife. This means that your patronage will support a great cause and help Alaskan wildlife while you have an awesome time attending one of the most conservation-focused aquariums in America.

Sally the Green Sea Turtle at the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Mary Phillips (Ripley Entertainment)

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has two full floors of aquatic adventure! Make sure to check the daily schedule so that you can watch the animal care team dive into the different habitats. Keep an eye on the time, too, because you won’t want to miss the chance to see a penguin parade. This aquarium is filled with curious critters, such as the four-eyed Anableps fish from South America. And if you’re always rocking the mermaid vibes, you’ll love the chance to see some real-life mermaids and take a few photos with them!

This facility offers an incredible up-close view of over 75 different species in its Glass Bottom Boat Adventure, where just a few inches of crystal-clear glass separates guests from the many animals that live in the Shark Lagoon. If you’d rather spend your money on something a little more cuddly, you can join the animal care team as they provide the resident African penguins with some enrichment in the form of artistic expression. You’ll get to help the penguins paint on an 8 x 10 canvas and then take the painting home as a souvenir.

Copperband butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus), commonly known as beaked coral fish
Png Studio Photography /

Waikiki Aquarium – Honolulu, Hawaii 

Known as Hawaii’s Window to the Sea, the Waikiki Aquarium is the second-oldest public aquarium in the United States. This aquarium is one of the only places in the world where you can get up close to the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals, which are native to Hawaii. The two seals that call the aquarium home are rescue animals who cannot survive in the wild, and they are part of a research program that allows scientists to understand more about the seals’ behaviors and needs in the hope of learning how to better protect their wild brethren. 

This aquarium is home to another extremely unique animal, the yellow-bellied sea snake. This reptile lives mostly in open ocean waters, making it one of the most widespread snake species on earth as it rides the currents of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. And speaking of slithery life forms, this aquarium is also home to six different species of colorful eels.

Girl at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Mystic Aquarium

Mystic Aquarium – Mystic, Connecticut

For beluga whale lovers, the Mystic Aquarium is probably one of the coolest aquariums in the world. This research-driven facility is one of the leaders in expanding the scientific community’s understanding of beluga whales and their needs both under human care and in the wild. And if you like these beautiful animals, you’ll want to check the aquarium schedule so that you can watch the animal care team’s daily feeding and training sessions with them. 

The Mystic Aquarium has also partnered with a company called Immotion to create a virtual reality experience that takes interactivity and immersion to new heights…or maybe new depths. Visitors get to sit in cozy pods and don a VR headset, then sit back and wait for the magic to happen as the motion platform and headset imagery work together to completely transport visitors to the underwater world of one of four different shows. 

Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium – Springfield, Missouri

The Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium is a hybrid campus that celebrates life in the Old West while also celebrating life in the oceans. The aquarium portion starts with guests entering the stunning Great Ocean Hall, where they’ll be surrounded by fish and have the opportunity to view some famous historic fishing boats. As you move through the facility, you’ll get to watch fish from around the world as they exhibit the behaviors that they would in the wild. In the Open Ocean display, you’ll stand in the middle of a massive habitat and might even get to see the resident 6,000 herring swimming together to form a giant ball that, in the wild, confuses their predators.

You’ll get to see animals that live in swamps, giant creatures that live in large rivers, and even fish that evolved to be blind after living in unlit caves for hundreds of years. This museum and aquarium is also home to the National Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the International Game Fish Association’s Fishing Hall of Fame, and the Hall of Fishing Presidents, which showcases photos and memorabilia from US leaders enjoying time on the water. 

Downtown Aquarium Restaurant in Denver, Colorado, USA
Photo: Courtesy of Landry’s

Downtown Aquarium – Denver, Colorado 

There aren’t too many restaurants where you get to watch fish glide through the water while you dine, but at the Downtown Aquarium, it’s one of the main attractions! The Downtown Aquarium was purchased by Landry’s Restaurants in 2003 and merged the ideas together into a truly unique experience. 

Aside from being one of the most delicious locations on our list, it is also an impressive establishment and certainly one of the top aquariums in the US. The aquarium has intricate displays celebrating animal life found in ecosystems across the globe, from rainforests to beaches and even the desert. In each section, visitors get the opportunity to learn how the animals that live in these habitats protect themselves as well as what we can do to help with conservation efforts and ensure they’ll thrive for generations to come. But the animal habitats themselves aren’t the only attractions at the Downtown Aquarium. There’s also a mermaid show, a carousel, and a 4D theater, so rest assured that your visit will be a blast.

Jellyfish at the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
TheCreatorx3d /

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium – Omaha, Nebraska

A hybrid experience of zoo and aquarium, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a great place to head if you want to see as many animals as possible, aquatic or otherwise, in one go. Several sections of this expansive campus are dedicated to aquatic animals.

You’ll have the chance to watch sea lions frolic at Owen Sea Lion Shores, a one-acre habitat with a kelp forest and 40-foot windows that allow visitors to view the mammals’ underwater activity. The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium has a 70-foot long tunnel for guests to view sharks and sea turtles, and charming Antarctic penguins waddle about their specially constructed indoor habitat. And at Stingray Beach, guests get the opportunity to feed three different species of stingrays. There’s plenty here for any ocean fan, and that’s just scratching the surface of all the different animals that call this marvelous facility their home.

Adventure Aquarium – Camden, New Jersey

While a lot of people are dismayed to find that there’s no prestigious aquarium in Delaware, the Adventure Aquarium is just a 45-minute drive from the city of Wilmington, making it the perfect distance for a day trip. This aquarium certainly earns its name as it offers guests several rare opportunities for one-of-a-kind experiences. You may have learned in school that sharks have rough skin, but have you ever felt it for yourself? At this aquarium, you’ll have the opportunity to pet several different species of small sharks as they swim about in the interactive Touch a Shark habitat. And while many aquariums have marine mammals such as seals and dolphins, this aquarium’s mammalian residents are a little different. Their names are Button and Genny, and they are two beautiful Nile hippopotamuses each weighing in at over 3,000 pounds. 

The aquarium’s most adorable residents are probably the little blue penguins, located at the Little Blue Beach. Native to Australia and New Zealand, this species is the smallest penguin on Earth and has earned the nickname Fairy Penguins, with individuals only weighing around three pounds each. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to visit just after breeding season and see some little blue chicks, too! 

Caiman Crocodile at OdySea Aquarium, Arizona
Marni Patterson /

OdySea Aquarium – Scottsdale, Arizona

Arizona is usually thought of as a desert state, but there’s still ocean wonder to be found at the OdySea Aquarium! One of this innovative facility’s claims to fame is having the world’s only rotating aquarium experience, the OdySea Voyager, where guests will find themselves in stadium-style seating and embark on a 20-minute narrated journey into the salty depths. This is only one of many cutting-edge inventions present at OdySea. Guests can also view an engineering marvel in the Aqua Lobby, where suspended displays house some of the aquarium’s smaller residents. And the Kids’ Cove has four different highly interactive areas for fun and learning rolled into one.

One of the great add-on packages this aquarium offers is called SeaTrek. This underwater experience allows guests to don a wetsuit and a diving helmet so that they can take a guided walk through one of the aquatic habitats. There is also an audio tour available for purchase and download on the aquarium’s website, so guests can listen to the animal care team share stories and fun facts while strolling through the campus.

South Carolina Aquarium – Charleston, South Carolina

The South Carolina Aquarium wants you to learn about monsters! Its new display, Monsters: From Micro to Mega, is a facility-wide experience that includes photo opportunities, interactive stations, art, and more. It showcases the megafauna of the past as well as the tiny micromonsters that you might find in your own backyard. Aquarium staff members have even built a giant replica jaw, taller than a grown adult and big enough to swallow several people in one bite, to help illustrate just how big some prehistoric creatures were.

In terms of the aquarium residents, there are over 5,000 animals living in this facility, and they’re all ready to help you learn about their wild counterparts and the ecosystems they live in. You’ll get to see several different species of sea turtles from around the world as well as multiple species of sharks. And you’ll get to see some fish named after other animals, like the porcupinefish, robust redhorse, and lionfish. Don’t forget to head to the Mountain Forest section, where you’ll get to say hello to the aquarium’s resident bald eagle, appropriately named Liberty.

Coral and clown fish at an aquarium
OpticKnot /

National Aquarium – Baltimore, Maryland

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is mind-blowing, with 20,000 resident animals belonging to over 800 different species from the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic Oceans, and four continents. If you want to see as many different animals as you can in one trip, this is one of the best aquariums in the US. You’ll love the chance to see a peacock mantis shrimp, rainbow-colored animals only a few inches long that can paralyze their prey with appendages that move 50 times faster than the blink of an eye. You’ll also get to see electric eels, which can produce up to 600 volts for hunting or self-defense.

If you like birds, you’ll be thrilled to find lots of feathered friends here from all over the world, including puffins, lorikeets, finches, ibis, and even kookaburra! The aquarium is also home to land mammals, such as the two-toed sloth and golden lion tamarin. When you’re ready to take a break from walking, make sure to check out the 4D theater. For $5 per person, you can choose between a film centered around sharks or dolphins and go on a 3D journey under the sea with these fascinating animals, complete with special effects.

Coral and fish at the Monterey bay aquarium in Long Beach, California
Ivan Tihelka /

Belle Isle Aquarium – Detroit, Michigan

Part of the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Belle Isle Aquarium was opened in 1904 and at the time was the third-largest aquarium in the world that used saltwater delivered directly from the ocean. Until it was closed in 2005 for economic reasons, it was the oldest continually operating aquarium in North America. Reopened in 2012, this aquarium is famous for its art-focused architecture, which includes a grand arched ceiling covered in green opaline glass. 

While small, this aquarium is home to over a thousand animals, many from the North American Great Lakes. Guests can stroll from one habitat to the next and observe the animals in an easy and accessible fashion. And if you’re on a budget, this aquarium is a great location to add to your schedule as admission is free, with a requested, but not required, donation to help with ongoing renovations and upgrades. For a great time viewing some beautiful creatures while also touring a historical landmark, the Belle Isle Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit.

Tennessee Aquarium – Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Tennessee Aquarium wants to empower visitors to make their own decisions about wildlife conservation, and its educational mission shines throughout the impressive facility. Visitors have the opportunity to view animals from across the globe as well as explore the aquarium’s comprehensive assembly of life found in the southeastern United States. North American river otters, giant Japanese spider crabs, and several species of dart frogs are just some of the unique animal species found here.

One of the most enchanting animals at the Tennessee Aquarium is the flashlight fish, an animal found in the waters of the Indian Ocean. Notable for the light-producing organs located under their eyes, these are one of the only shallow-water fish species able to bioluminesce. The aquarium also has an assortment of resident birds, including owls, partridges, and penguins. Last, the facility has an IMAX theater, where visitors can watch 3D movies and learn about the natural world.

Kids watching the aquarium full of sea creatures at the The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA
Hayk_Shalunts /

Seattle Aquarium – Seattle, Washington

At the Seattle Aquarium, you can see dozens of fish in its underwater dome, where guests can gaze up at a 360° view of marine life swimming above. You can also experience a hands-on tide pool with sea stars, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. Don’t forget to check out the Tropical Pacific section, where triggerfish and puffers dart among corals and giant clams!

For the kids, there’s a Family Activity Center filled with educational videos and hands-on activities that help visitors learn about the orcas that live in the Pacific Northwest with a group of people called the Southern Resident Community. Partnered with multiple conservation efforts, the Seattle Aquarium is on a mission to help save orcas, and this educational center is set up to help you learn about how to protect these beautiful animals while exploring and having fun. You can even tune into underwater microphones set up throughout Puget Sound and sometimes hear orcas calling to one another as they travel!

Oregon Coast Aquarium – Newport, Oregon

The Oregon Coast Aquarium lets guests see all their favorite fuzzy marine species, including Atlantic harbor seals, California sea lions, and sea otters. The aquarium also houses lots of seabirds, from puffins to pelicans. A central habitat lets guests visit the rocky cave home of the giant Pacific octopus. She’s a shy creature, so you might need to practice patience and employ your scavenger hunt skills to find her hiding in the cracks and crevices. 

The aquarium’s campus is an indoor-outdoor hybrid design, so dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Some of the outdoor habitats are what’s best for the animals and allow you to watch them in their most natural state. However, the indoor displays let you see animals like jellies and sea stars. The most popular indoor area may be the Passages of the Deep, where you travel through a tunnel system and watch fish swim overhead. You emerge on a pathway that leads to viewing areas, where you’ll see the Yaquina Bay Estuary and might catch a glimpse of some local wildlife.

Visitors view fish in the Kelp Forest tank at The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, USA.
photocritical /

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Monterey, California

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is all about streams, both of the aquatic variety and the virtual kind. If you like to tune into soothing videos online, you may have found the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s many live streams and music compilations that allow fans to watch the daily lives of its penguins, sharks, and squid while listening to soothing tunes. The aquarium’s habitats are even more impressive in person, with two expansive floors full of marine life that make it one of the biggest aquariums in the USA. 

Visitors walk under models of whales as they enter the building. Around each corner lies a new habitat, based on the unique biomes that each residents’ wild counterparts can be found in. Plenty of the displays include giant floor-to-ceiling windows so visitors can feel almost as though they’re with the animals in their habitats, from wharfs and rocky shorts to coastal wetlands. With otters, frogs, and sea stars abounding, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is unparalleled in quality. 

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park – Okaloosa Island, Florida

The Gulfarium, founded in 1955, may not be the biggest aquarium on this list, but it certainly has a lot of claims to fame. Its original bottlenose dolphin habitat is constructed of battleship steel and allows visitors to watch the dolphins from dozens of underwater windows. On the top floor, the aquarium hosts an educational dolphin show. Make sure to explore the Living Seas wing downstairs, where the world’s first floor-to-ceiling aquarium window display is still standing today and you’ll come face to face with tropical fish, eels, and a blacktip reef shark.

In the mostly outdoor park, guests can visit two species of pelicans, many species of river turtles, and the park’s two resident rescue sea turtles. Keep an eye out for Charlie, the yellow-crested cockatoo that takes a daily walk around the park with his trainers, and don’t forget to stop by Fort Gator, where there’s an albino American alligator. Last, the aquarium’s biggest achievement is its CARE center, where a dedicated team rehabilitates injured sea turtles to release back into the wild. Filled with local history and love for the animals, the Gulfarium is still one of America’s best aquariums with over 65 years of operation and experience.

The visitors looking at the Aquarium full of jelly fishes in Long Beach, CA
Hayk_Shalunts /

Aquarium of the Pacific – Long Beach, California 

Amphibian lovers will rejoice at the Aquarium of the Pacific since one of the facility’s in-depth displays, Frogs: Dazzling and Disappearing, showcases two dozen frogs and related amphibian species. You’ll get to learn about the evolution, life cycle, calls, and conservation efforts related to these environmentally significant little animals. This aquarium is also home to a building called Pacific Visions, a state-of-the-art new expansion at the aquarium which has earned the nickname the Aquarium of the Future. Here, art, cinema, and live animal displays create a truly gorgeous interactive experience.

This aquarium is also home to 10 different species of jellies, and the animal care team has successfully cultivated many jelly families whose life spans have extended well past their life expectancy in the wild as they’re protected from predators and always have access to a plentiful food supply. The animal care team is also hard at work doing research for sea otter conservation as well as caring for the adorable fuzzy otters that live at the aquarium. 

Women standing in the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, NY
shu2260 /

New York Aquarium – Brooklyn, New York

One of the New York Aquarium’s newest sections is called Spineless, and it’s about invertebrates! Visitors will get to learn all about the many marine animals, from crabs to cuttlefish, that live their entire lives without a spine. In another part of the campus, you can watch the animal care team turn the sea otters’ feeding time into enrichment time as well, with the animals playing games with their caretakers and each other and inspecting their food before chowing down.

The Conservation Hall provides an up-close-and-personal view of a replica reef. Here, you’ll get to learn about conservation efforts aiming to protect the world’s reefs and watch the daily habits of animals that call the reefs home. Keep your eyes open for the cownose rays gliding through the corals, and check the crevices and corners for the green moray eel.

Sea Life Aquariums – Multiple Locations

Sea Life Aquarium has 10 locations in the United States, and all of them are amazing! From Missouri to Texas, Michigan to North Carolina, it’s absolutely worth checking its website to see if there’s a location near you. Each facility is a little different, but they all have some similarities. At every Sea Life Aquarium, guests can see colorful, well-lit displays of many different animals that are always happy and healthy. 

Guests get the chance to touch animals such as sea anemones and starfish in the rockpools, and watch some of the almost 500 different species of rays and skates that live in oceans around the world. And its locations have adorable penguins for you to watch as they waddle around and play with each other. 

With interactive, educational experiences and a wonderfully high production value in every aspect of the facilities, you’re guaranteed to love any and all of the Sea Life Aquarium locations.

Sharks at the Texas State Aquarium
Photo: Courtesy of Texas State Aquarium

Texas State Aquarium – Corpus Christi, Texas

One of the most interesting sections of the Texas State Aquarium is its Aquatic Nursery, where baby moon jellies, brine shrimp, and even bamboo sharks can be observed and visitors can learn about their development processes and specialized care. There’s also a section called Islands of Steel, where you’ll learn how platforms built to support oil rigs have turned into artificial reefs that provide new types of habitats for many animals in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you’re afraid of the sharp teeth and fearsome reputations of sharks, this aquarium hopes to change your mind with its Saving Sharks display. Here, you’ll learn about their vital importance to ocean ecosystems worldwide as well as the many threats sharks face from humans and how we can protect them. You’ll be able to track tagged sharks living around the world, stand inside a set of megalodon jaws, and learn about the vast range of sizes which sharks come in, from the epaulette shark to the great white. You’ll even get a chance to pet a few!

Whether you’re looking for animals you’ve never seen before, state-of-the-art interactive technology, or just the spectacle of some of the biggest fish tanks in the world, the United States has incredible aquariums from coast to coast. We’re sure this list has the perfect location for every age and budget for your next aquatic adventure!

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