Visiting an aquarium is a fun day out with all the family. Aquariums have so much to offer. You can view a variety of exotic sea life that you wouldn’t normally get to see.
The US also has aquariums where you can get up close to your favorite species, including manta rays, whales, sharks and dolphins.
This is a fantastic opportunity for children and adults alike to learn more about sea life and marine life diversity.
Most US aquariums also run breeding programs and conservation programs that help to create awareness of issues, such as global warming and pollution.
But America’s best aquariums are places that allow you to relax. Watching fish has been proven to be calming for the mind. It also helps lower anxiety and depression.
From education to a relaxing afternoon, aquariums provide a range of activities that work for everyone.
We found some of the 28 best aquariums in the United States where you can learn more about underwater life and see a fantastic range of tropical fish.
Address: 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
The Florida Aquarium in Tampa is one of the best US aquariums for kids. It has a two-acre water adventure zone with geysers, water cannons and a giant pirate ship to play on.
The aquarium is home to over 20,000 animals, including species like sharks, sea stars, stingrays and river otters.
This large aquarium also holds educational shows to teach visitors more about the freshwater and saltwater species that live in Florida and around the US.
They also provide a fun penguin promenade and a wild dolphin cruise which allows visitors to go backstage and find out how keepers look after the animals.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can also join a scuba dive at the aquarium where you can swim with the fish.
If you are visiting Florida or Tampa, then it’s worth buying a Tampa CityPass to save money on the different sights across the city.
Address: 55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355
The Mystic Aquarium isn’t just famous for its excellent research facilities but also for its Steller sea lions. There are only three aquariums across the US that hold these beautiful mammals.
The Mystic also has a large outdoor display with Beluga whales, rays, sharks, jellyfish and penguins.
If you want to learn more about these animals, then it’s worth visiting their Nautilus Live Theater.
You can watch 3D movies about different sea life species, hear presentations and ask questions about sea life adventures.
For anyone who is interested in more than just underwater animals, there is also a special Titanic exhibit at the Mystic Aquarium.
This Connecticut aquarium offers free access on your birthday. However, make sure that you bring along a valid photo ID or birth certificate to prove your date of birth.
Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
Monterey Bay Aquarium welcomes an incredible two million people every year. And the aquarium is well worth a visit.
With 600 different species of underwater plants and animals, there is plenty to see at this former sardine cannery.
What makes Monterey Bay Aquarium so unusual is that it gets its tank water from a circulating system. It continually pumps seawater into the tanks.
This allows the aquarium to display fish species that depend on fresh seawater. Plus, it is also a lot more economical for this commercial aquarium.
Monterey Aquarium has a giant kelp forest as well as sea otters, stingrays, jellyfish and tuna.
You can view all these fascinating underwater creatures through the world’s largest single-panel window.
In addition to the traditional ocean species, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is also the only aquarium in the US that houses the ocean sunfish, also known as mola mola.
Address: 700 Water St, Denver, CO 80211
If you want to make a day out of your aquarium visit, then the Downtown Aquarium in Denver offers plenty to see and do.
Part of an entertainment complex, you can view over 500 animal species. They even allow you to get up close and personal with stingrays.
The different restaurant and shopping facilities around the aquarium make this visit a fun day out for the whole family.
Plus, you can also learn more about different marine life settings, including the beach, the wharf and other sea creatures in North America.
Hop aboard the Aquarium Express and explore the South Platte River exhibit and wetlands from the comfort of this small train.
If you are visiting Denver for a city trip, then you can get access to the aquarium with the Denver CityPass.
Address: 2777 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
The Waikiki Aquarium is one of the smallest aquariums in the US. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s less impressive than the bigger ones.
What makes this stunning aquarium unique is that you can learn more about the great variety of marine life they display.
From South Pacific sea creatures to native Hawaiian species, the Waikiki Aquarium has a lot of quirky and colorful underwater life.
You can discover how an octopus and nautilus moves, and explore the importance of seaweed.
This Hawaiian aquarium also features coral reef predators, such as groupers, jacks and sharks. Visitors can find out more about the life of a living reef in the Pacific Ocean.
But the Waikiki Aquarium is also home to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal which you can find only on the islands across the state.
Address: 501 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202
The National Aquarium in Baltimore opened its gates in 1981 and it welcomes more than 1.5 million people every year.
This aquarium is actually a small group of two aquariums, including the National Aquarium in Washington and the aquarium in Baltimore.
The Baltimore aquarium shows over 17,000 different creatures that belong to 700 species. They are houses in tanks with two million gallons of water.
Similar to other aquariums across the United States, the National Aquarium in Baltimore drives awareness of the many challenging issues facing sea creatures.
They offer conservation programs as well as emerging scientific research and educational presentations.
The aquarium itself has a large, open shark aquarium a tropical forest, a marine mammal pavilion and a coral reef.
The National Baltimore Aquarium is one of the best East Coast aquariums for exploring the many diverse ecosystems across our oceans.
Address: 602 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
There is so much to see in New York City, and this aquarium should definitely be on your list.
You can spend a whole day out on Coney Island where you can find the Aquatheater and the New York Aquarium.
Get to know sea turtles, sharks and rays that live right on the doorstep of Coney Island.
The NY Aquarium features 18 different types of rays and sharks, plus 115 marine species that visitors can view all year round.
From striped pajama squid and zebra sharks to sea lions and colorful, tropical fish, this aquarium gives children a wonderful insight into ocean-dwelling creatures.
The aquarium also offers special animal encounters where you can get up close and personal with sea lions and penguins.
If you are visiting New York City for a few days, then you can get admission to the aquarium with the New York City Sightseeing Pass.
Address: 1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga has a variety of changing exhibits that tell visitors more about the aquarium’s different species and habitats.
If you are looking for a varied experience, then this aquarium is the right choice. With the different exhibits, just check out their website to see what they have on offer at the time of your visit.
They have a large range of turtles from all over the world on display. Explore small turtle hatchlings and discover how turtles live.
The Chattanooga aquarium also allows you to touch mini sharks, horseshoe crabs, rays and tropical fish. This is a great fun experience for children and adults alike.
They also hold a disco jelly light show where you can discover the amazing variety of jelly fish colors.
Address: 1 Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071
Whether you love the thrill of being up-close to sharks or you simply want to watch tropical fish swimming through coral reefs, the Newport Aquarium has something for everyone.
One of the best experiences at the aquarium in Newport is the Shark Bridge where you can wander a suspended rope bridge that spans over a large shark tank.
If that’s not close enough, then you can even touch a shark. But there are also other creatures that you can explore, including anemones and sea stars.
The long acrylic tunnel walk is a must when you visit this adventure aquarium. Watch the pacu fish and rare white gators in their habitat.
This stunning aquarium also has coral reef tunnels that allow an intimate view of the unicorn fish, colorful tangs and the “friendly” cownose rays.
Address: 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
The Aquarium of the Pacific in California is well known for its shark lagoon that is home to a wide range of shark species. You can even touch some, if you dare.
From gray reef sharks and bamboo sharks to zebra sharks, there are so many different sizes and species of sharks to explore at this aquarium.
But the aquarium doesn’t just have a fantastic choice of sharks. You can also get to know Magellanic penguins and amphibious mudskippers.
Similar to other aquariums across the country, there is plenty to experience. The interactive animal encounters with sea lions, seals, sharks and penguins are great fun.
If you are visiting Los Angeles for a weekend, then you can skip the queues with a “Skip the Line” ticket or just buy a Los Angeles All-Inclusive Pass that gives you access to many LA sights.
Address: 1 Riverside Dr, Camden, NJ 08103
The award-winning Adventure Aquarium in Camden is the perfect place for sea life adventures and exploration.
The aquarium features large sea turtles as well as a giant Nile hippo. Wander through the shark tunnel or step across the suspension shark bridge.
There are plenty of different sharks and rays that are home in the North East of the United States.
For all thrill-seekers, the aquarium has a large pool of red-bellied piranhas that swim freely in their Amazon rainforest exhibit.
If you want to find out more about beach life, then the aquarium’s touch pool allows you to get close to small invertebrates.
New Jersey’s Adventure Aquarium also shows the smallest penguins in the world. These creatures aren’t just cute but there is much more to learn about these tiny predators.
Address: 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119
You wouldn’t expect an aquarium in the dry regions of Nevada but the Shark Reef Aquarium in Las Vegas has one of the best sharks displays in the US.
Home to more than 2,000 different animals, including rays, sharks, piranhas, green sea turtles and Komodo dragons, the Mandalay Bay aquarium has plenty to see.
Shark fans can explore over 30 sharks in one of the largest aquarium tanks in the US. There are two underwater tunnels that give you the perfect view of all the animals.
Unique to this aquarium – and Las Vegas – there is also a collection of unusual sea monsters and creatures that have been preserved for decades.
If you are up for a diving challenge, then you can spend some time diving with white-tip reef sharks or sand tiger sharks (dive certification required).
This can make a Las Vegas trip a truly special experience.
Address: 301 Railway Ave, Seward, AK 99664
The Alaska Sealife Center has an incredible founding history. It was built with funds from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
Changing a disaster into a safe habitat for underwater creatures, this aquarium features Steller sea lions that you observe through underwater viewing windows.
There is also a large touch tank where you can touch skates and other sea creatures. And don’t miss out on the feeding times for harbor seals and puffins.
However, one of the biggest attractions of the Sealife Center in Alaska is the giant Pacific octopus
This Alaska aquarium is also famous for its wildlife response program that nurtures injured, abandoned or stranded animals across the state back to health.
Address: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
If you are in and around Chicago, then you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Shedd Aquarium. It’s not just a stunning building but also the most-visited aquarium in the US.
Explore over 33,000 underwater creatures in a variety of aquatic habitats.
From sharks, penguins and jellyfish to beluga whales, sea lions and dolphins, there are so many different fish and mammals to see.
Walk through the reed area to see sharks glide above you in the water. You can also join live animal encounters getting close and personal with your favorite sea creatures.
But the Shedd aquarium is best known for the oldest living fish in a US aquarium.
If you want to make a day at the aquarium or in Chicago, then just get the Chicago CityPass for entrance to the aquarium and over attractions. You also get a discount as a Chicago resident.
Address: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
One of the best aquariums in America, Georgia Aquarium has over 500 sea life species, including six beluga whales.
These beautiful sea creatures are in a massive 800,000 gallon tank which is one of the main highlights at the aquarium.
This Atlanta aquarium also has regular dolphin shows where these lovely mammals show off the intimate bond between dolphins and humans.
But Georgia aquarium has another very special attraction. It is the only aquarium outside of Asia that is home to a whale shark.
Whale sharks are one of the largest shark species in the world and they need a lot of space to roam.
You can enjoy the view of these stunning creatures through a long tunnel and large viewing windows.
Georgia aquarium also provides some fun kids activities with a range of different immersive environments where they learn more about sea life habitats.
If you plan to visit Atlanta, then you can skip the queues with an advance ticket or simply get an Atlanta CityPass for access to the aquarium and other sights around Atlanta.
Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is all about adventure and exploring the many different sea species across the world.
Take a look behind the scenes with an animal expert to find out more about how sea creatures live. Or you can simply wander through the many interactive exhibits.
From rainbow fish, eels and jellyfish to sharks, barracudas and sea turtles, divers regularly descent into the tanks to feed the different species.
You can also explore poisonous dart in the rain forest area or visit the aquarium’s painting penguins.
Address: 1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas specializes in sea life from South and North America. They have over 520 species with 10,000 creatures.
Considered one of the best aquariums in North America, this New Orleans aquarium shows exhibits of the Caribbean reef and Amazon rainforest areas with piranhas and anaconda snakes.
They also have a special Mississippi River display with alligators, owls, paddlefish and catfish.
As the aquarium is part of an entertainment complex, you can also find an IMAX theater and other event venues in the area.
Address: One, Mall of America, 120 East Broadway East Side, Level, Bloomington, MN 55425
One of the best ways to enjoy an aquarium visit is to combine it with lots of other activities.
The SEA Life at Mall of America isn’t just an aquarium with a 300-foot-long underwater tunnel but it also has a lot of neighboring shopping opportunities.
Watch the sand tiger sharks and green sawfish swimming in the large underwater exhibits.
You can even find individual habitats, including an Amazon rainforest area with freshwater stingrays and a sturgeon lake which is home to the largest freshwater fish of the world.
The rainforest exhibit is especially interesting as it has a great variety of amphibians, such as tarantula spiders and poison dart frogs.
The SEA Life at Mall of America aquarium also features a spectacular ship wreck exhibit with slipper lobsters, porcupine pufferfish and rabbitfish.
But there is also a coral cave display with plenty of colorful clownfish, boxfish and even small baby corals.
With all the many close-up encounters of wild sea life species, there is plenty to see and explore for all the family.
This makes SEA Life at Mall of America one of the best US aquariums. Plus, you can even safe time and skip the queues with an advance ticket.
Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
California has a great variety of different aquariums because the state simply has a stunning shoreline.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps shows 60 habitats with touch pools, hands-on exhibits and many other interactive sea life displays.
The best way to explore this adventure aquarium is to start with the tide pool plaza. This allows visitors to touch hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, anemones and sea stars.
Then walk to the fierce-looking leopard sharks and marvel at the rays, seahorses and sea dragons.
The underwater ecosystem in and around the waters of Sand Diego are a special habitat worth protecting.
The aquarium shows the area’s native kelp forests in a specific kelp tank where you can also see exotic fish from the Pacific.
Whether you are visiting San Diego for a weekend or you are planning to stay longer, the San Diego CityPass gives you access to the aquarium as well as discounts to other attractions in the area.
Address: 410 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002
The Downtown Aquarium in Houston combines full-service dining and shopping with impressive underwater exhibits. This makes it a fantastic place for all the family to visit.
From turtles and alligators to red-bellied piranhas, this Texas aquarium has over 300 species of aquatic life in individual displays.
The star of this top US aquarium is the giant Pacific octopus hiding in the Spanish galleon shipwreck display.
Sunken temples and reefs are the perfect backdrop for pufferfish, lionfish, stingrays, snakes and bearded dragons.
But there is also plenty of play areas for children, including a carousel and a Ferris wheel.
If you are visiting Houston for a few days, then go on the official Houston city tour that gives you tickets to the aquarium and other entertaining attractions.
Address: 500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
SeaWorld is one of the oldest aquariums in the United States. But this doesn’t mean that it’s boring!
This fantastic aquarium features thrill rides, animal encounters and plenty of underwater creatures from California and beyond.
You can explore the friendly bat rays in the touch pool or discover the fastest and tallest floorless dive coaster in the state.
SeaWorld is also one of the few US aquariums that is home to flamingos. They mingle with otters and other sea life mammals.
With so many different things to see at this aquarium and across Mission Bay, you can easily spend a couple of days here.
Address: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR 97365
Most aquariums in the US have an incredible lineup of sea creatures but the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport features one of the best ocean life exhibits.
Located on Oregon’s beautiful coastline along the Pacific Ocean, this aquarium features rocky shores and sandy shores exhibits with sea stars, Dungeness crabs and many other marine wildlife found along the coast.
As a family-friend aquarium, the Oregon aquarium combines live animal en counters with unusual Pacific sea creatures.
For example, you can find sea goldies, birdnose wrasse and yellow tang together with Chinook salmon and coho salmon.
If you are more interested in the coastline, then you can also visit the aquarium’s own aviary and watch the native seabirds.
Address: 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
As one of the biggest aquariums in the United States, New England Aquarium welcomes over one million visitors to its exhibits each year.
This giant aquarium has a massive ocean tank and a Caribbean reef with a huge variety of animals, including rays, sharks, eels and other reef-loving sea life.
You can also learn about many of the exhibited animals at their in-house IMAX theater.
Alternatively, just join the whale watch between April and November for a little bit of whale spotting.
The Boston aquarium itself features various exhibits, from a freshwater display with salmon, anaconda snakes and electric eels to a penguin display.
Explore sea stars, snails and crabs in the sea tide pool or watch octopus, lobsters and native coastal birds through the large viewing windows.
If you are exploring Boston for a weekend or longer, then it’s worth buying the Boston CityPass to give you access to the aquarium and other sights.
Address: 2710 N Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, TX 78402
With the Gulf of Mexico just around the corner, the Texas State Aquarium has plenty of exhibits of Southern stingrays, Atlantic stingrays and other native fish species.
This large aquarium has a huge number of marine creatures organized in different exhibits, from barrier reef displays to Mexican biosphere reserves.
The aquarium doesn’t just show breeding nurse sharks but it also features reptiles, flying bats and sloths that make their home in the jungle.
When you view the Spanish galleon shipwreck display, you can find a variety of reef sharks and undersea creatures that you wouldn’t normally see.
Address: 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
This water-side aquarium in Seattle has everything you would want from an exciting visit to the underwater world.
With rocky shorelines where you can see native birds to mysterious jelly fish exhibits that glow in the dark.
The Seattle Aquarium is even home to a giant octopus which is usually hard to keep in captivity.
So close to the water, the aquarium also benefits from regular seal visits which are super fun for visitors.
Don’t forget to walk through the large tunnel that ends in a giant underwater dome. This gives you a spectacular view of sturgeon, skates and sharks.
If you are visiting Seattle, then you can get admission to the aquarium with the Seattle City Pass.
Address: California Academy Of sciences, Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
Built in 1923, the Steinhart Aquarium has a long and moving history.
The building you see today was erected in 2008, after the old aquarium building was severely damaged by an earthquake in the late 1980s.
The aquarium shares the site with the California Academy of Sciences which means that it has access to the latest research and studies.
The Steinhart Aquarium itself is part of the large country park it is set in.
With solar panels on the root and a structure to catch the rain water, this is the most sustainable aquarium in the USA.
But not just the exterior of the San Francisco aquarium is worth a visit. It houses an incredible 900 species and 40,000 sea animals.
The three-level tropical rainforest and Philippine coral reef create a home for butterflies, birds, reptiles, amphibians and many water-dwelling creatures.
One of the most famous inhabitants of the aquarium is Claude, the albino alligator.
Address: 1801 N Griffin St, Dallas, TX 75202
This is not just an aquarium but an entire animal adventure world that you can explore with the whole family.
The journey starts with the rainforest exhibit where you can discover exotic and colorful birds, such as toucans, or sloths.
Dallas World Aquarium also houses a variety of endangered animals, including different monkey species, Antillean manatees, giant river otters and Orinoco crocodiles.
Besides the Amazonian rainforest exhibit, you can also find plenty of different marine life displays with seadragons, penguins, sawfish, rays and shark.
Address: 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401, United States
Located in the beautiful town of Charleston, the South Carolina Aquarium sits right on the historic Charleston Harbor.
Opened in 2000, it is one of the newest aquariums in the US. With over 93,000 square feet and nine galleries, there are over 7,000 different sea creatures to view.
It’s a good place to wander and slowly explore. You can cover the entire aquarium within a couple of hours.
This being said, you can always spend more time there and marvel at the amazing fish.
Things To Consider When Visiting An Aquarium
Visiting an aquarium can be great fun and a wonderful experience for children to learn something new.
Before you tour the best aquariums in the US, there are a few things to consider for your visit.
Take a look at your chosen aquarium’s exhibit list. Many aquariums offer a huge variety of marine creatures on display, from sharks and dolphins to crabs.
This being said, some aquariums may not have certain species.
For example, you won’t find dolphins at the Newport Aquarium, while this is one of the most popular species with other aquariums across the United States.
Depending on what you want to see, some aquariums also feature rainforest or coastal exhibits where you can see birds, reptiles and amphibians that live near the water.
You can find some of the largest aquariums in large cities around the US. But a large aquarium also means that you need to walk a lot.
In addition, many US aquariums have their busiest times around noon. If you want to avoid the crowds and explore the aquarium in peace, then it’s a good idea to arrive early.
Weekends are also a busy time for aquarium visits, so you may want to wander the aquarium on a weekday to enjoy all the exhibits.
Activities And Facilities
If you want to take the whole family to an aquarium, then it’s a good idea to check what activities the aquarium offers.
Many aquariums have a touch pool where children can touch crabs, sea stars and other harmless sea creatures.
Some aquariums are also located in a mall or entertainment complex which means that you have easy access to dining and shopping facilities.
Before you visit an aquarium, make sure that you check the entrance price and any parking costs.
If you are visiting a city for a few days, then it can be worth buying a CityPass. This can save you money on the entrance fee for the aquarium and other local attractions.
From deep sea creatures to underwater predators, aquariums in the US have so much to offer.
You can walk along suspension bridges over shark tanks or touch your favorite marine animal.
Many US aquariums also offer discounts or free entrance to CityPass holders, so make sure to get one of these passes when you are visiting a city for a few days.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best aquarium in the US is the Georgia Aquarium because it is the largest aquarium in the United States.
Wither over 500 underwater species and 100,000 animals, the Georgia Aquarium also houses one of the largest shark species: the whale shark.
The most famous Californian aquarium is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With its large viewing spaces and a great variety of species, this aquarium is also popular beyond the borders.
The best aquarium in Florida is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It is famous for its winter rescue site and a dolphin with a prosthetic tail that featured in the movie “Dolphin Tales”.
But you can explore a lot more at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They also have sea turtles, otters, sharks and many other species.
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