If you’re planning a trip and want to get the most out of your money and time, there are some best aquariums in the US that you need to visit at least once in a lifetime. Aquariums are some of the most popular places to visit when you’re traveling in America. Whether you live near one or plan to travel across the country, there are plenty of aquariums that everyone can enjoy.
The United States has the greatest diversity of marine life and some of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in the world, so it only makes sense that they have some pretty amazing aquariums to house all those animals!
If you’re traveling to the U.S., it’s likely that you want to see some of the country’s most famous landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge. However, there are plenty of other US destinations that are worth visiting, including national parks, museums, and even aquariums!
If you’re looking to learn more about the sea, you should start by taking a tour of these 15 best aquariums in the US that are worth checking out on your next vacation and getting inspired to go on your own adventure!
Best aquariums in the US
Monterey Bay Aquarium, California
There are so many aquariums in the US, which makes it hard to pick just one. There are two that I recommend though: the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Georgia Aquarium. Both of these aquariums offer a variety of exhibits and events for visitors to enjoy.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to almost 50,000 sea creatures from over 600 different species. You can even see live feeding demonstrations of the animals they have on display! One thing you don’t want to miss is their 4D theater where you get motion, light, and sound effects while watching their documentary called Planet Ocean If you’re not sure where you want to visit first out of these two aquariums then head down south to Atlanta.
New England Aquarium, Massachusetts
The New England Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the US, located in Boston Harbor. Founded in 1969 and opened to the public in 1972, its mission is to discover, understand and protect our aquatic planet. Today it houses over 100 different species of fish and other sea life.
Guests can even get up close with some animals such as an eel or a shark by participating in daily feedings. One thing that makes this aquarium so special is how they were able to establish what they call the world’s first viewable marine lab, which allows guests to see marine biologists at work.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Louisiana
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is the oldest and one of the best aquariums in the US. It features 10 galleries, including a Caribbean Reef Gallery, which is home to sea turtles, sharks, and stingrays.
Other highlights include an alligator lagoon and an aviary, as well as a demonstration kitchen where chefs prepare delicious dishes for visitors. For those who love aquatic life, this aquarium offers something for everyone!
Shedd Aquarium, Illinois
Shedd Aquarium is located in the heart of Chicago, Illinois, and has been drawing visitors to its beautiful exhibits for more than 50 years. Shedd’s eight-acre campus houses more than 32,000 animals from around the world. Visitors can explore spectacular exhibits, such as the Amazon River and Bay of Bengal, or get up close with sharks and rays in their aquarium.
There are plenty of interactive opportunities for kids, including touch tanks and family activities. There is also a restaurant on site that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options.
Georgia Aquarium, Georgia
Opened some years back, the Georgia Aquarium is one of the world’s largest aquariums in the US. It houses over 10 million gallons of water and more than 8,000 animals. It’s home to the largest fish tank in North America (1.2 million gallons) and features a variety of exhibits including a shark touch pool, a living kelp forest, and touch pools where visitors can feed stingrays and pet horseshoe crabs.
Admission includes access to the Coastal Zone exhibit, which includes sea turtles, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, and river otters. The Georgia Aquarium also offers daily animal presentations with an opportunity for visitors to participate by touching or feeding some of their favorite creatures.
Seattle Aquarium, Washington
The Seattle Aquarium is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. One of the most popular exhibits at the aquarium is the jellyfish exhibit, which features a variety of different species of jellies including moon jellies, blue blubber jellies, sea nettles, and more. The octopus exhibit houses over 15 octopuses from around the world and showcases their diverse behaviors in a naturalistic tank setting.
Finally, don’t miss the otter feedings every day where you can watch these playful creatures dive for fish from underwater glass windows!
New York Aquarium, New York
A visit to the New York Aquarium is a chance to explore the ocean’s depths, walk through a rainforest, and find out what makes an octopus tick. Plus, it’s located in Battery Park City on the Hudson River waterfront with views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.
The aquarium takes visitors on a journey from Maine to Florida exploring all sorts of aquatic life in environments from tidal pools to rivers, wetlands, coral reefs, and deep-sea habitats. Highlights include penguin and otter shows, as well as daily feedings of rays, sharks, turtles, sea lions, and fish. There are also saltwater touch tanks where visitors can reach into tidepools or engage in a tug-of-war with blue crabs.
National Aquarium, Maryland
Named one of the top best aquariums in the world, National Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 animals. Visitors can explore a living rainforest, walk through a shipwreck and even touch sharks.
The National Aquarium is one of the largest and best aquariums in the US, housing more than 100,000 aquatic animals. Highlights include a walk-through tunnel and stingray touch tank. There’s also an exhibit that takes you through a day in the life of various aquatic animals, from sunrise to sunset.
Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska
The Alaska SeaLife Center is an aquarium in Seward, Alaska which provides a home for over one hundred sea animals. It’s also a great place to learn about Alaskan marine life, from the tiniest invertebrates to the largest mammals.
Visitors can learn about what lives in Alaska’s ocean and watch as biologists take care of living creatures. For those who don’t have time to see them all, their website offers a scavenger hunt where you can find the animals hiding around their site!
Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a beautiful and educational place to visit with family. Whether you’re looking for an aquarium with some of the most diverse exhibits in the world, or one that offers the perfect opportunity to touch jellyfish, this aquarium has it all.
Not only does it have an amazing collection of animals from around the world, but it also has a touch tank where visitors can get up close and personal with some of these creatures without getting stung.
There are so many reasons to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It’s just a short drive away from Portland, making it easily accessible.
Shores & Aquarium At The Columbus Zoo, Powell, OH
The Columbus Zoo is a world-renowned institution that features 5,000 animals representing over 800 species in naturalistic habitats. The Shores & Aquarium at the Columbus Zoo is home to a variety of saltwater fish and coral reef displays as well as freshwater fish and river otters.
Marine life includes loggerhead turtles, harbor seals, bottlenose dolphins, and leopard sharks. Guests can also see jellyfish floating through a clear acrylic tunnel and glide past sharks swimming underwater via glass tunnels. Admission includes access to all other exhibits at the zoo.
Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN
Nestled in Chattanooga’s downtown, the Tennessee Aquarium is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. With more than 8,000 animals and 450 different species, it is one of the best aquariums in America. One of its most unique features is that visitors can go into a tunnel and get up close to sharks.
They also have dolphins, rays, urchins, and other marine life you can find in the Gulf Coast region. They offer education programs for kids as well as public talks from staff experts to make sure you are learning all about what you are seeing when you visit. You’ll be glad to know they also have restaurant options on site or nearby for lunch or dinner after your visit!
Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT
If you live in the New England area, then chances are you’ve heard of Mystic Aquarium. This aquarium is the largest one on the East Coast and has no shortage of unique and interesting animals. One of my favorite things about this aquarium is that they have an entire section dedicated to penguins!
The penguin habitat has a lot of interactive elements that make it fun for visitors. There’s also a walk-through tunnel where you can get up close with some marine life like sea turtles, sharks, and jellyfish. Another cool thing about this aquarium is that there are so many different exhibits to explore. They even have a touch pool where kids can feel all sorts of weird creatures like horseshoe crabs and starfish!
Maui Ocean Center, Wailuku, HI
Located on the island of Maui, HI, the Maui Ocean Center is a must-visit for any aquarium enthusiast. It’s home to over 1,000 animals including sharks and rays that swim in 4 million gallons of water in the 200,000-square-foot facility.
The Maui Ocean Center also offers hands-on programs for kids as well as a marine animal care center. The Center was designed by the same architect who designed many Disney theme parks such as Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.
Florida Aquarium, Tampa, FL
The Florida Aquarium is one of the most famous and best aquariums in the United States and has been a family favorite for years. This aquarium is known for its many exhibits, including the Caribbean Coral Reef exhibit, which houses over 500 species of fish, as well as many different types of corals.
Visitors can walk through the underwater tunnel to get an up-close experience with sharks and stingrays in this exhibit. There are also plenty of other places to explore and enjoy while you’re there.
From petting pools filled with sea lions, dolphins, penguins, manatees, and more, to the Water Rocks! H2O zone where kids can learn about water conservation practices like rain harvesting or low-flow toilets (and flush them!), there’s something for everyone at the Florida Aquarium!