There are so many largest aquariums in the US, and it can be hard to keep track of them all, but you shouldn’t miss these top ones! Whether you’re looking for something educational, on the go, or somewhere in between, there’s an aquarium for every kind of tourist in the US.
No matter your interest or location, you can probably find an aquarium to visit that will match it. From the world’s largest freshwater aquarium in Georgia to the largest saltwater aquarium in Florida, there are plenty of options to choose from when considering the best places to visit across the US.
A trip to the aquarium is an excellent way to spend a holiday with your family and friends, so if you’re traveling to the United States and want to visit an aquarium, in no particular order, here are 15 of the largest aquariums in the US you should visit if you can (and don’t forget your camera!).
Top largest aquariums in the US
Georgia Aquarium, Georgia
Georgia Aquarium is a public aquarium, oceanarium, and marine mammal park in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded by The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, it is one of the largest aquariums in North America with more than 8 million gallons of water and more than 100 exhibits.
Home to thousands of animals from around the world and hundreds of different species, Georgia Aquarium offers an unforgettable experience for all ages. Guests can see everything from freshwater fish like the tinfoil barb to sharks such as hammerheads and whale sharks to beluga whales. Guests can also watch daily animal feedings or learn about how we help save sea turtles, dolphins, seals, and more!
The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Florida
You might be surprised to find out that there are two aquariums with over 10 million gallons of water – one is in Atlanta and the other is in Florida. The Florida aquarium, called
The Seas with Nemo and Friends, was built to have an immersive experience with attractions such as a shark tank, jellyfish, and coral reef. It’s also home to a variety of fish including seahorses, angelfish, and clownfish.
You can even interact with some sea creatures by feeding them or touching them. With so many activities for all ages, this destination is perfect for anyone who loves the ocean!
Shedd Aquarium, Illinois
Shedd is the largest aquarium in North America. Founded by railroad magnate and philanthropist, John G. Shedd, it was first opened to visitors on May 30, 1929. The aquarium sits on Lake Michigan, just north of Navy Pier and just south of Lincoln Park. It’s home to more than 30,000 aquatic plants and animals from around the world, many of which are threatened or endangered.
One of the most notable exhibits at Shedd Aquarium is a 900,000-gallon living kelp forest that you can walk through! Located across the street from the main building (which also includes a children’s museum), their sister facility provides both indoor and outdoor exploration for kids who want to be scientists for a day.
National Aquarium, Maryland
Located on Pier 4 of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, The National Aquarium is one of the largest public aquariums in America. It features over 100 aquatic exhibits and houses more than 16,000 animals.
The National Aquarium was founded by Dr. John H. Baker Jr., who was inspired to create an aquarium after he saw his first fish at a fair when he was just five years old. In 1981, they opened their doors as the world’s third-largest indoor aquarium with 7 million gallons of water. Today they house animals like otters, penguins, sharks, and jellyfish among others.
They also offer behind-the-scenes tours for adults as well as schools for children.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, California
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium and research institution located on the coast of Monterey Bay. The facility is currently home to 50,000 animals representing 800 species.
Opened in 1984, it was one of the first modern aquariums to combine large tanks with an education center. Visitors can see marine mammals up close, as well as walk through a kelp forest and tide pool areas. Don’t forget to visit the sea otter tank or take a ride on their underwater observatory, which offers spectacular views of all kinds of aquatic life including jellyfish and sharks.
Mystic Aquarium, Connecticut
Mystic Aquarium is Connecticut’s largest aquarium and is located on the shores of Long Island Sound. They have a total of 1.5 million gallons of water and house 500 different species including sharks, seals, penguins, and piranhas. Mystic also has a hands-on touch tank where visitors can get up close to some marine life including horseshoe crabs, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and starfish.
Other highlights include an outdoor wetland area with plants, birds, and animals native to Connecticut; a new touch pool called Slo Pools that includes stingrays and blacktip sharks; and their 4D theater that includes wind, bubbles, rain, seats that move side-to-side with rolling fog as well as smell effects such as fishiness.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Tennessee
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is an aquarium located on 42 acres in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The aquarium features a large array of exhibits including jellyfish, turtles, sharks, and more.
Guests can also enjoy live shows with dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life as well as Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies guests will find four exhibit halls, Sea Quest, Shark Lagoon, Dolphin Bay, and River Journey.
Sea Quest is one of two tanks at Ripley’s Aquarium that hold live sharks from around the world. SeaQuest consists of two levels with a viewing window to watch nurse sharks swim overhead while at Shark Lagoon guests can explore different species from every corner of the world.
Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee
One of the largest aquariums in North America, The Tennessee Aquarium has 10 million gallons of water and over 8,000 animals from all over the world. One of their most notable exhibits is River Journey which is a two-story tall exhibit that recreates a 500-mile journey on the Mississippi River from headwaters to delta.
Aquatica Orlando, Florida: Another one of the largest aquariums in North America, Aquatica offers guests an opportunity to swim with dolphins or stingrays while also exploring different ocean habitats.
Florida Aquarium, Florida
Florida has a lot of great things to offer and one of them is the Florida Aquarium. The Florida Aquarium is located in Tampa, Florida and it is an amazing place for people to learn about aquatic life. The aquarium has tons of different exhibits that show off aquatic animals from all over the world.
One of their most popular exhibits is called EcoTowers where visitors can see many different species of fish like angelfish, lionfish, butterflyfish, and clownfish up close. If you want to know more information on how the ecosystem works then you should visit the Living Seashore Exhibit which features salt marsh plants and animals.
If you want to take some of your photos with some creatures from the deep then go see their Living Oceans Exhibit.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Louisiana
Located on the Mississippi River, The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is one of the largest aquariums in North America and features plenty of aquatic life from all over. Highlights include a walk-through aquarium tunnel, a jellyfish exhibit, and an Amazon rainforest exhibit.
There are also regular dolphin and bird shows that visitors can enjoy. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, California: Home to more than 1 million gallons of water and more than 100 exhibits, this Monterey Bay Aquarium has been around since 1984 and holds records for being the second most visited attraction in California behind Disneyland.
Texas State Aquarium, Texas
Ranked as one of the five largest aquariums in North America, this facility is home to more than 1.4 million gallons of water and about 100,000 fish. The Texas State Aquarium features a diverse mix of marine life from Pacific waters such as sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles to Gulf waters like dolphins and stingrays.
Dolphins are some of the most popular marine mammals at this aquarium. They include bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, and Commerson’s dolphins. The Dolphin Bay tank holds around 300,000 gallons of water that visitors can enter for an up-close experience with these intelligent creatures.
There’s also a Whale Shark Exhibit that has a 12-foot-long whale shark living happily in 904,000 gallons of filtered seawater.
Newport Aquarium, Kentucky
Located along the Ohio River, Newport Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in North America. As one of just three aquariums in Kentucky, it offers a great way to learn about aquatic life.
You can view many different species of fish and other sea life, including sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, and even a giant octopus! There are also interactive exhibits where you can touch animals like starfish and horseshoe crabs.
The aquarium also has an underwater tunnel that lets visitors get up close and personal with many different ocean creatures such as a stingray, alligator snapping turtles, seahorses, and more.
New York Aquarium, New York
In the Big Apple, visitors can enjoy the New York Aquarium on Coney Island. The aquarium is home to a variety of aquatic life including sharks, stingrays, and sea otters. Visitors can also explore exhibits on jellyfish and tide pools.
California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco: One of the most notable aquariums in the United States is located at the California Academy of Sciences. Known for its innovative programs and displays, this aquarium houses over four million gallons of water from over 30 habitats. National Aquarium, Baltimore.
Sitting on top of an IMAX theater with its own exhibit hall, National Aquarium’s three stories offer guests a great deal to see.
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, North Carolina
Opened to the public some years back, North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is one of North Carolina’s major tourist attractions. This aquarium is located on a beautiful waterfront site along the Cape Fear River with views of historic Fort Fisher and Smith Creek.
The aquarium offers diversions for all ages with interactive exhibits, live animal presentations, and a variety of educational programs. The facility houses more than 20,000 animals including fish, mammals, and invertebrates from fresh and saltwater habitats around the world.
One million visitors come every year to see sharks and turtles swim overhead or walk amongst stingrays in an enormous 360-degree ocean tank. Visitors can also enjoy an up-close look at some of North America’s most endangered species like bald eagles or white rhinos, as well as touch a 40-foot octopus during feeding time!
Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon
Construction on this aquarium was completed in 1992, and it has been a popular spot for tourists ever since. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is home to over 70 exhibits and tanks, as well as a state-of-the-art 10,000-gallon tank that houses two giant Pacific octopuses.
One of the largest tanks at this facility is a 1 million gallon tank that houses one of the world’s largest collections of sharks and other large fish species. There are also more than 900 marine animals, including sea otters and harbor seals.
Visitors who want to see some smaller animals should visit the tide pools exhibit, which features a kelp forest, a jellyfish display, and dozens of colorful anemones.