7 Best Aquariums In The US, Ranked

Planning your summer vacation or spring break getaway starts with finding fun attractions and cool things to do as you travel. Nothing is worse than having a group of bored kids, so why not expose them to some amazing wildlife? Visiting the best aquariums is a great way to have fun and teach your kids about the world’s diverse ocean life and aquatic creatures.

So, which aquariums across the country should be on your bucket list to visit? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 pop culture and travel review sites in an attempt to bring you a consensus list of the best aquariums in the U.S. Our list comprises the seven most frequently listed aquariums from across these sites. Do you think the team missed one of the top aquatic attractions around? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

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People at an aquarium
People at an aquarium (Photo by Wina Tristiana on Unsplash)

The List: Best Aquariums in the U.S., According to Reviews

1. Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia

The top spot on the list of the best aquariums in America belongs to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Aquarium features a stunning array of wildlife exhibits including penguins, dolphins, and sea lions, explains U.S. News and World Report. Guests will get up close and personal with some of the most stunning sea creatures on the planet. Georgia Aquarium offers incredible interactive exhibits including a shark cage dive and a behind-the-scenes training session with dolphins.

As Fifty Grande describes, the Georgia Aquarium is truly massive. In fact, the Georgia Aquarium was once the largest in the world until it was overtaken by aquariums in China and Singapore in 2012. The Georgia Aquarium is still the largest in the U.S., featuring seven galleries and more than 11 million gallons of water. The main attraction, however, is Georgia’s whale shark tank containing more than six million gallons of water.

The Georgia Aquarium is truly a modern spectacle for lovers of aquatic wildlife. From rays to dolphins to beluga whales, a trip to the Georgia Aquarium promises to be an unforgettable experience. And there are plenty of fun interactions for your little ones, too. Kids can experience a wading pool filled with slippery, but harmless, sea creatures and even enjoy story time or crafts, notes PureWow.

2. Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey Bay, California

The kelp forest at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The kelp forest at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Photo by Clair Sapilewski on Shutterstock)

Next up on the list of the top aquariums to visit in the U.S. is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey Bay, California. This aquarium is located on the stunning coastline of the Pacific in beautiful Monterey Bay. This aquarium highlights the abundance of sea life and ocean diversity along California’s coast, notes Tripadvisor.

Monterey’s aquarium is about more than showcasing the natural wonders of the Pacific Ocean. This aquarium is a renowned institution dedicated to marine conservation and research, explains InstaSwim. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to more than 35,000 sea animals including otters, sharks, and a wide variety of fish. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit is the Open Sea exhibit which offers guests a preview of life in the depths of the oceans.

Not only is Monterey Bay a breathtaking place to visit, but you’ll love spending the day situated right on the coast. Monterey Bay offers some of the most unique sea exhibits such as the Living Kelp Forest and the Giant Pacific Octopus, adds Travel and Leisure. Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium means you’re not only enjoying the wildlife exhibits but you’re helping in their quest to conserve and educate.

3. Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans, Louisiana

The main attraction at this aquarium in NOLA is the Gulf of Mexico exhibit that features sting rays, sea turtles, and 17-foot-long sharks, explains Travel Channel. This beautiful aquarium is situated right along the banks of the Mississippi River and is close to the French Quarter in New Orleans. If you need a family-friendly destination during your stay in The Big Easy, the Audubon Aquarium is definitely worth your time, furthers Fifty Grande. This family aquarium is home to more than 3,000 animals across 250 species, making it one of the most diverse and popular attractions in Louisiana.

The Audubon Aquarium is one of New Orleans’ best-kept secrets. You’ll explore in wonder as you gaze at white alligators, jellyfish, and sharks. The 400,000-gallon, 17-foot deep tank that houses the Gulf of Mexico exhibit is one of the most breathtaking attractions in the city, notes Travel and Leisure. Start your day with southern sea otters and seahorses before moving onto the Gulf of Mexico tank to witness life in the Gulf in person.

4. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois

Shedd Aquarium exhibit
Shedd Aquarium exhibit (Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash)

Next up on the list of the best aquariums in America is the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois. The Shedd Aquarium is home to a stunning array of sea life and features some of the most beautiful architecture the great city of Chicago has to offer. Shedd is a great place for Midwesterners to go and see one of the best collections of incredible saltwater fish, notes Redbook.

There are a lot of attractions at Shedd Aquarium but perhaps the most noteworthy is the Great Lakes exhibit that showcases some of the region’s native species, explains PureWow. Visitors can even see and touch sturgeon, which is a scaleless fish that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs, and view sea lamprey, with their big teeth, up close and in person.

Shedd Aquarium offers a range of experiences from touch tanks to shark feeding, furthers U.S. News and World Report. For most visitors, the highlight of your day involves the Beluga whales exhibit. Guests can watch majestic, and extremely cute, Beluga whales as they swim and play in an enormous tank. From there, guests are treated to the Abbot Oceanarium which features Pacific white-sided dolphins jumping 20 feet into the air and swimming up to 25 miles per hour.

5. National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland

The Baltimore harbor with the National Aquarium at the bottom right
The Baltimore harbor with the National Aquarium at the bottom right (Photo by Brendan Beale on Unsplash)

This stunning aquarium overlooks Baltimore’s inner harbor and features some of the world’s most amazing attractions including the Amazon River Forest and Tropical Rain Forest exhibits, notes Travel Awaits. Plus, the eye-catching triangular architecture is part of Baltimore’s identity. Locals have immense pride for this fantastic attraction downtown.

National Aquarium also offers fun, immersive activities for guests of all ages. Younger guests can even experience a sleepover with sharks, writes InstaSwim. This aquarium showcases more than 20,000 animals across 800 species for you to explore and learn all about throughout your visit. From the Blacktip Reef exhibit that recreates life in a Pacific coral reef to the Amazon River Forest that features the diverse wildlife found in the Amazon, the National Aquarium is the perfect place to learn more about the world’s marine life.

The National Aquarium is the top tourist attraction in the state of Maryland, furthers Tripadvisor. National Aquarium is loaded with attractions and exhibits showcasing different marine habitats from around the globe. Visitors will love everything from the innovative dolphin sanctuary to the three-story fish tank that houses hundreds of fish.

6. Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Tennessee Aquarium | Chattanooga's wildly successful and… | Flickr
The Tennessee Aquarium | Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jstephenconn/2843789167

The Tennessee Aquarium showcases thousands of diverse wildlife from both freshwater and saltwater environments, notes U.S. News and World Report. You’ll first notice that the aquarium is divided into two buildings, one housing the saltwater fish and the other housing the freshwater fish. From there, you’ll get the opportunity to see a range of species from the Macaroni Penguin to sand Tiger sharks.

The Tennessee Aquarium is located on the banks of the Tennessee River in beautiful downtown Chattanooga. This aquarium features more than 10,000 animals and also has an IMAX theater, explains Travel Awaits. The two buildings featuring saltwater and freshwater fish are aptly named River Journey and Ocean Journey where guests will enjoy guided tours through each of the habitats.

When the River Journey exhibit first opened, it was the biggest freshwater aquarium exhibit in the country, highlights Redbook. Today, it features every type of freshwater animal you can imagine from alligators to otters to rare finds like the freshwater whiprays. The Ocean Journey features exhibits of all types and you can even come face to face with sharks!

7. Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California

Rounding out the list of the best aquariums in America is the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure with your aquarium experience, then look no further than the Aquarium of the Pacific, explains Klook. You can book whale-watching tours outside of the facility and inside you will witness a diverse collection of ocean life from the Pacific. The Northern Pacific, Tropical Pacific, and Southern California galleries all display an impressive array of native flora and fauna for you to enjoy.

The Northern Pacific exhibit at Aquarium of the Pacific houses a Giant Pacific Octopus, known for its color-changing abilities and high intelligence, adds Travel Awaits. The Giant Pacific Octopus is just one of the many attractions at the aquarium. Aquarium of the Pacific showcases more than 12,000 animals across more than 100 exhibits.

This aquarium offers something for everyone in your family. The Aquarium of the Pacific sits on five acres in Long Beach and offers kids a chance to explore marine life like never before, notes Travel Channel. Kids will enjoy immersing themselves in a wading pool where they can pet stingrays and even touch sharks. From there, head over to the Lorikeet Forest where guests can hold a cup of nectar and see if one of these beautiful birds will come up close to them to feed.


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

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