The 8 Best Aquariums in the U.S. Everyone Should See

May 21, 2019

Aquariums provide travelers with a glimpse into life under the sea. But, the best aquariums in the U.S. offer far more education and entertainment.

At these renowned aquariums, you’ll dive deep into an underwater exploration filled with educational tidbits about rescue, research, conservation, and so much more. After your visit, you’ll walk away ready to help our oceans thrive!

crowd of people standing in front of large aquarium watching sharks at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, USA


1. Georgia Aquarium

Located in Atlanta, GA, the Georgia Aquarium is the second largest aquarium in the entire world. Here you’ll discover thousands upon thousands of aquatic creatures from all over the world, including sea lions, tropical fish, penguins, and more.

Best of all, the aquarium boasts interactive exhibits to intrigue and excite visitors of all ages. And, you don’t want to miss the shows and hands-on programs! If you have the opportunity, take part in a Behind the Seas tour or animal encounter for an extra special visit to one of the best aquariums in the U.S.

The aquarium also offers a handy mobile app to help plan and coordinate your trip.

2. New England Aquarium

Drawing in more than 1.3 million visitors each year, it’s not difficult to see why the New England Aquarium is considered among the best aquariums in the U.S.!

On top of the mesmerizing exhibits and aquatic adventures arranged in a spiral walkway, the aquarium also offers some over-the-top encounters and experiences. With its convenient location on the Atlantic Ocean in the Boston Harbor, guests can sign up for a Whale Watch cruise departing from Central Wharf. During select times of the year, you can embark on a cruise to spot the majestic humpback whales in their natural habitat!

The aquarium also includes an IMAX Theater, meet and greets with harbor seals, and special shows and programs scheduled throughout the day.


3. Johnny Morris' Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

The Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium features a 1.5-million gallon aquarium, home to more than 35,000 live aquatic animals and habitats. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains in Springfield, MO, this aquarium is also paired with a museum featuring wildlife galleries including elephants and elk.

At the aquarium, you’ll discover sharks, rays, jellies, eels, sports fish, and more. Each exhibit and habitat focuses on educating visitors about our world’s oceans, lakes, streams, and natural water features.

The aquarium’s gem is the 300,000-gallon circular “open ocean” habitat home to wildlife including zebra sharks, leopard rays and sea turtles.

4. Aquarium of the Pacific

With a focus on the Pacific Ocean, the Aquarium of the Pacific is home to more than 11,000 ocean animals representing nearly 500 species from tropical waters, the Northern Pacific, and Southern California. Discover more about these aquatic worlds through 19 major habitats and 32 focus exhibits, as well as an onsite ocean science and animal care center.

This year, the aquarium is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Learn more about the aquarium’s 20-year history of ocean conservation, animal rescue, and more through intriguing exhibits including an art gallery. Plus, to honor this milestone, the aquarium is highlighting a newborn harbor seal pup!

Also, the aquarium offers a myriad of interactive experiences including behind the scenes tours, animal encounters, boat programs, and diving trips.


5. The Florida Aquarium

Also among the best aquariums in the U.S. is the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, FL. Home to more than 7,000 aquatic plants and marine animals from Florida and around the world, the Florida Aquarium boasts numerous interactive exhibits.

The aquarium’s newest exhibit, Journey to Madagascar, transports you to the world’s fourth-largest island featuring ring-tailed lemurs, hissing cockroaches, colorful chameleons, coconut crabs, and an Indian Ocean coral reef.

For an immersive experience, sign up for an animal encounter or interactive program. Choose from options including Dive with the Sharks, the Wild Dolphin Ecotour, or Penguins: Backstage Pass! The aquarium also offers a variety of adventure zones for children to explore during their visit.

6. Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium is one of the most visited and oldest aquariums in the country. Since opening on May 30, 1930, the aquarium has grown to welcome a record 2 million tourists each year. But the aquarium is far more than a tourist attraction. The aquarium’s non-profit organization and team of marine science experts devote their lives to researching and rehabilitating endangered aquatic and marine species and their habitats.

While at the aquarium, visitors have the opportunity to see this mission in action at the on-site animal hospital, in-depth exhibits, and behind-the-scenes experiences. From beluga whales to tropical fish, Shedd Aquarium works diligently to ensure every animal is healthy, well-cared for, and active.

Other experiences at the aquarium include 4D movies, animal chats, and aquatic shows!


7. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Who knew you could visit the ocean in the middle of the Smoky Mountains? Open 365 days a year, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is an award-winning aquarium featuring the renowned 340-foot moving glidepath beneath a sea of sharks.

During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to touch a stingray, learn more about the savage seas, take a glass-bottom boat ride, and even meet a mermaid! The aquarium provides interactive exhibits guaranteed to entertain and educate visitors from ages 1 to 100.

Best of all, the aquarium is located right in downtown Gatlinburg, meaning it’s the perfect addition to any Smoky Mountains trip.

8. Tennessee Aquarium

With two massive buildings full of exhibits to explore, it’s easy to see why the Tennessee Aquarium is considered one of the best aquariums in the U.S.

Situated in downtown Chattanooga, TN, guests of the aquarium have the opportunity to explore both the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings for the price of one ticket. Inside, you’ll find a myriad of experiences and animals to see from river otters to butterflies.

The aquarium also offers a full schedule of daily animal programs featuring lemurs, penguins, and alligators.

Visit the Best Aquariums in the U.S. on Your Trip

No matter which of the best aquariums in the U.S. you choose to visit, remember to skip the line by buying your tickets online. Plus, you’ll be able to take advantage of significant ticket discounts, too!

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