Even though Summer is a time for beach trips, you are not guaranteed to see a lot of sea life. Just beyond the deep blue, there is a whole other world worth seeing. Luckily though, aquariums bring that world to the people.
Sea lions, otters, crabs, sharks, eels, and manta rays all are extraordinary animals. Unfortunately, in times of climate change and extreme waste, their lives are more at risk than ever. This makes these aquariums all the more important for conservation efforts and they need to be supported not only because they are fun, but because they are working hard to keep these animals as part of our world.
Here are 10 aquariums that are a must-see in the United States.
10 Monterey Bay Aquarium At Monterey, California
This aquarium is connected right to the Pacific Ocean. One of their most famous exhibits is the Kelp Forest, which is nearly 3 stories high! This exhibit is a big deal because it is regarded as the first victorious attempt to create and maintain a living kelp forest in an artificial setting.
The aquarium also plays a big part in the rehabilitation of wildlife. They take in otters, shorebirds, and other animals to rehabilitate them for release back into the wild. They also take care to help endangered species such as African penguins.
This place has also influenced pop culture. For example, this aquarium inspired the one in Finding Dory!
9 Georgia Aquarium In Atlanta, Georgia
This aquarium is the largest in the United States, holding about 10 million gallons of water in the building. Their exhibitions include the River Scout exhibit where they house local North American specimens and the Cold Water Quest exhibit that features animals from colder regions such as sea otters, African penguins, and Japanese spider crabs.
When it comes to research and conservation, this aquarium has been involved with initiatives concerning beluga whales, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, and spotted eagle rays.
8 Shedd Aquarium In Chicago, Illinois
The Shedd Aquarium was the U.S.A's first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. They have exhibits on lakes, oceans, rivers, the Amazon, coral reefs, and have hands-on activities such as sting-ray touching. They also have a huge area for marine mammals like penguins, California sea lions, and sea otters.
As for their conservation and research efforts, the aquarium has been involved in beluga whale studies, the conversation of the Bahamian rock iguana (which is one of the most endangered lizards in the world), and mapping out seahorse populations in Southeast Asia.
7 National Aquarium In Baltimore, Maryland
According to the Travel Channel, Coastal Living magazine, and various polls, this is one of the best aquariums in the United States. The building spans five floors but is very accessible thanks to several escalators and elevators. Each level is a different exhibit, starting from Blacktip Reef before going into creatures native to Maryland on the second floor. Level three explores the ways animals adapt to their environments. The fourth and fifth floors have a number of exhibits on the Amazon, Pacific coral reef, and many more.
This aquarium is also known for rescuing and rehabilitating dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees.
6 Florida Aquarium In Tampa, Florida
The Florida aquarium offers memorable specialty experiences that must be booked in advance. These include activities like shark swimming or even a dolphin cruise. Besides these special activities, there are displays focusing on fresh-water springs, wetland, beach, and coral reef.
The aquarium also does a lot of summer camps for kids, which are generally called "Aqua Camp." There is also a program called "Aquatots" for very young kids to attend with a parent or guardian.
5 Newport Aquarium In Newport, Kentucky
This is one of the few aquariums that has had success breeding shark rays, and they are also one of the few to have them in captivity. The Newport Aquarium is also known for possessing a unique collection of alligators, including albino ones.
For a time, the Newport Aquarium even had an 800 lbs American alligator named Mighty Mike. He left in 2018 to return to Florida's Crocodilian Conservation Center.
4 Waikiki Aquarium In Honolulu, Hawaii
This aquarium is all about quality over quantity. The whole aquarium can be seen in just an hour, so the best idea is to combine it with a Waikiki tour.
Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is the second oldest aquarium in the United States. It is also credited with a lot of "firsts." It was the first in the world to produce viable Nautilus embryos. The Waikiki Aquarium owns the honor of being the first to showcase blacktip reef sharks, broadclub cuttlefish, and a mahi-mahi hatchery exhibit. The aquarium also housed the longest-lived giant clam in the world.
3 Tennessee Aquarium In Chattanooga, Tennessee
Consisting of about 12,000 animals representing almost 800 species, the Tennessee Aquarium has played a big hand in education, conservation, and research. The aquarium is an important player in sea turtle conservation and breeding. It has also become well known for its efforts in education and outreach, winning awards such as the National Medal for Museum and Library Services for its community outreach.
In addition to the aquariums regular exhibits, it has an IMAX 3D theater and boat tours on the Tennessee River Gorge.
2 Texas State Aquarium In Corpus Christi, Texas
This aquarium is considering to be one of the largest in the United States. It also has a wide variety of educational programs such as Aquarium Discovery Programs, Aquavision, overnights, Outreach Programs, Spring Break Mini-Camps, and Summer Seacamps.
The aquarium's exhibits include Caribbean Jungle, Coral Reef, Dolphin Bay, Eagle Pass, Flower Gardens, Tentacles, Otter Creek, Swamp Tales, Stingray Lagoon, Hawn Wild Flight Theater, Saving Sharks and more.
1 Ripley’s Aquarium Of The Smokies In Gatlinburg, Tennesee
This aquarium is right in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, so it is a great place to visit during a mountain trip. Its exhibits include Shark Lagoon, Penguin Playhouse, Touch a Ray Bay, Ocean Realm, Discovery Center, Stingray Bay, and more.
The aquarium works tirelessly on penguin conservation. They also have unique experiences for those willing to pay more and book before the visit. These include penguin encounters, swimming with stingrays, and even the option to have a painting created by a penguin!