Some of the best aquariums in the US below are simply the perfect places to visit. The US boasts some of the best aquariums in the world, and even though you might not have time to visit them all, it’s well worth it to at least make your way to one (or two!) of these spectacular destinations to view aquatic life up close.
If you live in the United States, then you know that there are plenty of amazing aquariums to visit in your country (the largest and most famous of which is the National Aquarium in Baltimore). However, did you know that there are also some incredible aquariums across the globe as well?
With all of the natural wonders in the United States, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are also plenty of man-made attractions to take in as well. One great place to see the natural beauty of our country and explore something new at the same time is through an aquarium visit.
There are plenty of aquariums to explore in the US, but if you’re looking for the absolute best of the best, then look no further than these 15 amazing aquariums! Each one has its own unique features, from stunning ocean views to hands-on educational experiences and more, making them not only some of the most fun places to visit around the US but also some of the most educational as well.
Whether you’re in Arizona or Oregon, there’s an aquarium nearby that will satisfy your curiosity about ocean life and make your family feel like they’ve stepped into an undersea paradise!
15 best aquariums in the US
Monterey Bay Aquarium, California
Explore a shipwreck at Monterey Bay — and its undersea inhabitants. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an incredible habitat for sea life, but it’s also home to a sunken vessel.
Check out Journey to Wild Pacific, where you’ll be able to see black-footed albatrosses, leopard sharks, and bat rays swimming around what looks like an actual shipwreck. It’s a fascinating look into our marine ecosystem, as well as an educational experience that will leave you with a better understanding of our planet.
New England Aquarium, Massachusetts
Located along Boston Harbor, you’ll find one of America’s oldest aquariums as well as a unique collection of cetaceans, including humpback whales, pygmy sperm whales, and beluga whales. Also known for its extremely popular touch tank, where visitors can pet sharks, rays, and other marine creatures.
The NEAQ is also home to multiple outdoor exhibits showcasing seals, sea turtles, and seabirds. The facility includes three research labs that support marine science studies around coastal ecosystems.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Louisiana
If you love marine life, then you have to put a visit to Audubon Aquarium of America in your travel plans. Home to more than 1,500 species and subspecies of aquatic life from around the world, there’s always something interesting to see.
The aquarium is also home to one of only four touch tanks on display in North America; visitors can pet horseshoe crabs or sea stars that are native to Louisiana. Don’t miss their newest exhibit, Ocean Liners: Speed & Style, which focuses on ocean liners and has over 40 hands-on activities for kids.
Shedd Aquarium, Illinois
Shedd Aquarium was built in 1930 and is located on Lake Michigan. It houses more than 32,000 fish from 750 different species. The aquarium opens seven days a week to anyone. If you’re not near Chicago, it’s easy to plan a road trip around Shedd Aquarium!
You can expect to spend at least two hours there if you want to see everything, but three hours would be even better. Plan for longer if you have kids — they won’t want to leave! The best part about Shedd Aquarium is that it has something for everyone.
There are tanks with sharks and rays, tanks with colorful tropical fish, an indoor rainforest habitat (one of my favorites), touch pools where you can pet stingrays or starfish, and so much more.
Georgia Aquarium, Georgia
The Georgia Aquarium is one of only three best aquariums in the US to feature whale sharks. The attraction houses more than 10 million gallons of water and features more than 100,000 marine animals of 500 different species, including killer whales, beluga whales, and manta rays.
For animal lovers, it’s hard not to get excited by a trip here — and with good reason. It’s been ranked among America’s Favorite Places by TripAdvisor for nine years running and has been recognized as the top 25 Wonders of the World by Travel Channel.
Seattle Aquarium, Washington
The Seattle Aquarium is located at Pier 59 on Elliott Bay, next to Pike Place Market. With more than 8,500 aquatic animals and 145 species of fish, it’s known for its signature exhibit—the 350,000-gallon Jellies exhibit—which boasts one of the largest jellyfish tanks in North America.
There are also sharks and rays (oh my!) on display. If you’re visiting with kids, be sure to check out their Wild about Waterslides! the exhibit, where they can slide down a 60-foot waterslide into a splash pool.
New York Aquarium, New York
It’s hardly a surprise that Manhattan is home to one of America’s best aquariums. The New York Aquarium, located on Coney Island, has been one of NYC’s most popular attractions since it opened in Castle Clinton back in 1896.
At its current location overlooking Riegelmann Boardwalk and adjacent to both Sheepshead Bay and Brooklyn Heights, it welcomes more than 1.4 million visitors each year. And with good reason: not only does it offer close encounters with dolphins, penguins, sea lions, and seals (not to mention sharks), but also features an impressive collection of tropical fish from around the world.
National Aquarium, Maryland
As one of Baltimore’s most popular attractions, it’s no surprise that the National Aquarium draws a huge number of visitors each year.
As you tour through its five different halls and exhibits (Fish, Chesapeake Bay, Waters of Life, Reef, and Dolphin Discovery) you can see thousands of aquatic animals and learn about how they play an important role in our ecosystem. The aquarium is home to more than 32,000 marine creatures representing more than 650 species—including sharks!
Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a sprawling 80,000-square-foot aquarium and science center in Seward, Alaska. The centerpiece of their 10 million gallon aquarium is an enormous 360-degree tunnel that takes you right through a 300,000-gallon kelp forest tank.
It’s one of only three facilities in North America with such a feature! The other major draw to this aquarium is its two resident beluga whales (Tulugaq and Taima), which perform daily shows for visitors.
They also have a fascinating array of other marine life on display, including sea otters, walruses, seals, and more than 200 different species of fish.
Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon
No matter where in America you live, a journey along Oregon’s coastline should be on your bucket list. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of many attractions that help make a coastal getaway one of life’s richest experiences. Located just north of Newport in Newport, OR, not far from Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (another must-see), the Oregon Coast Aquarium has something for everyone, including adults and children alike.
This facility has won numerous awards since its opening in 1992, including being named one of the 10 best aquariums in the US. This is a great place to visit with friends or family members who are interested in marine biology or ecology; it also provides an educational experience for kids who want to learn more about sea creatures and their habitats.
Most importantly, if you love animals as I do, then you will find it impossible to leave without feeling inspired by all that surrounds you at Oregon Coast Aquarium!
Shores & Aquarium At The Columbus Zoo, Powell, OH
At Shores & Aquarium at The Columbus Zoo, visitors can view more than 3,500 animals on exhibit. More than 100 aquatic species call these waters home including sharks, clownfish, and jellyfish. Located in Powell, OH near Columbus.
Although you can’t swim with sharks at Shores and Aquarium, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on one of these magnificent creatures. This Ohio aquarium features piranhas, moray eels, sand tiger sharks, and more of your favorite ocean dwellers. Don’t miss The Columbus Zoo’s annual Shark Week, during which they host a bunch of fascinating and educational shark-themed activities!
Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN
The Tennessee Aquarium is known as one of America’s best, offering both a view of life on land and in water. When it comes to freshwater exhibits, there is a 200-foot-long tunnel that you can look down into. When you enter it, you get an excellent view of some freshwater fish like perch, bass, and sunfish.
There are also plenty of marine animals too, including sharks and jellyfish. There are also several interactive displays where you can touch different creatures such as sea urchins or starfish. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a two-story tall aquarium with over 1 million gallons of fresh water!
Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT
It’s been called one of the best aquariums in the US, and it’s not hard to see why. The Mystic Aquarium houses more than 14,000 sea creatures representing more than 650 species in tanks that total more than 28 million gallons of water.
Located on Long Island Sound (within sight of historic Mystic Seaport), Mystic is easily accessible for day trips from New York City and Boston, but it’s a destination worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.
Maui Ocean Center, Wailuku, HI
Maui’s popular aquarium, found in historic downtown Wailuku on Maui’s west side, has been a big draw since it opened some years back. Its centerpiece is the windowpane, a huge plate-glass wall that acts as a barrier between visitors and more than 150 species of Hawaiian reef fish.
The center also provides excellent views of humpback whales during their annual migration along Hawaii’s coast. Other highlights include interactive touch tanks and behind-the-scenes tours.
Florida Aquarium, Tampa, FL
Located on Tampa Bay, Florida’s downtown waterfront is one of America’s most exciting cities. Its high-rise buildings serve as a backdrop to one of America’s most vibrant aquarium exhibits.
With more than a million gallons of water, thousands of fish, and hundreds of unique creatures from around the globe, it’ll quickly become your favorite travel destination in Florida. The best part? It’s located just minutes away from some of Florida’s finest beaches.