Your kids will have hours of fun at these 15 largest aquariums in the US and you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself along with them! From Los Angeles, CA to Washington D.C., we’ve compiled a list of the biggest (and most beautiful) aquariums that you should definitely know about when visiting various parts of the country.
Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes, but some are definitely larger than others. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but if you have the time and money to spend, these 15 largest aquariums in the U.S. are certainly worth your attention!
From the clear waters of Hawaii to the chilly waters off of Alaska, these are some of the largest aquariums in the US that are sure to awe you with their grand scale and aquatic beauty.
Most of us never get to visit the largest aquariums in the world, which can be found in places like Singapore or Dubai, so it’s easy to forget that some of the largest aquariums in the US are right here at home. Whether you live in one of these cities or have plans to travel there soon, make sure to add these amazing aquariums to your itinerary!
The United States is home to some of the largest aquariums in the world, including one of the first public aquariums in existence! Aquariums are popular attractions for children and adults alike, with most U.S. aquariums maintaining different exhibits that showcase ocean life and local wildlife.
Here are 15 of the largest aquariums in the US, from the east coast to the west coast. And don’t forget to check out our list of 10 aquariums you should definitely visit!
Largest aquariums in the US
Georgia Aquarium, Georgia
Located in Atlanta, Georgia, on Pemberton Place, next to Centennial Olympic Park. The aquarium was built for a cost of $350 million and has about ten million U.S. gallons (38,000 m3) of exhibit space. Its collection contains 1,500 fish from 400 species; of which 30% are endangered or threatened.
It was first opened to an invited group in 2005, and then to ticket-buyers on January 8, 2007. It is home to whale sharks, beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, sea otters, and many other animals. A computerized underwater tunnel called Ocean Voyager hosts dolphin shows and offers visitors views of thousands of aquatic animals including sharks, jellyfish, sea turtles, piranha, and moray eels.
A new attraction called Dolphin Tales premiered on March 28, 2009. The show features two Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins named Hope and Destiny who was rescued by Georgia Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Program after being found orphaned off Florida’s coast in 2006.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Florida
Founded by The Walt Disney Company and designed by a team of veteran aquarium designers, The Seas with Nemo and Friends is more than just an aquarium; it’s an underwater fantasy that encourages guests to believe they have stepped into an oceanic world.
More than 3 million gallons of salt water, together with 1 million gallons of fresh water make up most of Miami Seaquarium’s volume; these waters are inhabited by some 21,000 animals from over 450 species. Among them are sharks, rays, tropical fish, sea turtles and even manatees.
This facility was opened in 1955 as a marine mammal park where visitors could observe dolphins and other marine mammals performing for them. It has since evolved into one of Florida’s most popular attractions for both tourists and locals alike.
Shedd Aquarium, Illinois
After opening for business in 1930, Shedd is now a household name known for innovative exhibits and educational programs. The aquarium is home to more than 32,000 animals representing over 1,500 species.
If you’re planning a trip to Chicago or live nearby, Shedd Aquarium should be at top of your list of things to see and do — it’s an experience that will stay with you for years. Take a tour on their Behind-the-Scenes Adventure, which allows you to get up close and personal with some marine life, or dive deeper into conservation efforts on their Fish-n-Talk tours.
And if sharks are what gets your heart racing (and why wouldn’t they?), make sure you check out SharkFest; it runs all summer long so there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with these apex predators.
National Aquarium, Maryland
Located on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, The National Aquarium houses more than 32,000 animals representing over 750 different species. While there are many exhibits to explore at The National Aquarium, including shark and jellyfish tanks as well as a coral reef exhibit housing more than 100 species of tropical fish, one of its most popular displays is that of seals and sea lions swimming above and around your head while you walk through its Sea Cliffs exhibit.
At 75 feet tall and 70 feet wide, it’s easy to feel like you’re walking into an oceanfront habitat when you enter Sea Cliffs. As far as aquarium size goes, The National Aquarium ranks third in America with 84 million gallons of water housed within its facility—that’s about three times larger than an Olympic-sized swimming pool!
Monterey Bay Aquarium, California
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to more than 450 species of animals and plants, as well as a million gallons of water. In addition to being one of America’s largest aquariums, it is also one of its most popular.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium receives more than 2.2 million visitors each year, so it’s a great spot for tourists and locals alike. It is located in downtown Monterey on Cannery Row. If you are planning a trip to California, be sure to add it to your itinerary!
Mystic Aquarium, Connecticut
The Mystic Aquarium is one of New England’s most popular tourist attractions. It features more than 4,000 animals representing 400 species. A trip to Connecticut wouldn’t be complete without a visit here, but if you can only visit one aquarium, make it Mystic.
The aquarists work hard to keep your experience enjoyable and interactive with daily tours, feeding demonstrations, diving shows, and much more! What’s really great about visiting here is that many of their animals are rescued or rehabilitated from other facilities.
Their shark tunnel alone boasts 6 different species of sharks, including sand tiger sharks and white-tip reef sharks. The largest tank at Mystic holds almost 1 million gallons and contains an array of creatures such as loggerhead turtles, giant Pacific octopus, and moray eels – all just waiting for you to discover them on a tour or during their evening dive show.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Tennessee
Based in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is home to almost 2,000 animals. That includes a rare white alligator and North America’s largest acrylic aquarium tank. The aquarium is a part of Ripley Entertainment Inc., which operates 30 different attractions across 13 states.
Among those are other aquariums such as those on Navy Pier in Chicago; Boca Raton, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and San Antonio, Texas. A record-breaking visitor attendance year was reported in 2014 with more than 3 million guests. The aquarium has continued to be successful since 2015 with more than 1 million visitors through June of that year.
Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee
The Tennessee Aquarium is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is often thought of as one of America’s best aquariums. The aquarium is home to more than 120,000 aquatic species and covers over 600,000 square feet. In addition to its vast array of aquatic life, it also has many land animals that make for a fun combination!
One of its most popular exhibits is Amazon Rising which gives visitors an opportunity to learn about issues affecting rainforests while seeing some amazing animals. This exhibit features jaguars, river otters, caimans, sloths, and other animals native to South America. It also contains large tanks filled with piranhas, electric eels, and other fish native to these regions.
Florida Aquarium, Florida
As one of Florida’s most popular tourist attractions, Florida Aquarium brings travelers from all over to see sharks, stingrays, and thousands of other aquatic animals. This aquarium is home to more than 60 species of mammals and 250 species of fish, birds, and reptiles — all visitors can interact with! At 400,000 square feet, it’s also one of America’s biggest.
For example, The Back River display lets you view a variety of marine life as they travel up a lazy river past mangrove trees, turtles and otters; you can even feed them from your hand. You’ll also find an extensive coral reef display that features many kinds of colorful sea creatures; it’s among Florida Aquarium’s newest additions and definitely worth a visit.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Louisiana
There are few places more beautiful than New Orleans, and the city’s aquarium is one of them. Not only is it home to thousands of aquatic animals, but it also contains a whole range of plants and trees native to Louisiana.
The building itself is an architectural marvel—it looks like something out of Jules Verne’s imagination — and you can spend hours marveling at all its features. If you ever visit New Orleans, don’t miss your chance to see its wonderful new aquarium!
Texas State Aquarium, Texas
This is one of a handful of aquariums in Texas, and it is also one of two that are not entirely land-based. In fact, even though it’s just south of downtown Corpus Christi, you can take a ferry from its location to visit Padre Island National Seashore. With more than 1 million gallons of water (and another 2 million gallons outside), it’s easy to see why they call it the largest aquarium in Texas.
The main tank features an impressive variety of sharks, rays, fish, and other sea life—plus a sunken ship exhibit with artifacts dating back thousands of years! The Shark Lagoon alone has eight different species on display (including sand tiger sharks) as well as an underwater tunnel so you can get up close to them all!
Newport Aquarium, Kentucky
This aquarium is one of Kentucky’s biggest tourist attractions, so if you find yourself near Cincinnati and want to see some sea creatures, Newport Aquarium is a great place to go. The facility boasts more than 20 exhibits filled with more than 5,000 fish from around the world. It also offers daily shark feedings, as well as dolphin shows.
If that isn’t enough for you, there are also daily presentations by animal experts who talk about different species of animals on display at Newport Aquarium.
New York Aquarium, New York
With more than 1 million visitors a year, The New York Aquarium is one of America’s top tourist attractions. Situated on an island at Coney Island, Brooklyn, it attracts 2 million visitors a year. There are also three aquariums located within Bronx Park that form part of it as well.
The New York Aquarium is responsible for over 70 percent of sea turtle rescues that take place along east coast shores from Florida to Maine. It also cares for several injured and orphaned marine mammals including seals, porpoises, and dolphins. It has been operating since Castle Clinton was first opened to the public in 1855.
It has been home to giant turtles such as Leatherback turtles and green turtles since 1896 when they were brought there after being caught by fishermen in Long Island Sound.
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, North Carolina
This 140,000-square-foot building features more than 5,500 marine animals representing over 500 different species. The aquarium also has a massive exhibit of aquatic life that you’ve never seen before. Two really interesting features are Shark Lagoon and Touch a Shark, where you can get up close and personal with sharks from all over the world.
There’s also an underwater tunnel that will take you on a journey through some of North Carolina’s beautiful aquatic life. If you’re looking for something to do with your family, it doesn’t get much better than this!
Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon
With 4.2 million gallons of water and more than 15,000 aquatic animals, it’s safe to say that Oregon’s largest aquarium is truly a huge wonder to behold. The sea creatures range from massive Whale Sharks to tiny seahorses, while 25-foot-deep tanks house arctic dwellers like walrus and beluga whales.
If you visit in late spring or early summer, keep your eyes peeled for gray whales passing by en route to their breeding ground! And if you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss out on some of the fun programs at OCA; from storytimes and animal feedings to fish camps and field trips, there are plenty of opportunities for families to bond over marine life.