10 Best Aquariums in the USA

Jocelyn Murray August 1, 2011 1 Comment


Tots and Travel Recommended

Oceans, rivers and lakes have captivated people since the beginning of time with living mysteries of every size, shape and color that dwell in their depths. Aquariums offer an up close and personal venue to explore these mysteries while educating visitors about the various ecosystems upon which we rely. The following 10 aquariums (listed alphabetically) stand among the very best in the USA. Come discover our planet’s water world and watch the faces around you light up in wonder.

Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific - exterior view

Aquarium of the Pacific - exterior view (photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific)

Home to more than 11,000 animals, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California represents nearly 500 species of fascinating creatures in the Pacific Ocean. Three main regions of the world’s largest ocean are represented here: the warm Tropical Pacific, the moderate waters of Southern California and Baja, and the cold Northern Pacific off the coasts of Alaska and Russia. In addition to the ongoing exhibits there is a wonderful range of programs for children and adults meant “to instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems,” as the aquarium’s mission states.

Aquarium of the Pacific - Tropical Reef Habitat

Aquarium of the Pacific - Tropical Reef Habitat (photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific)

Galleries and Exhibits

Some of the more popular exhibits are the interactive Shark Lagoon, Lorikeet Forest aviary, and the new Arctic & Antarctic: Our Polar Regions in Peril gallery. Get face-to-face with sharks in the Shark Lagoon with its sand tiger sharks, nurse sharks, reef sharks, and more. Visitors can even touch the more gentle varieties like zebra, epaulette, and bamboo sharks. The displays and daily shark feeding presentations are educational and lots of fun for all ages.

Say hello to the lorikeets in the 5,200 square foot Lorikeet Forest aviary. These colorful birds are native to the Southern Pacific in Australia, south-eastern Asia, Polynesia, and Papua New Guinea. Visitors can purchase a small cup of nectar to feed these friendly little parrots, and watch them closely as they hop on your shoulder, arm and hand to sip at the nectar.

The new Arctic & Antarctic: Our Polar Regions in Peril gallery gives people the opportunity to see polar animals like the arctic fox and king crab up close while learning about what can be done to protect their habitats. Two adorable arctic fox pups have recently joined the Aquarium’s family as well. This exhibit includes a fascinating moon jelly touch tank that is safe for children.

Some of the additional popular exhibits include the BP Sea Otter Habitat, Tropical Pacific Gallery with over 1,000 colorful fish and coral, the Northern Pacific Gallery, Southern California/Baja Gallery with the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat and the Ray Touch Pool, and much more.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

The Aquarium offers daily presentations with its seals and sea lions, sea otters, and sharks as well as underwater presentations with divers, who are equipped with microphones. The Marine Life Theater features daily interactive family education programs, and the Honda Theater offers educational films that relate to our ocean planet, including a 4D film. There are also a variety of education programs that include courses, lectures, kayaking adventures, summer day camps, family sleepovers, parent and child classes and family workshops. Programs feature various marine topics and may include animal interaction.


Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802 (562) 590-3100. For more information visit www.aquariumofpacific.org. Other related articles include: Aquarium of the Pacific Long Beach, CA

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas‎

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - exterior view

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - exterior view (photo courtesy of Audubon Aquarium of the Americas)

Located along the banks of the Mississippi River in the historic French Quarter, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas explores the waters from the Caribbean, to the Amazon Rainforest to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. 10,000 animals spanning 400 species are featured, representing both the North and South American Continents.

Galleries and Exhibits

There are many wonderful ongoing exhibits showcasing amazing creatures that captivate and engage visitors of all ages. Walk through the Caribbean Reef exhibit’s clear, 30-foot-long tunnel where aquatic creatures of all shapes and sizes can be seen swimming through 132,000 gallons of water. The Gulf of Mexico exhibit replicates an offshore oilrig where various shark species, sea turtles, stingrays and the largest tarpon in captivity swim through the 400,000-gallon tank. The Changing Exhibits Gallery features new and interactive exhibits with a play zone and touch pool.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas sea turtle

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas sea turtle (photo courtesy of Audubon Aquarium of the Americas)

Some of the additional popular exhibits include the Sea Otter Gallery, Penguins, Frogs exhibit with a colorful assortment of amphibians, Seahorse Gallery that includes two species of rare seadragons, Jellies exhibit with graceful jellyfish from around the world, many from the temperate waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mississippi River gallery with its catfish, paddlefish, and alligators.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

The animal presentations, feedings and educational shows help visitors understand the creatures of the deep, while the touch pools allow for greater appreciation of these fascinating animals through interactive encounters. The Holiday Camps are a great opportunity for children to have outdoor animal experiences during breaks, and typically include: hikes, classroom lessons, daily animal encounters, arts and crafts projects, animal shows and feedings, presentations and videos. All vary by age and weekly themes. The Audubon Zoo and Audubon Insectarium are conveniently located here as well. There is an Entergy IMAX® Theatre that features terrific films in big bold colors to educate and entertain viewers of all ages.


Audubon Aquarium of the AmericasNew Orleans is located at 423 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 (504) 410-2847. For more information visit www.auduboninstitute.org

Georgia Aquarium

10 million gallons of water may sound like a lot. Perhaps that is because it belongs to the world’s largest aquarium: Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. With the largest collection of aquatic animals, a fascinating array of exhibits and programs that engage, entertain and educate visitors, this aquarium offers guests an exciting and unforgettable experience for all ages.

Georgia Aquarium Bluering Angelfish

This Bluering Angelfish is just one of the colorful animals that call the Tropical Diver Gallery home. (photo courtesy of Georgia Aquarium)

Galleries and Exhibits

There are six galleries within Georgia Aquarium, each representing distinct aquatic habitats, ranging from arctic to tropical waters, featuring the largest collection of aquatic animals.

Ocean Voyager, the world’s largest aquatic habitat, features species from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and includes a 100-foot long tunnel which surrounds guests with water and animals on three sides. Here guests can view whale sharks, manta rays, and a variety of sharks as they glide through the waters around them.

Tropical Diver is a 164,000 gallon reef habitat with more than 90 species of fish and live coral beautifully displayed as a living art gallery for viewers to admire.

Georgia Aquarium Beluga Whale

Georgia Aquarium houses four beluga whales in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. (photo courtesy of Georgia Aquarium)

Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest features animals from the icy waters of the polar regions to the temperate seas of California, South Africa and southern Australia. Beluga whales, harbor seals, sea otters, and a penguin habitat call this exhibit home.

River Scout is a freshwater gallery boasting species from lakes and rivers from around the world. Waterfalls, logjams and an overhead river entice guests with colorful displays of African cichlids, a variety of electric fish, a striking emerald tree boa, ghost-white albino American alligators, and highly sociable small-clawed otters, amusing guests with their antics. A pop-up window allows kids to get an up-close look at the razor-sharp teeth of the piranha.

Georgia Explorer is a highly interactive gallery which includes a large children’s play area, a simulated shrimp boat and touch pools featuring bonnethead sharks, cownose rays, horseshoe crabs, sea stars and shrimp. This habitat features marine life indigenous to Georgia, from offshore environments all the way to the coast and into the freshwater river systems. Exhibits feature poisonous lionfish, loggerhead sea turtles and fishes of Gray’s Reef, an underwater area off the Georgia coast designated a National Marine Sanctuary.

AT&T Dolphin Tales gallery includes a spectacular theater with live entertainment that takes guests on an exciting interactive journey across the oceans, while educating the public about marine mammals.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

Throughout the galleries guests are entertained and educated by the important animals that live in the various habitats and regions. The 4D Theater allows viewers to experience the underwater world from the perspective of the creatures who live there. It is a wonderful experience that engages visitors through multi-sensory media, drawing them into the deep’s mysterious wonderland. Georgia Aquarium events and programs include the children’s Camp H2O (for children ages 5-11) for interactive animal encounters and explorations. There are also toddler activities for 2-5 year olds, behind-the-scenes tours, lectures, and so much more to discover here.


Georgia Aquarium is located at 225 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30313 (404) 581-4000. For more information visit www.georgiaaquarium.org

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Situated on the beautiful California Coast amid salty ocean breezes and the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Monterey Bay Aquarium features more than 35,000 animals and plants representing over 550 species of fishes, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, birds and plants found in Monterey Bay and other marine habitats worldwide.

Galleries and Exhibits

There are approximately 200 galleries and exhibits devoted to the diverse habitats of Monterey Bay. A few highlights include the Kelp Forest (335,000 gallons) where sardines, leopard sharks, wolf-eels and a host of other fishes glide through an enchanted emerald forest of swaying kelp fronds.

Monterey Bay Aquarium - sea otters

Playful sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Sea Otters exhibit (55,000 gallons) showcases two views of these playful creatures: one from the second floor where they can be seen swimming on the surface, and another from the first floor as they dive and swim beneath the water.

Monterey Bay Aquarium - jellies

Ethereal jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Open Sea exhibit is the Aquarium’s largest exhibit with dazzling schools of sardines, tuna, shark and sea turtles swimming across the 90-foot window, while graceful jellies dance through the water.

The Splash Zone has over 45 bilingual interactive exhibits with many new animals, including sea dragons and pot-bellied seahorses. Here children will be delighted by the many features including touch pools, games, and water play areas.

Other exciting exhibits include the Giant Pacific Octopus, Hot Pink Flamingos, Life on the Bay, Mission to the Deep, Monterey Bay Habitats, Sandy Shore & Aviary, Secret Lives of Seahorses, Penguins, and more. This wonderful aquarium houses one of the world’s largest jellyfish galleries as well.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

The various shows and presentations help to entertain while educating viewers about the many fascinating animals and habitats showcased at the aquarium. Feedings present learning opportunities about the important roles they play. Wildlife such as dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, whales, numerous seabirds and much more can be viewed from the ocean view decks. Through fun musical performances, live theater presentations and programs, classes, underwater video cameras, films and more, visitors of all ages will come away with a greater appreciation for the plants and animals they meet, and the conservation efforts to help them prosper in an ever changing planet.


Monterey Bay Aquarium is located at 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, California (831) 648-4800. For more information visit www.montereybayaquarium.org

National Aquarium

National Aquarium combines two venues in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington D.C. which together house over 16,500 animals from more than 660 species of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals living in award-winning, naturalistic habitats.

Galleries and Exhibits

The Washington D.C. site features more than 1,500 specimens and 250 species of amazing creatures. Its American Freshwater Ecosystems Gallery has animals from freshwater habitats in every region of the United States such as the hellbender salamander and the black-banded sunfish. The Amphibians Gallery highlights salamanders, newts, frogs, and toads, along with endangered or threatened amphibians such as the elusive eastern tiger salamander that is rarely seen in the wild. The Amazon River Basin Gallery features animals like the piranha, freshwater stingrays, tropical tetras, angelfish and an electric eel.

National Aquarium - sharks

A shark glides through the water at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

The Baltimore site features three pavilions of exciting attractions with hundreds of exhibits. Here visitors can explore the connection between life and water by journeying from the top of the rain forest to the depths of the ocean. Displays of Maryland’s diverse aquatic life and one of the largest sting ray collections in the country are included. A kelp sea forest and vibrant coral reef with more than 500 exotic fish from species such as triggerfish, porcupine fish and hogfish surround visitors as they walk through the exhibit. Guests can also come face-to-face with free-roaming animals in Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes and the Amazon Rain Forest exhibits. These extraordinarily recreated habitats feature many animals such as basking lizards and iguanas, colorful birds, turtles, sloths and more. The Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance exhibit features about nine different species of these stunning creatures.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

National Aquarium - dolphin show

Dolphins delight guests with their antics in the Dolphin Show at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

The National Aquarium has lots of educational and interactive elements including games, puzzles, touch tanks and more. The Baltimore venue features an exciting 4-D Immersion Theater where 3-D film and sensory effects such as mist and wind merge to fully engage viewers. There are live dolphin shows at the Lyn P. Meyerhoff Amphitheater, sleepovers for children and their parents at the Baltimore site, daily feedings, special tours, and more wonderful experiences that “inspire people to enjoy, respect and protect the aquatic world,” as their mission states.


The Baltimore venue is located at 501 E. Pratt St. Pier 3 Baltimore, MD 21205 (410) 576-3800. For more information visit www.aqua.org

The Washington D.C. venue is located at 14th and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230 (202) 482-2825. For more information visit www.nationalaquarium.com

New England Aquarium

A favorite destination for children and adults since its opening in 1969, the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts sits along Boston’s historic waterfront. It seeks to “protect the blue planet through hands-on programs, live animal and interactive exhibits, public lectures and forums, and research and conservation projects.”

Galleries and Exhibits

There are over 30,000 animals and 70 exhibits representing the diverse habitats of our world at the aquarium. Some of the highlights include the Atlantic Harbor Seals exhibit which is located outside the aquarium’s entrance. Visitors can watch the seals swim and play in the deep cool waters, then snooze on the rocky outcrops of their habitat. Once inside the aquarium, the Penguin exhibit delights guests with more than 80 birds representing several species of penguins. Interactive elements allow guests to learn more about these enchanting creatures.

New England Aquarium - sand tiger shark closeup

Closeup of a sand tiger shark at the New England Aquarium (photo courtesy of S. Cheng)

The Giant Ocean Tank beckons viewers with its four-story Caribbean coral reef exhibit in the middle of the Aquarium’s main exhibit galleries, where more than 600 animals including sea turtles, sand tiger sharks, barracuda, stingrays, moray eels and hundreds of colorful reef fish glide through 200,000 gallons of salt water. Six exhibits in the Amazon Rainforest gallery captivate visitors where piranhas, anacondas, electric eels, stingrays, colorful poison dart frogs and a host of other fascinating animals await. The Seadragons exhibit showcases these intricate marvels of nature that use camouflage to hide from predators.

New England Aquarium Shark and Ray Touch Tank

Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank at the New England Aquarium (photo courtesy of S. Cheng)

Hands-on exhibits for children and adults include the Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank with their graceful  cownose and Atlantic rays, gentle bonnethead sharks and epaulette sharks; the Edge of the Sea touch tank with sea stars, horseshoe and hermit crabs, lobsters, sea urchins and more; and the Curious George Discovery Corner where small children can explore different shapes, colors and textures of the water world.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

The aquarium offers many lectures, classes and programs including summer camps, field trips and whale watching excursions. A variety of resources including online games and activities also foster appreciation, respect and education about the marine world. The Simons IMAX Theatre presents films about wildlife and fascinating creatures of the deep. The touch pool exhibits and guided behind-the-scenes tours also offer close encounters with a variety of animals that are sure to create lasting memories.


New England Aquarium is located at Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110-3399 (617) 973-5200.  For more information visit www.neaq.org

Oregon Coast Aquarium

Situated on about 40 acres on the edge of Yaquina Bay near the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Oregon, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is home to approximately 15,000 specimens representing 250 species of seabirds, marine mammals, fishes, invertebrates and plants native to the Oregon coast. In addition to its grand exhibit galleries and outdoor habitats, there are beautiful grounds and gardens for exploring including lush meandering estuary trails with lookout points and informative displays.

Galleries and Exhibits

Oregon Coast Aquarium - colorful touch tank

A colorful touch tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

The Oregon Coast Aquarium includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits that beautifully replicate the habitats of the animals they showcase. Passages of the Deep connects three indoor galleries with a 200-foot underwater acrylic tunnel. Visitors get the feeling of being immersed in the sea as they view the 3,500 creatures from the wolf eels and rockfish in the shadowy valleys of Orford Reef, to the sturgeon, skate, halibut and flounder swimming along a shipwreck in Halibut Flats, to the Open Sea teeming with huge bat rays, sharks, and schools of fish gliding through the filtered light.

Oregon Coast Aquarium - snake

Reptiles at the Oregon Coast Aquarium's Swampland exhibit

Outdoor exhibits include Sea Otters with the largest population of sea otters in the state of Oregon, Seals and Sea Lions, Sea Bird Aviary, the fascinating Giant Pacific Octopus, Swampland – the aquarium’s newest changing exhibit with reptiles, amphibians and fish, Temporary Exhibits and more.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

Animal encounters at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are held twice a month during which participants get behind-the-scenes experience in feeding and caring for the animals. There is the Octopus Encounter – with one of the ocean’s most intelligent creatures, Sea Lion Encounter, Sharks and Finned Friends Encounter and Sea Otter Encounter. Interactive elements engage children’s senses to make learning fun. There are also sleepovers, summer camps, behind-the-scenes tours, and curriculum-based education programs with on-site classes, lab and theater programs.


The Oregon Coast Aquarium is located at 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR (541) 867-3474. For more information visit www.aquarium.org


With three fantastic locations to choose from (San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas; Orlando, Florida), Seaworld offers visitors the best of an aquarium and amusement park all packaged into one exciting and educational experience for the whole family. There are rides for all ages, stunning exhibits, lively shows, tours and close encounters that “provide an enthusiastic, imaginative, and intellectually stimulating atmosphere to help guests develop a lifelong appreciation, understanding, and stewardship for our environment.”

Rides and Exhibits

Seaworld Orlando's Journey to Atlantis ride

Journey to Atlantis thrills guests at Seaworld Orlando. This ride is featured at all three Seaworld parks.

There are plenty of thrill and kids’ rides and exhibits at the three parks. Among their many attractions there is the exciting flume ride/coaster Journey to Atlantis in all three parks, the raft ride Shipwreck Rapids in San Diego, SkyTower with its spectacular views in San Diego and Orlando, the Shamu Express kiddie coaster in San Antonio and Orlando, Rio Loco raft ride in San Antonio, and Paddle Boats in Orlando.

Seaworld penguins

All three Seaworld parks feature penguins

Some of the popular exhibits in San Diego include Wild Arctic with its extraordinary beluga whales, polar bears and colossal walruses, Rocky Point Preserve with its touchable bottlenose dolphins and playful sea otters, and World of the Sea Aquarium with its colorful warm water tropical fish. Among the many San Antonio exhibits there is Dolphin Cove in a spacious lagoon, alligator Alley, and the Sharks/Coral Reef in a stunning 450,000-gallon habitat. Seaworld Orlando has a Stingray lagoon, Manta Aquarium, Dolphin Cove, Shark Encounter, and much more.

Shows, Programs and Encounters

All three parks feature a fun array of shows, programs and encounters designed to inform, educate and entertain viewers about the many animals and habitats showcased at the parks. There are lots of touch/feed pools such as those for bottlenose dolphins and stingrays, behind-the-scenes tours, different animal encounters such as the penguin encounter, and animal experts touring the park with various creatures.

There are numerous thrilling shows with acrobatic performers, killer whales, dolphins, sea lions and more. Educational programs include day camps filled with intriguing age-appropriate activities that offer hands-on exploration, up-close animal encounters, games and crafts. The parks also offer sleepovers for families, school groups and scouts.


Seaworld San Diego is located at 500 Sea World Dr., San Diego, CA 92109 (800) 257-4268.

Seaworld San Antonia is located at 10500 SeaWorld Drive, San Antonio, TX 78251 (800) 700-7786.

Seaworld Orlando is located at 7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando, FL 32821 (888) 800-5447.

For more information visit www.seaworldparks.com

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium - on Chicago's Lake Michigan

The Shedd Aquarium overlooks Chicago's Lake Michigan

A national historic landmark, the John G. Shedd Aquarium has been captivating and educating visitors for over 80 years. It is found on the tranquil shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois and features about 32,500 animals representing approximately 1,500 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the world.

Galleries and Exhibits

Shedd Aquarium - eel

An eel peeks out from the watery darkness at the Shedd Aquarium

The galleries and exhibits at the Shedd Aquarium recreate numerous habitats in amazing detail. There is the Wild Reef exhibit – representative of the Philippine coral reef – that immerses viewers in an ocean replete with lush coral gardens, a variety of sharks, rays, reef fish and eels. In Waters of the World 80 habitats flourish with hundreds of animals including a giant octopus, moon jellies, sea stars, amphibians, reptiles, turtles and fish from rivers, lakes and the vast sea.

Amazon Rising follows the world’s largest freshwater system in a region that spans many South American countries, bringing guests face-to-face with hundreds of species of animals including piranhas, birds, sloths, insects, snakes, catfish, crocodiles, stingrays and caiman lizards.

The Caribbean Reef’s 90,000-gallon circular habitat gives visitors a 360-degree tour of the animals living here including graceful stingrays, bonnethead sharks, puffer fish, lobsters, moray eels, parrotfish and more. Divers hand-feed the animals and give informative talks five times daily.

Abbott Oceanarium replicates the coastal environment of the Pacific Northwest where Beluga whales, dolphins, penguins, sea otters and harbor seals frolic. Nature trails take guests through a lush wilderness in this region with streams and tide pools that feature sea stars, fishes and anemones.

For a limited time the temporary Jellies exhibit features these amazing creatures that appear to be exquisite artistic creations. Mysterious and mesmerizing, they pulsate and billow in luminous colors. 10 species of jellies are featured here.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

Shedd Aquarium offers programs for children, adults, families and school groups on aquatic and conservation-related subjects that include college-accredited courses, excursions and local field trips, animal encounters, hands-on workshops, sleepovers and more. The Polar Play Zone gives children a place to stretch their imaginations as they explore touch pools, interactive elements and games in an area just for them. The Abbott Oceanarium’s amphitheater features fantastic marine and mammal presentations – such as the exciting dolphin show – with a strong conservation message against a stunning backdrop of Lake Michigan. The 4-D Experience in Phelps Auditorium dazzles viewers with 3-D projection, high-tech audio and a mélange of sensory effects like wind, intriguing scents, sounds and more.


The John G. Shedd Aquarium is located at 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 (312) 939-2438. For more information visit www.sheddaquarium.org

Tennessee Aquarium

About 10,000 animals swim, fly and crawl in the exquisitely reproduced natural habitats of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From freshwater mountain streams and lakes, to the Appalachian Cove Forest and steamy Delta swamp, to the rivers of the world and the deep open ocean, guests can discover the wonderful diversity of the fresh and saltwater creatures and habitats that share our amazing planet.

Tennessee Aquarium - Penguins' Rock

Delightful penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium (photo courtesy of Todd Stailey)

Galleries and Exhibits

The Tennessee Aquarium showcases a vast assortment of living fresh and saltwater specimens in its two aquarium buildings – the River Journey and the Ocean Journey – each housing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in galleries and interactive exhibits that lead guests on a wonderful adventure of discovery.

The River Journey takes visitors on an exciting voyage where playful river otters, snakes, giant catfish, primitive-looking paddlefish and sturgeon, numerous turtles, alligators, birds, amphibians and a host of other species captivate onlookers in the various exhibits. The galleries and exhibits recreate the natural habitats in remarkable sensory detail, beginning with the ancient woods of the Appalachian Cove Forest, down through the Tennessee River, various lakes, the Mississippi Delta, on through the Gulf of Mexico, and Rivers of the World.

Tennessee Aquarium - cuttlefish

A cuttlefish on exhibit in the Tennessee Aquarium's Boneless Beauties Gallery at Ocean Journey (photo courtesy of Todd Stailey)

The Ocean Journey features sharks, graceful stingrays, penguins, colorful reef fish, squid, cuttlefish, octopus, crabs, seahorses, jellyfish and much more in the many fantastic exhibits. The galleries and exhibits depict intricate reef systems, tropical rainforests, rocky shorelines, the aquarium’s largest touch station – Shark Island – with harmless sharks and stingrays, and other habitats with vibrant exhibits. Hundreds of butterflies dance in the popular tropical Butterfly Garden, where their gossamer wings shimmer like gems.

Presentations, Encounters and Education

Many of the exhibits offer hands-on interactive opportunities to engage visitors with innovative graphic displays and video presentations. The hourly animal encounter programs and touch pools delight viewers of every age. The new popular Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari in River Journey unites kids and nature in a fun and educational close encounter with a Eurasian eagle owl, ground hog, talking parrots, and lots more. The Aquarium also has an IMAX 3D® Theater, Environmental Learning Lab, summer camps for children, behind-the-scenes tours, fully equipped classroom, bird shows and dive shows to “inspire wonder and appreciation for the natural world.”


The Tennessee Aquarium is located at One Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN, 37402 (800) 262-0695. For more information visit www.tnaqua.org

avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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One Comments to “10 Best Aquariums in the USA”
  1. avatar Matt says:

    How did the Newport Aquarium (In Newport, Ky/Cincinnati Ohio) fail to make this list?!