Aquariums offer a great way to see all the interesting and sometimes exotic sea life that you would never be able to see normally.
Some of the best aquariums in the US let you get up close and personal with everything from dolphins and sharks to manta rays and whales. It's also very educational for children as they get a chance to learn about different species of sea life.
Many aquariums in the US help preserve sea life species through breeding programs and awareness of issues like pollution and global warming. They do this through lectures and programs directed to places like schools, government agencies, and other people who come to the aquarium to view the animals and fishes.
A visit to one of America's best aquariums will give you an opportunity to relax and release stress since it has been proven that watching fish swim in the home or commercial aquarium is peaceful and good for lowering a person's anxieties.
Here are the 25 best aquariums in the United States to see and learn about the amazing underwater life.
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With over 500 underwaters species, Georgia Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in America.
The main highlights of the aquarium include the 800,000-gallon tank that is home to six beluga whales, the dolphin performance highlighting the special connection between dolphins and humans and the whale shark exhibit – in fact, outside of Asia, this is the only aquarium in the world to host whale sharks.
Check out the Ocean Voyager gallery, home to the whale sharks and visible through huge viewing windows and a 100-foot-long tunnel.
Meet penguins, sea otters and sea lions, or put on a wetsuit and brave a tank dive with sharks. Get to know the American alligator, manta rays and all colors of tropical fish.
Let the kids be marine biologists in training on an Aquanaut Adventure through various immersive environments and activities.
Planning a trip to Atlanta? Be sure to check out our recommendations on the best family hotels in Atlanta!
Pro Tip: Buy skip the line tickets or Atlanta CityPass.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Atlanta
Address: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Atlanta
Founded in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is situated on the site of what used to be a sardine cannery. Nearly two million people come here every year to see more than 600 different species of animals and plants.
An interesting note is that the aquarium gets its water for its tanks through a circulation of seawater being continuously pumped into their tanks from pipes originating in the nearby Monterey Bay.
Some of its animals include jellyfish, stingrays, tuna, sea otters, and a giant kelp forest. It's also one of the only aquariums in America to house ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and has the world's biggest single-paned windows to view the creatures under its care.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Monterey
Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
Shedd Aquarium is one of the most-visited aquariums in the US and one of the popular Chicago attractions.
There are 32,500 marine creatures living here in countless aquatic habitats. Look for beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, sea otters, penguins, jellyfish and more in the Abbott Oceanarium.
Join in a live animal encounter in the Waters of the World galleries. Learn what it’s like to explore deep beneath the ocean’s surface when you talk to a diver in the Caribbean Reef exhibit.
Look up in the Wild Reef area and see sharks gliding by above you and look down as you walk through the Amazon exhibit to see the aquatic treasures of the river and rainforest.
Plus, you’ll have the chance to visit Granddad, the oldest living fish in any U.S. aquarium or zoo.
Pro Tip: Get priority entry to Shedd Aquarium with Chicago CityPass and save 50% on 5 top attractions.
Address: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Accomodation: 10 Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Chicago
Opened in 1981, the National Aquarium in Baltimore gets more than 1.5 million visitors every year. It is a combination of two aquariums: the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the National Aquarium in Washington, which opened in 2003.
Their tanks hold over two million gallons of water and over 17,000 creatures representing more than 700 different species.
The aquarium has the vision to challenge the important issues being faced by sea creatures and their habitats via emergent sciences, educational programs, and conservation programs.
Some of their exhibits include tropical rainforest, coral reef, open shark aquarium, a marine mammal pavilion, and a 4D immersion theater.
This is one of the best aquariums on the east coast to explore the diverse ecosystems.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Baltimore
Address: 501 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Baltimore, Maryland
Explore and learn at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Dive into interactive exhibits, touch sea creatures and get behind-the-scenes looks at this underwater world with an animal expert.
Marvel at stingrays and sea turtles, rainbow-hued tropical fish, barracudas, sharks, jellyfish and eels.
Watch as divers descend into the various tanks to feed fish and interact with Sally, the sea turtle.
Ride a glass-bottom boat into the Shark Lagoon, where only three inches of glass separate you from 12-foot sharks.
Watch penguins paint (really!) and meet piranhas and poisonous dart frogs from the rain forest – right here in the Smoky Mountains.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Gatlinburg
Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Also Read: Top 10 Things To Do in Gatlinburg, TN
The New England Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the USA and attracts over a million visitors a year.
Some of its key features include their IMAX Theatre, a whale watch from April through November, a giant ocean tank, a Caribbean reef with animals like sharks, rays, sea turtles, eels, huge barracuda, and lots of other reefs loving creatures.
The aquarium hosts various displays, including a penguin display and a display of freshwater creatures like piranhas, salmon, electric eels, and anaconda snakes.
You can also view a sea tide pool with crabs, sea stars, sea urchins, and snails. Or, view the world gallery with lobsters, octopus, birds that line the shores, and other inhabitants.
Also, don't miss the tropical gallery with tropical fish, corals, venomous fish species, and lots more.
Pro Tip: Buy skip the line tickets or Boston CityPass.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Boston
Address: 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
Also Read: Top 21 Must-See Attractions in New England
The granddaddy of the best aquariums in the United States, SeaWorld lives up to the hype.
An exciting combination of up-close animal encounters, thrill rides and entertainment, SeaWorld, San Diego is worth a couple of days' exploration.
Brave the Emperor, the tallest and fastest floorless dive coaster in California. See what a friendly bat ray feels like in a touch pool, also home to shovelnose guitarfish and white sturgeons.
Mingle with flamingoes with an animal expert by your side or take a behind-the-scenes tour of the otter exhibit.
Spreading across nearly 200 acres in Mission Bay, this is an ocean adventure for all ages.
Accommodation: Where to stay in San Diego
Address: 500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
Also Read: Top 26 Attractions & Things To Do in San Diego, California
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is considered one of the top aquariums in the US.
It specializes in animal life from North and South America, with more than 10,000 creatures representing 520 species.
Some of their exhibits include a Caribbean reef, an Amazon area complete with a greenhouse with macaws, anaconda snake, piranhas and more; a Mississippi River exhibit with catfish, alligator, paddlefish and owls; a Gulf of Mexico display with sharks, turtles and stingrays.
There is also an IMAX theater and other venues.
Accommodation: Where to stay in New Orleans
Address: 1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Opened in 1973, the Mystic Aquarium is a part of the Sea Research Foundation and is one of three US aquariums with Steller sea lions and a huge outdoor display of Beluga whales.
There are also penguins, jellyfish, and a touch pool with sharks and rays. Visitors can go to the Nautilus Live Theater and hear presentations of the E/V Nautilus' recent explorations and can ask the crew questions about current adventures via a live link.
The theater operates all year long. It also shows 3D movies about sea life and has a special Titanic exhibit.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Mystic
Address: 55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355
The Florida Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the US.
The aquarium is not only home to freshwater animals but also has a two-acre water adventure zone for kids with water cannons, geysers, and a pirate ship they can climb and play on.
Some of its exhibits include sharks, river otters, stingrays, sea stars, and more than 20,000 animals.
There are also educational shows, a wild dolphin cruise, a penguin promenade, opportunities to go backstage to see how they take care of all the animals, and a scuba dive swim with the fish adventure (must be 15 or up and SCUBA certified).
Pro Tip: Buy Skip-the-Line Entrance or Tampa CityPass.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Tampa
Address: 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions In Tampa, Florida
At the Texas State Aquarium, guests can get cozy with cownose rays, Atlantic stingrays and Southern stingrays, all native to the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
That’s just the start of the countless marine creatures you’ll meet at this massive aquarium.
Head to the Blue Hole exhibit to learn about the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, home to mysterious nurse sharks and tarpon.
Take a journey into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, seeing the flying bats, reptiles and sloths that make the jungle their home.
In the H-E-B Caribbean Sea exhibit, stare through a huge window at reef sharks who make their home in a Spanish galleon shipwreck. It’s the best of the undersea world, brought to life before your eyes, without ever having to get wet.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Corpus Christi
Address: 2710 N Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, TX 78402
One of the best aquariums in the US for showcasing ocean life, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is home to a stunningly diverse lineup of marine creatures.
Capitalizing on its Oregon coastal location on the Pacific Ocean, the family-friendly aquarium features Sandy Shores and Rocky Shores exhibits, introducing guests to the varying habitats seen along the state’s coastline, from Dungeness crabs to sea stars.
In the Indo-Pacific exhibit, observe yellow tang, birdnose wrasse and sea goldies. At the Coastal Shores exhibit, learn about the survival issues of coho and chinook salmon and meet moon jellies.
Harbor seals, sea lions, seabirds (in their own aviary) and a 600-pound Giant Pacific Octopus round out an insightful visit.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Newport
Address: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR 97365
At the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Shark Lagoon, you can see several species and sizes of sharks and, if you dare, even touch one.
Discover zebra and grey reef sharks, as well as bamboo and epaulette sharks in the touch pool.
Over in the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, you can get up close and personal with 20 Magellanic penguins above and below the water.
Step outside on the Harbor Terrace, overlooking Rainbow Harbor, and find the Moon Jelly Touch Lab and an exhibit with two species of amphibious mudskippers.
The aquarium offers several interactive animal encounters, with seals and sea lions, as well as penguins and sharks.
Pro Tip: Buy Skip-the-Line Tickets or Los Angeles All-Inclusive Pass.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Long Beach
Address: 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
Add one of the coolest aquariums in the US to your New York City itinerary.
Make a day of it on Coney Island, home to the New York Aquarium and Aquatheater. Meet the sharks, rays, sea turtles and more that live in the ocean right off the Coney Island Boardwalk.
The aquarium is home to more than 115 marine species, plus 18 different kinds of sharks and rays, available for viewing in the award-winning Ocean Wonders: Sharks! Exhibit.
Watch a sea lion show, discover a striped pajama squid and walk through a coral reef, where you’ll feel like you’re deep in the ocean, surrounded by colorful tropical fish and zebra sharks.
Want to get to know the penguins and sea lions better? Ask the staff about special animal encounters, going on most days at the aquarium.
Pro Tip: Admission included in New York City Sightseeing Pass.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Brooklyn
Address: 602 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
From native Hawaiian species to South Pacific sea creatures, Waikiki Aquarium features the colorful and quirky marine life in our world’s oceans.
Learn about jellyfish in the Ocean Drifters Gallery or the amazing way nautiluses and octopi move in the Jet Set exhibit.
This may be one of the smallest aquariums in the U.S., but it packs a punch when it comes to in-depth learning about marine animals.
Discover the coastal flora and seaweed vital to the ocean habitat. Marvel at the predators of the coral reefs – the sharks, jacks and groupers.
Then learn about the coral community itself at the Living Reef exhibit, where you can view abundant and diverse coral life from the Pacific Ocean.
Finally, don’t miss a chance to see the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, found only in the Hawaiian Islands.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Honolulu
Address: 2777 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Thousands of animals from around the world call the millions of gallons of water at Newport Aquarium their home.
Thrill-seekers can cross the Shark Bridge, a suspended rope bridge over the 385,000-gallon shark tank.
You can even touch a shark at Shark Central – and if that’s not for you, you can instead gently touch the sea stars, horseshoe crabs and anemones of the Tide Pool in the Shore Gallery.
Walk through a 32-foot-long acrylic tunnel that lets you see the arapaima and pacu fish that live in the Amazon River.
Meet rare white gators Snowball and Snowflake in Gator Alley and learn about their sacred nature in Native American and Asian cultures.
And in the Coral Reef, walk through various clear tunnels, giving you an up-close peek at colorful tangs, playful unicorn fish and “smiling” cownose rays.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Newport
Address: 1 Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071
Downtown Aquarium, Denver, is one of the most best U.S. aquariums in that it’s also an entertainment complex.
Here, you can do it all – see more than 500 species of animals and touch stingrays in more than a million gallons of underwater exhibits, plus enjoy shopping and full-service dining.
Learn about various marine life in wharf and beach settings, in the desert, under the sea and throughout North America.
Move on to the rainforest and coastal lagoon exhibits to see eye-to-eye with multi-colored tropical fish.
Jump aboard the Aquarium Express, a tiny train that takes you through the wetland and South Platte River exhibits. Or take a spin on the Aquatic Carousel, riding on the back of a mythical sea monster.
And don’t miss the aquarium’s famous Mystic Mermaids® underwater shows.
Pro Tip: Admission to Aquarium Adventure Exhibit included in Denver CityPass.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Denver
Address: 700 Water St, Denver, CO 80211
With rides, a wide range of aquatic exhibits, shopping and full-service dining, Downtown Aquarium, Houston, like the Downtown Aquarium, Denver, caters to the whole family.
When combined with the other attractions in the complex, this is one of the biggest aquariums in the US.
Check out more than 300 species of marine life, from the alligators and turtles of the Texas Gulf Coast to the red-bellied piranhas of the rainforest.
Step inside a 17th-century Spanish galleon in the Shipwreck exhibit and meet a Giant Pacific Octopus.
Meet lionfish and pufferfish in the Sunken Temple, tickle stingrays at Stingray Reef and touch bearded dragons, snakes and colorful fish in the Discovery Zone.
Games and amusement rides, from a Ferris Wheel to a carousel, round out your visit.
Pro Tip: Opt for Official Houston City tour - including tickets to the Downtown Aquarium.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Houston
Address: 410 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002
Immerse yourself in the marine wildlife of the coastal Pacific Northwest at the water-side Seattle Aquarium, perched over Puget Sound.
Take an imaginary stroll along the rough, rocky shoreline and meet the birds that can be found there.
Step into the clear moon jelly exhibit and watch them float all around you. Meet the incredible Giant Pacific Octopus.
Enjoy the popular harbor seal exhibit, where you can see Barney, Q and Hogan pop their cute heads above water to peek at you.
Marvel at the colorful puffers and tangs of the Pacific. And be sure to walk through the tunnel below the Underwater Dome to get a 360-degree view of sharks, lingcod, sturgeon, skates and deep-water rockfish.
Pro Tip: Admission to Seattle Aquarium Included in Seattle CityPass and save 50% on 5 top attractions.
Address: 1483 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101
Accomodation: 10 Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Seattle
Set on the stunning shoreline of La Jolla, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps features more than 60 habitats, hands-on exhibits, touch pools and more.
Start on the outdoor Tide Pool Plaza and get up close and personal with sea stars, anemones, hermit crabs and sea cucumbers.
Move on to Shark Shores to meet La Jolla’s legendary Leopard Sharks, as well as a few rays. At Seadragons & Seahorses, marvel at these tiny and wondrous creatures.
Learn about the native kelp forests and their underwater ecosystem in San Diego's waters at the two-story, 70,000-gallon Giant Kelp Tank.
And meet tropical fish from the Pacific Northwest all the way to the warm waters of Mexico in the Arthur M. and Kate F. Tode Hall of Fishes.
Pro Tip: Admission to Aquarium Included in San Diego CityPass and save 55% on top attractions.
Address: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037
Also Read: Top 26 Attractions & Things To Do in San Diego, California
Turning a disaster into a celebration of sea life and Alaska’s oceans, the Alaska Sealife Center was built using funds from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Watch through underwater viewing windows as Steller sea lions glide right past you. Then, head to the Chiswell Island Exhibit, with a remote camera that gives you a live view of the Steller sea lion rookery in Resurrection Bay.
Learn about skates and touch sea creatures in the touch tank. Marvel at Giant Pacific Octopuses. Go behind the scenes with an aquarium expert to feed a puffin or a harbor seal.
Ask about the center’s Wildlife Response program, which tends to live and dead marine life that has been abandoned, stranded or injured throughout Alaska.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Seward
Address: 301 Railway Ave, Seward, AK 99664
Also Read: 15 Best Things To Do in Seward, Alaska
Whether it’s your first or fifth time at the Tennessee Aquarium, there'll be something new to see.
With constantly changing exhibits, this is one of the best aquariums in the US for a varied experience.
Meet turtles from all over the world in a gallery dedicated just to them, including adorable turtle hatchlings. Meet red-ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs in the Lemur Forest.
Watch a disco jelly light show, during which translucent wonders take on the color of the psychedelic LED light show.
Touch tropical fish, strikingly pattered fiddler rays, horseshoe crabs and mini sharks in Stingray Bay. Check out Weedy Seadragons from the kelp forests of southern Australia.
See as many exhibits as you can, then start planning your return trip to see what’s in store.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Chattanooga
Address: 1 Broad St, Chattanooga, TN 37402
Also Read: Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Of all the aquariums of America, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay may have the flashiest neighborhood.
Set in one of Las Vegas’ most popular hotels, the aquarium is home to more than 2,000 animals, including sharks, giant rays, green sea turtles, piranhas, a rare golden crocodile and even a Komodo dragon.
There are 30 sharks to see in the 1.3-million-gallon main tank, one of the largest in U.S. aquariums. Experience a diver’s view when you walk through the two underwater tunnels.
Those brave enough can visit Sea Monsters Revealed, a collection of uniquely preserved sea creatures – this is Vegas, after all, where the unexpected is expected.
If you’re dive-certified, you can spend 45 minutes in the tank with the sand tiger, sandbar and whitetip reef sharks – definitely not a typical Las Vegas experience!
Accommodation: Where to stay in Las Vegas
Address: 3950 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Las Vegas
Shop 'til you drop, or almost, making time for a visit to SEA LIFE at Mall of America.
Stroll through the 300-foot-long underwater tunnel to come face to face with 9-foot-long sandtiger sharks, rescued sea turtles and a pair of 14-foot-long green sawfish.
Additional underwater exhibits include Rainbow Reef, Sturgeon Lake (home to the alligator gar, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world) and the Wild Amazon with freshwater stingrays, colorful Midas cichlids and arapaima.
Walk through a rainforest and meet poison dart frogs and hairy tarantulas. In the Ray Lagoon, explore a shipwreck exhibit, home to the uniquely named porcupine pufferfish, slipper lobsters and fox face rabbitfish.
Don’t miss the Coral Caves, where you see friendly scrawled boxfish, clownfish and colorful tang – even a baby coral that was grown right at the aquarium.
With so many interactive exhibits to explore, it is undoubtedly one of the best aquariums in the U.S. to visit with your family for close-up encounters.
Pro Tip: Buy Skip-The-Line tickets online to save time.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Bloomington
Address: One, Mall of America, 120 East Broadway East Side, Level, Bloomington, MN 55425
Grab a map and start exploring the Adventure Aquarium, the award winning aquarium in the United States.
It’s here you can go behind the scenes with a giant Nile hippo or tong-feed massive sea turtles.
Walk across the exciting Shark Bridge or through the Shark Tunnel – the aquarium boasts the largest collection of sharks in the Northeast.
At Little Blue Beach, you can meet the smallest penguins in the world.
Touch all manner of slick and slimy invertebrates at the Creature Feature touch pool. Feeling confident? Move on to Stingray Beach Club to touch the graceful cownose rays and southern stingrays.
Don’t forget an adventure into the Amazon rainforest at Piranha Falls, where 120 red-bellied piranhas swim freely below two cascading waterfalls.
Address: 1 Riverside Dr, Camden, NJ 08103
Other aquariums in the USA that are not mentioned in this post but are worth checking out:
The Georgia Aquarium located in Atlanta is considered the biggest aquarium in America and among the top 10 largest aquariums across the world.
The title for the #1 aquarium in the USA goes to Georgia Aquarium. This massive attraction houses over 120,000 animals across more than 10 million gallons of water. Visitors can see whale sharks, manta rays, beluga whales and much more in their natural habitats.
One of the most impressive aquariums is located in Atlanta, Georgia. Another remarkable aquarium is situated at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan.
There are many aquariums across the United States. They offer a wonderful experience for visitors of all ages and a fun way to learn about different marine life. Whether you’re looking for an educational experience, a fun day out with the family, or just to see some amazing fish, be sure to check out one of these top-rated aquariums.