Aquariums around Chicago, IL

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For those returning home, tourists and the adventurous locals alike, Chicago has a bounty of aquatic life experiences as it does in virtually every other field. Read on for some of our favourite aquariums around the Windy City.

Shedd Aquarium

Since 1930, the Shedd Aquarium has been a proud addition to Chicago’s community, inspiring generations with over 32,000 animals in over 1,500 species housed in more than 5 million US gallons. ‘Aquarium’ might be a bit too terse in describing the scope of attractions and activity at the Shedd Aquarium, with missions in responsible education at all speeds, conservation and interactive experiences in bountiful variety. For this reason, both visitors and locals might find themselves coming again and again, with good reason. 

First is the ‘Underwater Beauty’, an homage to the captivating range of colours and form among the residents of this exhibit. Here, ochre sea stars, mantis shrimp, flowerhat, and white-spotted jellies, and the unique weedy seadragon inhabit tanks small and big for a range of close encounters along this exhibit. 

Next is the Wild Reef exhibit, where visitors enter the world of the Philippine Coral Reef, complete with live coral and an eccentric cast. These include the sandbar shark, zebra shark, blacktip reef shark, green sawfish, humphead wrasse, spotted ray, crown-of-thorns sea star, spotted wobbegong, honeycomb moray, moon jelly, and porcupinefish. The Caribbean Reef is a tank housing exotic inclusions such as the cownose ray, green sea turtle, bonnethead shark, and the gorgeous parrotfish. Stop for a while with this group, or even participate in a diver’s Q&A session during a daily feeding. The ‘At Home on the Great Lakes’ is a throwback exhibit featuring local wildlife, while the river and ocean exhibits dedicate their space to the denizens of said habitats, including the piranha, lungfish, flashlight fish, and the giant Pacific octopus. 

In addition to this, there are also the slightly-above-water experiences of the ‘Amazon Rising’ and ‘Islands and Lakes’ exhibits, the interactive stingray touch pool, and the Polar Play Pool. Lovable mammals such as the beluga whale, Pacific white-sided dolphin, sea otter, and California sea lion also take the stage at the Abbott Oceanarium. Some more personal and interactive experiences for the more adventurous visitor include feeding a stingray, getting in the water with a beluga, and playing with penguins, all available by appointment.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Also resident to Chicago is the Lincoln Park Zoo’s own blossoming aquatic community, with a collection of reptiles, amphibians, and fish residing in their own unique habitats. Some of these rare sights hidden at the Lincoln Park Zoo include the Oriente knight anole, green tree frog, Jamaican iguana, white-blotched river stingray, spectacled caiman, Lake Malawi cichlid, and the famously cheerful axolotl. Indeed, the Lincoln Park Zoo also boasts its own variety of interactive opportunities, including a face-to-face meeting with African penguins, and lessons to the public about seal training and how the zoo cares and maintains the wildlife.

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