12 Amazing Aquariums in the U.S. You Have to Experience at Least Once

Bigger is better when it comes to these underwater wonders.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Summer is here and kids are out of school, which means you’ll be looking for fun activities to pass the time. What better place to visit than an aquarium that enchants children and adults alike with magical underwater worlds? 

You could also get a better bang for your buck by using one of the best cashback credit cards at these larger aquariums with ample exhibits that will keep you fascinated for hours. With higher costs across the board this year, you may want to consider ways to earn extra money to help offset the increase in prices. Here are 12 of our favorites.

Texas State Aquarium, Texas

Ruslan Gilmanshin/Adobe tropical fish on a coral reef

In the coastal city of Corpus Christi, you’ll find the Texas Aquarium, the largest in the Lone Star State. This aquarium celebrates the marine life native to the nearby Gulf Of Mexico and has plenty of exhibits and encounters.

Let the Blue Hole exhibit dazzle you, and explore a Mesoamerican coral reef up close. Don’t miss the huge shark exhibit, which is sure to get your blood pumping.

Shedd Aquarium, Illinois

nejdetduzen/Adobe John G.Shedd Aquarium view from Michigan Lake in Chicago City

In Chicago, the popular Shedd Aquarium awaits. More than 2 million visitors check out the marine life at Shedd every year.

This aquarium even has a giant Pacific octopus, a rare treat for ocean lovers. For years, visitors here could say hello to Granddad, the oldest fish at any U.S. aquarium until his passing in 2017.

Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee

gnagel/Adobe Market Street Bridge and Aquarium along the Tennessee River

One great way to keep more money in your pocket is to visit an aquarium in your city or state. If you live in Chattanooga, check out the Tennessee Aquarium, perched on the edge of the Tennessee River.

This aquarium is known for its extensive freshwater exhibit, the biggest of its kind in the U.S. Don’t sleep on the ocean exhibits though, which are just as stunning as their less salty counterparts.

New England Aquarium, Massachusetts

4kclips/Adobe New England Aquarium in Boston

If you’ve scored a cheap flight to Boston, you don’t want to miss the New England Aquarium, which is home to a diverse array of sea life. They have the biggest ray and shark touch tank on the East Coast, as well as a large exhibit devoted to coral reefs and Myrtle the green sea turtle.

However, the aquarium is arguably best known for whale watching. On these excursions, you can see finback, minke, humpback, and endangered right whales.

New York Aquarium, New York

Julien McRoberts/Danita Delimont/Adobe Goldfish in an aquarium New York City

Sitting right in Brooklyn is the New York Aquarium. This facility is home to more than 115 species of sea life, as well as 18 kinds of sharks and rays. That includes penguins, sea otters, and more.

Take in a sea lion show at the Aquatheater, and entertain kids for hours in the PlayQuarium. Don’t miss the sea otter feedings, either, as they are as adorable as they sound.

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National Aquarium, Maryland

Wirestock Creators/Adobe Chrysaora fuscescens swimming in the calm blue water of the National Aquarium

Baltimore is home to the National Aquarium, which boasts a seemingly endless variety of habitats and species. Gaze out at an Atlantic coral reef, or take in views of what you might see in the Amazon, for example.

Or check out a jelly exhibit with nine kinds of jellies, or raise your heart rate at Shark Alley. The Dolphin Sanctuary is also worthy of your time and attention and is sure to make the kids smile as well.

Florida Aquarium, Florida

Sunshower Shots/Adobe The Florida Aquarium Tampa Florida

Florida is a great state to visit when it comes time to cash in those travel rewards that you earn by using the best travel credit cards. That’s because Florida has theme parks and hotels aplenty, without the need to travel too far to each one. But you should also take a day to visit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.

Here you’ll find wildlife native to the Sunshine State, such as alligators and flamingos, as well as critters from all over the world. The dolphin cruise is definitely worth springing for, FYI.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Louisiana

RedBridge/Adobe audubon aquarium

With a word like “Audubon” in the name, you know that the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is going to be a good one. Nestled in the heart of New Orleans, this iconic facility is home to a wide variety of birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles.

Of note are the penguin and shark exhibits, as well as the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico displays. There is also a zoo right next door, a nice bonus for families with a lot of time on their hands.

Newport Aquarium, Kentucky

Adam Jones/Danita Delimont/Adobe Various Anemones Newport Aquarium Kentucky

If you find yourself in Newport, Kentucky, set aside at least a few hours to spend at the Newport Aquarium. It’s a great place for anyone seeking a thrill, as you can walk on a bridge that’s dangling just above a tank full of sharks.

If you’re too tender for such an activity, there is still the stunning coral reef tunnel, where you can explore colorful and diverse marine life all around you. The penguins shouldn’t be missed here, either.

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Mystic Aquarium, Connecticut

CJY Images/Adobe sea lion pup enjoys a dip in the aquarium pool

Connecticut may be a small state, but the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic is anything but. The most notable feature of this aquarium is arguably the beluga whale exhibit, which — at 750,000 gallons — is the biggest outdoor exhibit of its kind in the United States.

The sea lion and seal exhibits are also remarkable, with both indoor and outdoor habitats. There’s even a penguin exhibit, which is so cute that it warrants its own live stream.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Anna/Adobe Silhouettes of Visitors in Monterey Bay Aquarium

Arguably the most famous and renowned aquarium on this list is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. This state-of-the-art facility pulls in around 2 million visitors a year, who flock to see more than 200 exhibits and 80,000 plants and animals. From kelp forests to otter feedings to the wave crash tunnel, everything at this aquarium is top-notch.

Georgia Aquarium, Georgia

Wollwerth Imagery/Adobe aquarium in atlanta georgia

You might not think of Atlanta as a great place to have an aquarium, but the Georgia Aquarium is not to be missed. It’s the biggest aquarium in the U.S., and it includes a huge habitat for beluga whales and a 100-foot-long whale shark viewing tunnel.

It also has a dolphin show that’s famous for showing the special link between humans and dolphins. There are 500 species of marine life to explore here, making it a prime aquatic destination.

Bottom line

waldru/Adobe Children in a water tunnel

There are many big aquariums in the U.S., and each is a special treat for anyone who visits. These destinations are great for families since they're sure to keep kids entertained. Most are reasonably priced and won't add to your summer money stress.

Adults, too, will find special magic at aquariums. So why not head to one and let your inner child run free?

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Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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