Aquariums educate their visitors about sea life and allow them the opportunity to see it up close. The best aquariums take part in preserving species and help in animal rescue efforts. Some have their own hands-on exhibits and animal meet and greets. They are also a great place to look at interesting and pretty fish in their natural habitat. Here are five aquariums across the U.S. that you should visit.
1. Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta, Georgia)
The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest in the United States. The facility spans 550,000 square feet and includes an award-winning dolphin exhibit. You can see the dolphins from an underwater viewing window and watch a show with human and animal performers. About 25 percent of the aquarium's space is devoted to educational programs. This aquarium also hosts the only whale sharks on display in America. The whale sharks share their habitat with 60,000 other animals.
2. National Aquarium (Baltimore, Maryland)
Baltimore's National Aquarium is the winner of the Maryland Green Registry Award for its commitment to sustainable practices. The aquarium features open areas where visitors can directly interact with the animals and touch tanks allow them to feel the skin of the aquatic creatures. Audience members at dolphin shows learn the hand signals trainers use. The aquarium hosts more than 16,000 creatures, which includes sharks, puffins and even two-toed sloths.
3. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans, Louisiana)
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas reopened in 2006 after repairing the devastating damage incurred when Hurricane Katrina struck the area. Perhaps most uniquely, it features a Caribbean reef with a walk-through tunnel. After the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the aquarium helped coordinate animal rescue for Louisiana's coast. A 400,000-gallon tank is home to sharks and tarpon. As for education, kids can touch sea creatures and explore the Animal Grossology exhibit.
4. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, Illinois)
In 2005, the Shedd Aquarium's director received an award for his devotion to conservation and education in zoos and aquariums. This is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world. It houses more than 5 million gallons of water for over 25,000 fish and animals. It hosts a three-level Oceanarium with an aquatic show that stars dolphins and beluga whales. Kids can suit up as penguins in the Polar Play Zone and even ride in a kid-size submarine.
5. Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, California)
There are several hands-on and interactive exhibits at the Aquarium of the Pacific, or you can get up close and personal with the ocean's predators in the Shark Lagoon. You can touch horseshoe crabs, visit tide pool animals and feel the skin of a bonnet head shark. You can even hand-feed lorikeet birds and see Magellanic penguins. The aquarium hosts more than 50 exhibits with about 11,000 animals from the Pacific Ocean.