I’ve been hooked on aquariums ever since I watched Jacques Cousteau specials as a kid, so it’s no wonder that I’m attracted to these water-filled wonders every time I travel. While there are many amazing aquariums throughout the country to discover, these are a few of my favorite.
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
I’m spoiled that I live in Pittsburgh, where a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium not only enables you to see different species of fish from every watery habitat on earth, but more than 4,000 other animals as well. One of only six major zoo/aquarium combinations in the United States, the zoo features three water ‘tunnels,’ where you can watch sharks and rays swim overhead, and if you’re lucky, come face-to-face with diving polar bears at the Water’s Edge exhibit. It’s hard to believe that an animal that large can be so graceful in the water! Another crowd favorite is the penguin exhibit—it not only enables you to watch the tuxedoed birds on land, but you get an underwater view that shows how fun—and fast—these flightless birds can be. The cost is reasonable, too--$16 for adults and $14 for kids, and that includes all of the exhibits in both the zoo and aquarium.
Virginia Beach Aquarium
The Virginia Beach Aquarium is truly impressive—so much so, in fact, that it even pulls people in off the beach. With more than 800,000 gallons of aquariums to see, it takes a while to wander through all of the exhibits, which include habitats for cownose rays, harbor seals, loggerhead turtles, North American river otters, sand tiger sharks and more. I was particularly taken with the 70,000 gallon Chesapeake Light Tower aquarium, which is home to three different species of sea turtle—the most exhibited together anywhere. Of course, no visit to DelMarVa would be complete without checking out blue crabs, which are pretty famous in the Chesapeake Bay area; there are even touch pools where you can get a good look up close. I will give a head’s up that this is one of the more expensive aquariums that I’ve visited—adult tickets are $24.95 and kids’ tickets are $19.95—still worth it if you’re looking for something to keep your children’s attention if bad weather chases you inside.
SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium
I didn’t know what to expect from the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium in Grapevine, Texas, especially since it’s located in a mall. And while it’s relatively small, it is packed full of intriguing animals and so much information—I was entranced by the 16 interactive zones that provide learning opportunities for kids while still sharing interesting enough content for adults. Did you know, for example, that crabs and lobster have teeth in their stomachs? I mean, seriously? Kids will be especially impressed by Rufus, the aquarium’s giant Pacific octopus, as well as Boomer and Eddie, two rescued green sea turtles. And if you’re looking for Dory, look no further—the Clownfish Caves exhibit is chock-full of them in every bright color imaginable! It’s well worth the online ticket price of $15 for adults and $12 for kids, but if you’re there on the weekend, spring an extra $4 per ticket for a behind-the-scenes tour where you can learn about the breeding program and how they run the whole aquarium.
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