Best Family Aquariums

Great places for under-the-sea adventures.

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John G. Shedd Aquarium

Sharks, dolphins, whales, jellyfish and giant sea turtles — not to mention the building's gorgeous architecture — make the John G. Shedd Aquarium a feast for the eyes as well as the brain. With close to 25,000 aquatic critters, the Chicago landmark will delight your entire family — especially any future marine biologists.

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Waikiki Aquarium

With more than 400 different underwater species on display, Oahu's intimate Waikiki Aquarium lets kids take a peek below the sea's surface — including a chance to see a real life Nemo (or clown fish) up close and personal. Watching the lazy, mushroom-shaped jellies dance in the water, or play "I Spy" with the resident eels.

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New England Aquarium

Right on the waters of Boston, with the salty smell of the ocean all around it, the New England Aquarium is a spectacular place. The main attraction is the enormous ocean tank that you can look at up close as you walk around it, making your way to the top. There you'll see sharks, eels, and every kind of fish and ocean life (including humanoids diving in to clean the tank or feed the fish).

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Discovery Cove

Don your snorkel and mask, take a deep breath and become part of a school of rainbow-colored tropical fish and friendly sting rays in Discovery Cove's island-themed underwater world. It's just one of the adventures at this Orlando island retreat where visitors don't just watch as trainers get pulled by a bottlenose dolphin — they do it.

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Aquarium of the Bay

It's hard not to be distracted by the sprawling, brawling and barking sea lions on the west side of San Francisco's Pier 39, but more sealife awaits at the nearby revamped Aquarium of the Bay. Inside you can walk through clear plastic tubes lying underneath the Bay. Few kids can remain blase when face to face with a shark.

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Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium bills itself as the largest aquarium in the world. We're not sure about the largest, but the Atlanta attraction is definitely huge and filled with jellyfish, otters, penguins, sharks, electric catfish (they're blue!), red piranha, white belugas and every other swimming life form you can imagine.

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Key West Aquarium

Check out the incredible creatures native to Key West's waters and let kids get fins-on with daily shark and turtle feedings. Don't miss the touch tank at the Key West Aquarium, where they can pick critters up and even pet a live shark.

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North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island

Shark-loving kids will not want to miss the close-up views of the animals common to the waters of the Graveyard of the Atlantic (named after this part of the North Carolina coast, the site of hundreds of shipwrecks). But one of the most memorable parts of the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island is found outside: A sculpture garden made from whale bones.

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Downtown Aquarium

Kids can be forgiven for forgetting the "fish" part of this Houston aquarium — they'll probably have a hard time making it past the Ferris wheel and miniature train in the front yard. Still, it's worth a trip inside the Downtown Aquarium to see the thousands of fish on display. The exhibits submerge you in the underwater theme, with the lobby decked out like a vintage sea vessel and tank rooms dressed like a submerged shipwreck.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium

Kids have no choice but to let go of their expectations at the door of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and let themselves be dazzled. Dash for the otter tank to check on feeding times, ooh and ahh at the otherworldly jellyfish and laugh hysterically at the antics of the penguins at this Monterey Bay attraction.

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Sea World

The really big show at Sea World has a really big star named Shamu. The killer whale leaps, breaches and casts trainers into the air as part of a choreographed musical. You'd have to be a real grouch to be unmoved by the big guy, who — despite weighing about 12,000 pounds — seems to momentarily float in the air. While Shamu is the reason to come to this San Antonio attraction, additional rides and shows (particularly the too-cute Beluga whales) make a perfectly lovely afternoon.

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