By Julie Henning
Aquariums across America help educate visitors about marine life, ecology and conservation efforts necessary to protect the planet.
Here are five notable aquariums that welcome large groups on a daily basis.
Overlooking Lake Michigan along the Chicago lakefront, Shedd Aquarium has been a main attraction in the Windy City since 1930. Housing more than 32,000 animals, visitors can see fresh water fish indigenous to the Great Lakes and beluga whales in the 2,000,000-gallon Whale Harbor tank within the aquarium’s “Abbott Oceanarium” exhibit.
Three different group pass packages are available for tour operators arranging a visit to Shedd Aquarium. All groups with more than 15 people receive a discounted admission price.
National Aquarium of Baltimore
The National Aquarium of Baltimore overlooks Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and is near the Historic Ships of Baltimore attraction. Flagship attractions within the aquarium include a multi-story, 335,000-gallon Atlantic Coral Reef with several viewing platforms around and below the tank, and an Amazon tributary portrayed in the “Amazon River Forest” exhibit. A colony of eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins currently inhabit Dolphin Discovery, the aquarium’s largest tank.
Groups with more than 15 individuals receive discounted admission and qualify for all-inclusive programs, including Dine and Discover, and Sea and Tea. Customized group experiences can also be coordinated with aquarium staff.
Once the largest aquarium in the world, the Georgia Aquarium still holds bragging rights as the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. The aquarium is one of many key attractions in the heart of downtown Atlanta and is located within walking distance of hotels and Centennial Olympic Park.
Popular aquarium experiences include the Dolphin Tales show and the whale sharks and manta rays that live in the “Ocean Voyager” exhibit. Large groups visiting Georgia Aquarium receive discounted rates, with complimentary admission offered to drivers.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Enhanced by ocean views and wild animal sitings, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a prime location on Monterey Bay, which helps in its mission to inspire ocean conservation. Popular exhibits, “Kelp Forest” and “Monterey Bay Habitat” educate guests about the plants and animals commonly found thriving in the West Coast.
Groups can take advantage of discounted admission prices, express entry into the building and guided tours through the VIP Group Tour package.
Oregon Coast Aquarium
One of the most visited attractions on the Oregon Coast, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport specializes in the animals and ecology of the Pacific Northwest. The facility is home to more than 15,000 animals living in 16 unique exhibits including harbor seals and sea lions, and a seabird aviary.
Groups of 15 or more receive 10 percent off regular paid admission prices. Popular add-on experiences include animal encounters and behind-the-scenes tours.