By Stefanie Michaels
I’m going to go ahead and say it— I’m a sucker for all things marine life at aquariums. I love sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and my favorite ocean animal, the sea horse.
One of my all-time-fave memories of my favorite sea horse experiences, was wading just off-shore in Palau. Heading onto the dive boat, I happend to stick my head into the water to ensure that I wasn’t stepping on anything below me, because rock croppings were scattered on the sandy floor.
It was a little hard to see, with all the sand movement of my diving friends getting onto the boat, but I spied a tiny baby something-something clinging to a small coral.
It was a baby seahorse no bigger than a jelly bean, its tiny tail wrapped around a coral’s arm as it held on for dear life—poor thing.
I screamed to my dive instructor, “It’s a baby, it’s a…” He calmly waded over to me, put his head into the sea, and came up with wide eyes. He had never seen a miniature sea horse in all his years instructing.
Sadly, Palau would be my last underwater dive. Just after that amazing experience, I cleared my ears on a plane and popped my eardrum. I can no longer regulate my descent while diving. Although, I only get to snorkel, my love for simply being in the ocean and spying on its remarkable beings from the top of the water has never wavered.
An aquarium anywhere is one of my favorite places to visit whenever I get downtime at home, or on the road. It’s a relaxing place and keeps my never-ending curiosity about marine life active.
If you’re like me, and love the sea and all it has to offer, then you will totally appreciate my list of places to explore oceanic life outside your own back door.
Below are 8 great aquariums located in the USA.
- The Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, USA: This aquarium is home to thousands of animals, including whale sharks. It has the most extensive collection of beluga whales and is also home to the only great hammerhead shark exhibit in the Western Hemisphere.
- The Aquarius Reef Base, Florida, USA: It’s an underwater research laboratory located 63 feet below the ocean surface. Visitors get to explore the underwater world and see marine life up close.
- The Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco, USA: This aquarium is located in the historic Ferry Building and features marine life from San Francisco Bay and the nearby Pacific Ocean. Exhibits include sharks, skates, and rays.
- The Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, USA: This aquarium has a shark lagoon! Their outdoor exhibit lends to visitors getting close to sharks and boasts additional outside tanks where guests can interact with marine species such as sea cucumbers and starfish.
- The New England Aquarium, Boston, USA: The Giant Ocean Tank is a large cylindrical tank home to a wide variety of Caribbean marine life, including sea turtles, sharks, and tropical fish.
- The Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, USA: Located in the historic U.S. Custom House, this aquarium features a variety of marine life from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Amazon River, and the Mississippi River.
- The Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, USA: This aquarium is known for its focus on conservation. It boasts a live kelp forest exhibit and is home to the cutest sea otters, sharks, and sea urchins. (See their live feed below).
- The Newport Aquarium, Kentucky, USA: Located in Newport, more than twenty-thousand sea creatures call this home. It’s known for exhibiting sharks and rays and a bevy of different alligators.
TIP: I went to a friend’s wedding at the Long Beach Aquarium and it was fantastic. Aquariums make for a unique and jaw dropping wedding locations.
Did you know?
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are currently 230 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States.
However, there are also many smaller, independently-run aquariums and marine centers throughout the country that are not accredited by the AZA.
Some larger attractions, such as SeaWorld and Disney’s Epcot Center, have aquarium exhibits as part of their overall offerings.
A little history:
The history of aquariums in the United States can be traced back to the mid-1800s when public interest in marine life was rising.
The first public aquarium in the United States was the Boston Aquarial Gardens, which opened in 1859 and featured a variety of fish and invertebrates from local waters. Over the following decades, other aquariums opened in cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
These early aquariums were often privately owned and served primarily as entertainment venues, with little emphasis on conservation or education.
In the 1960s and 1970s, public attitudes toward marine life shifted, and aquariums began to take on a more conservation-focused mission. Many aquariums, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, which opened in 1984, began to focus on educating visitors about marine conservation and sustainability.
Today, aquariums in the United States play an essential role in scientific research, public education, and conservation efforts. They offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the diverse and complex marine ecosystems that make up our planet and to understand the importance of protecting them for future generations.