Not sure how it started, but we love visiting aquariums when we travel. It’s probably because
we I am a self-proclaimed science geek teacher that has sent us on a pursuit to visit all of the best aquariums in the world. But it's more likely that our permanent residence in Texas requires any activity between April and October to have great working air conditioning. So when we travel I must subliminally plan activities to account for variations in weather- too hot or even too cold.
Aquariums aren’t just for kids
I know you wanted to be a marine biologist when you grew up and of course we all love shark week! So don’t think of visiting aquariums as a kid activity, instead, these aquariums have spent time highlighting the natural ecosystems that exist in the area. You can learn a lot about the local regions at these facilities. There can also be some negative feelings toward aquariums and animals in captivity. Many of these facilities are research and conservation focused, hopefully, your visit can help instead of hurt marine conservation causes.
Either the weather or in an educational pursuit, we have found ourselves rather versed in aquariums having visited an extraordinarily large number of aquariums all over the world. There have been some busts and some really notable ones. I am not listing the worst ones here, maybe a list for another time. I am instead, sharing our list of the best aquariums in the world. Either for fun or as an option for when the weather is just too much add these to your travel itineraries. So in no particular order…
The 5 Best Aquariums in the World
The Georgia Aquarium
This aquarium is one of my personal favorites, because of the sheer size of the aquarium and because I love whale sharks. In one of the viewing areas the whale sharks swim above you and it is chilling when the shadow goes above your head and a huge “fish” swims above you. Another perk is that they have beluga whales, super cool.
Honestly, it is pretty expensive, but can be worth it if you make a day of it. When you go to purchase tickets on their website check the calendar and the times, it can be cheaper to go after 4 p.m. Its location, downtown Atlanta, is convenient to the World of Coke and Olympic park. There are city saver passes that may save you some money if you plan on visiting all of them.
Bonus tip: While the admission price is expensive, it may be worth the money to try and do the “behind the seas” tour for an added experience. This tour takes you into the inner workings of the aquarium and lets you see the tanks from the other side. Did you know that mangrove trees have a “sacrificial leaf” that lets them survive in salt water? I didn’t either until I took the tour!
We stumbled upon this aquarium because we happened to be in Seattle during a freak snowstorm. It was across the street from Pike Place Market and best of all it was a warm place to escape the snow. This aquarium features quite a few regional exhibits that highlight the Puget Sound and the northwest, like the salmon exhibit. I had never seen one in person before, well alive at least and they have a huge octopus!
Bonus Tip: The location of this aquarium is a huge perk, kinda making up for the price of admission at almost $30. It is on the waterfront and right behind-ish Pike Place market. Stopping here can finish off or start a great day exploring or if the rainy weather has done you in.
Oceanographic Museum of Monaco
In an incredibly rich (monetary not necessarily culturally) country home of Formula One racing and yachts as big as my house, Monaco is homed to probably my favorite aquatic experience so far. Rising from the sea is a fortress called the Temple of the Seas that houses not only a fascinating aquatic species indigenous to the Mediterranean but also an oceanographic museum. Admission to the museum is 16 euros or about $19. And the best part is that they have a room filled with the skeletons of sea creatures where a light show happens regularly throughout the day.
Bonus Tip: If you visit the palace first, you can walk through the St. Martin Gardens high above the sea, surrounded by manicured flowers and plants right to the museum. Totally worth it.
This aquarium gives some great insight into the ecosystem in the area. They have fantastic walrus exhibit and penguins too. There is a lot to learn here with a strong emphasis on conservation of the Arctic and issues directly related to Canada. Admission is 38 Canadian or about 28 dollars. Again a little pricey, but there are discounts for things like eco-friendly arrivals. Check the website for more information.
Bonus Tip: The aquarium is located in Stanley Park, downtown Vancouver British Columbia. The park is a great place to visit before or after your aquarium adventure.
In the middle of the Dubai Mall, is this large aquarium. The location of this one is what makes it incredibly unique. You can go to the food court and then decide, hey, I want to look at some fish. While this one does not have as much of the educational aspects, it is still a sight to behold. This aquarium was more about being in an aquarium, in a mall then the visit itself. The malls in Dubai alone are an experience, where you can snow ski and even take a boat ride like at this one.
Bonus Tip: Prices in are in AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham) don’t be alarmed. 315 AED for the VIP package is really 85 dollars.