Welcome to the Shedd Aquarium, a world-renowned attraction in the heart of Chicago! There are over 32,000 animals here, making it a must-visit destination for visitors.
Visitors will be immersed in wonder and amazement here. The Oceanarium, the world’s largest indoor marine mammal habitat, will leave you in awe. However, that’s not all.
It features diverse exhibits showcasing Amazonian fish, penguins from Antarctica, and sharks from the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can touch and interact with some animals in the touch tanks and interactive exhibits.
Let’s explore how visiting this place can be a great learning experience for children and adults.
|Best Time to Visit||May-September|
|Suggested Visit Duration||2-3 hours|
|Visiting Hours||9 am to 5 pm|
|Ticket Prices||Members: Free admission, Chicago Residents: $19.95, General Admission: Prices vary|
|Specialty||Interactive exhibits, live animal encounters, and educational programs.|
|Address||1200 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605, USA (View on Maps)|
|Contact Number(s)||+1 312-939-2438|
|Links||Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram|
John G. Shedd established the Shedd Aquarium in 1929. He was a businessperson and philanthropist who wanted to create an aquarium in Chicago.
It first opened to the public in 1930. Eventually, it became a popular attraction for both locals and tourists.
Throughout the years, it has undergone several expansions and renovations. These renovations have helped in accommodating its growing collection of animals and visitors.
In 1991, the Oceanarium was added. It remains the largest indoor marine mammal habitat in the world. Recently, it has also become a leader in marine conservation efforts. Today, it is a popular and well-respected aquarium worldwide.
- There are over 32,000 animals at this aquarium, representing 1,500 different species.
- It has the first permanent saltwater fish collection.
- This place is a leader in marine research. Scientists here have conducted groundbreaking research on animal behavior, ecology, and conservation.
- Its iconic rotunda features a stunning stained-glass dome.
- The Oceanarium here features dolphins, beluga whales, and sea lions. It holds 3 million gallons of water and is the world’s largest indoor marine mammal habitat.
Visitors must apply for the membership to get free admission here. Other than this, there are several ‘free days‘ when visitors can enter the aquarium without paying for a ticket, and it generally includes Illinois Residents Free Days.
Besides, the following people are eligible for free entry.
- Holders of EBT cards
- Chicago police officers and firefighters
- Active duty US military personnel
- Educators from Illinois can receive a complimentary admission
Holders of EBT cards can get free daily admission. They are also eligible for discounts on food assistance.
The ticket prices for the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago vary depending on the ticket type and the visitor’s age.
- Members: Free admission
- Chicago Residents: $19.95
- General Admission: Prices vary: Visitors can book in advance to get the best deals on their ticket prices.
Visitors can explore several ways to get discounted tickets for exploring the place. The Shedd Aquarium offers a variety of discounts and promotions throughout the year. Some significant discounts visitors can avail of on ticket prices include the following.
- Illinois Resident Discount: Illinois residents can receive a discount on General Admission tickets when they show proof of residency.
- CityPASS: Visitors can find this place in the Chicago CityPASS. This pass allows visitors to get discounted admission.
- Go Chicago and Hotel Partners: Booking tickets with Go Chicago and Hotel Partners might help visitors save a few bucks on ticket prices.
- Kids Museum Passport: The Chicago Public Library issues a Kids Museum Passport that offers ticket discounts.
- Reciprocal Membership Plan: If visitors have enrolled in the AZA Reciprocal Membership Program, they can get a 50% off on the tickets for up to two members.
Availing of most of these discounts requires visitors to make advanced bookings. You can visit the aquarium’s website and reserve your tickets.
Visitors can get the gift certificates on their website or at the aquarium’s on-site gift shop. These gift cards help visitors purchase tickets, memberships, food and beverages, merchandise, and other experiences at the aquarium.
People can also get these gift cards for their loved ones from external websites like GiftRocket. It can be a perfect way to gift someone a delightful experience.
Several animal encounter programs here allow visitors to witness animals up close. These experiences allow visitors to learn about marine life and how they can conserve them. Some of the top animal encounters here include the following.
It is a behind-the-scenes experience where visitors meet and interact with the beluga whales at the aquarium. Visitors can learn about their behaviors, training, and conservation efforts to protect these beautiful animals.
They will also touch and feed the belugas and learn about their anatomy, physiology, and natural history.
This encounter offers a one-of-a-kind experience where visitors can witness the penguins at the aquarium. It allows visitors to learn about their behavior, training, and conservation.
Visitors can get up close to touch and hold a penguin. They can also learn about their habitat and participate in a feeding session.
Trainer for a Day
It is an experience where visitors can shadow a marine mammal trainer and learn about their daily activities. These include feeding, training, and animal care.
This experience allows visitors to get hands-on experience working with the animals and assisting with training sessions.
Shark Feeding Tour
It is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Wild Reef exhibit where visitors can witness the feeding of the aquarium’s sharks. Visitors can learn about the different species of sharks and their importance in the ecosystem.
It allows them to observe the sharks from a safe distance.
Sea Otter Encounter
The Sea Otter Encounter is an experience that allows visitors to interact with the sea otters at the aquarium. Visitors can learn about sea otters’ behavior, training, and conservation efforts.
The Shedd Aquarium features exhibits allowing visitors to witness several marine animals. These exhibits are highly educational, informative, and engaging for visitors.
Visitors can also learn about the animals’ biology, behavior, conservation status, and environment through these exhibits.
The Abbott Oceanarium is a significant exhibit that features a variety of marine mammals. Visitors can witness dolphins, beluga whales, sea lions, and penguins here.
This exhibit allows visitors to observe the animals in various habitats, including an outdoor amphitheater overlooking Lake Michigan. Many indoor habitats simulate the animals’ natural environments.
The habitats look as natural as possible. Visitors can see the animals swimming, playing, and interacting with each other.
The Wild Reef exhibit showcases a simulated coral reef ecosystem with various fish, sharks, and rays. It points out the diversity and importance of coral reefs and their threats.
The exhibit has a variety of species found in coral reefs. These include colorful fish such as angelfish, butterflyfish, and wrasses. Many larger species, such as blacktip reef sharks and southern stingrays, also exist.
Visitors can witness these species in the natural environment and learn about the importance of coral reefs to marine ecosystems.
The Caribbean Reef exhibit is the most iconic here. It features a circular tank replicating the diverse marine life found in the coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea.
Visitors can observe a wide variety of fish and other marine animals. These include sea turtles, eels, stingrays, and sharks. Visitors can watch them as they swim through the colorful coral reef habitat.
The exhibit is both educational and entertaining. It has interactive displays and educational materials that teach visitors about the biology, behavior, and conservation of the animals on display.
Polar Play Zone
The Polar Play Zone is an interactive exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. It gives visitors an immersive experience of the polar regions and the animals that live there.
Polar Play Zone is the daily penguin encounter. This exhibit allows visitors to witness penguins closely. It is a fun and engaging exhibit that educates visitors about the animals that call them home.
The exhibit features a massive 250,000-gallon tank filled with various freshwater fish. Visitors can also find many other aquatic animals that are found in the Amazon, including arapaima, red-bellied piranhas, and catfish.
Visitors can observe these animals as they swim through the lush and colorful underwater environment.
Islands and Lakes
The Islands and Lakes exhibit showcases a variety of fish and other aquatic animals. Visitors can easily spot lake sturgeon, paddlefish, and muskellunge.
Many interactive displays and educational materials teach visitors about the biology and behavior of these animals.
The Islands and Lakes exhibit has an “Island Life” area. This area is just like the habitat of a Great Lakes island and allows Visitors to witness many animals found in this unique ecosystem.
The exhibit has a large shallow pool filled with various stingrays, including southern stingrays and cow nose rays. Visitors are invited to touch the stingrays as they swim by.
The staff are on hand to provide information and answer questions about these fascinating animals.
Several live cams at the aquarium allow visitors to explore the marine species from their houses. But, of course, visitors will need to reserve their slot to witness these animals virtually.
Special Virtual Dolphin Calf Viewing
The Shedd Aquarium offers a special virtual dolphin calf viewing experience. Visitors can observe the playful and curious young dolphins growing and developing.
Visitors can observe the calf as it learns to swim, play, and communicate with its mother and other dolphins in the habitat.
Private Virtual Encounters
Visitors can book several private virtual encounters here. These virtual experiences allow visitors to witness penguins, sea otters, and sea lions from the comfort of their homes. To enjoy these virtual experiences, participants can book their tickets in advance.
The duration of these encounters ranges from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
The Shedd Aquarium offers a variety of learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. These include hands-on activities, workshops, and educational programs.
Here are some learning opportunities that visitors can enjoy here.
The “Sea Curious” series is a popular program here. It is a series for families with young children. It contains interactive workshops that allow children to explore marine biology and ecology through games, storytelling, and hands-on activities.
The Sea Curious series covers ocean habitats, animal adaptations, and conservation.
Several educational programs and workshops on topics for older children and adults exist. These topics cover marine biology, conservation, and environmental sustainability.
Learners can join behind-the-scenes tours, lectures, and interactive workshops. It allows them an in-depth learning opportunity and a chance to interact with aquarium staff and experts.
Visitors get an animal care learning opportunity. It is excellent for visitors interested in learning more about how the aquarium cares for its animals.
The behind-the-scenes tour provides visitors an exclusive look at the aquarium’s animal care and rehabilitation facilities.
It offers a variety of event spaces that visitors can easily rent for private events.
Visitors can fill out an event inquiry form on the Shedd Aquarium’s website to book an event there. Once people submit the form, the event team will contact them to discuss the event in more detail.
Here are some of the events people can easily book here.
There are event spaces here that are ideal for hosting intimate events. For example, people can host small weddings, family celebrations, and other private gatherings.
One of the most popular spaces for intimate events is the “Wild Reef” exhibit. It features a coral reef ecosystem and a variety of tropical fish species. The space can have up to 50 guests and provides a stunning backdrop for intimate events.
Weddings and Receptions
The aquarium is a popular venue for weddings and receptions due to its unique and stunning event spaces. It is a perfect location on the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago.
Here, visitors can explore a range of event spaces that can accommodate weddings and receptions of various sizes. People can host events ranging from small and intimate gatherings to large-scale events.
Visitors can host business meetings, conferences, team-building exercises, and corporate parties at the aquarium. With its stunning lakefront location and unique event spaces, the aquarium provides a memorable setting for corporate events.
The Oceanarium is a popular event space for corporate events. It provides panoramic views of the aquarium’s beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and other marine life.
The aquarium allows visitors to book a space for hosting certain social events. Visitors can reserve a place for hosting birthday parties, family gatherings, etc.
To book a social event, people can connect with the team and check availability.
Dining at the Aquarium
Visitors can explore a variety of dining options for visitors, ranging from quick bites to full-service restaurants.
Here are some of the dining options available at the aquarium:
Opens: 10:30 am to 4:00 pm
This casual cafe is located on the aquarium’s main level. It offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, and other light fare. It also features a selection of grab-and-go items, including snacks and beverages.
Opens: 10:30 am to 4:00 pm
Bubble Net is a full-service restaurant located on the aquarium’s lower level. Visitors will find a vast menu of seafood and other seasonal dishes here. It also offers a selection of craft beers, cocktails, and wines.
Deep Ocean Cafe
This cafe is in the aquarium’s Oceanarium and offers a selection of snacks, light meals, coffee, and other beverages. It also provides views of the aquarium’s beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and other marine life.
There are vending machines with fresh and healthy food options here. These vending machines offer a variety of salads, snacks, sandwiches, and other meal options made with locally-sourced and organic ingredients.
They get restocked daily to ensure freshness and quality.
The kiosk serves freshly-popped popcorn in a variety of flavors. It’s a great spot to grab a snack before or after exploring the aquarium’s exhibits.
There is a gift shop from which visitors can purchase various souvenirs, gifts, and educational items. It offers many products, including t-shirts, hats, jewelry, toys, books, etc.
People can also explore the gift shop online. It allows them to browse the products and order them at their address.
Rescue & Conservation Efforts
The Shedd Aquarium is dedicated to various rescue and conservation efforts to protect and preserve marine life and its habitats.
One of the ways it participates in conservation is by researching aquatic animals and their habitats. The experts here study the behavior and biology of marine animals to understand how to protect them.
Exploring this big place can seem like a challenge. However, visitors can download a detailed map that shows the location of all the exhibits, galleries, and amenities here.
Visitors can use the map to plan their visit and navigate the different sections.
How to Reach & Parking
Visitors can easily reach here by car, public transport, or by foot.
- By Car: Anyone wishing to drive to the aquarium can enter the aquarium’s address into their GPS or map application. There is a parking garage located right next to the aquarium.
- By Public Transport: The aquarium can also be easily accessed by public transport. The nearest train station is the Roosevelt Station, a short walk from the aquarium.
- By Foot: If someone stays in a hotel nearby, they can easily walk to the aquarium. The aquarium is located within walking distance of several hotels in the downtown Chicago area.
The museum has a parking lot where visitors can park their vehicles.
The parking charges apply as follows.
- Up to 4 hours: $25
- 4 to 12 hours: $30
- 12 to 24 hours: $50
- Special event: $30
If someone wishes to stay in the area, there are a couple of hotels people can consider. There are no hotels in the aquarium. However, visitors can consider a few options for a comfortable stay.
Hilton Chicago (Best For Luxury)
Distance: 1.2 miles
This historic hotel is located on Michigan Avenue, steps away from Grant Park and Lake Michigan. It features spacious rooms, elegant decor, and a range of dining options.
Hyatt Regency McCormick Place (Best For Comfort)
Distance- 1.1 mile
It is a contemporary hotel located near McCormick Place, just a short distance from the aquarium. This hotel has all modern amenities, spacious rooms, and a rooftop pool. Visitors can get the most stunning views of the city.
Marriott Marquis Chicago (Spacious Rooms)
Distance- 2.8 miles
Marriott Marquis Chicago is located near McCormick Place. It offers spacious rooms, a rooftop bar, and easy access to popular attractions like the aquarium.
Best Western Grant Park Hotel (Best For Budget)
Distance: 0.9 miles
This hotel near the aquarium offers comfortable accommodations at an affordable price. It may not have all the luxurious amenities of some other nearby hotels. But it provides a convenient and budget-friendly option for visitors.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Swissotel Chicago offers many amenities and activities for children, such as a kids’ playroom and a game room. It also has a large indoor pool and a family-friendly restaurant on-site.
Visitors can have some fantastic food at the aquarium. However, if anyone wants to explore some food joints nearby, there are plenty of options.
Here are the top restaurants in the Chicago area.
Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe (Best Breakfast/Brunch)
Distance: 0.3 miles
This restaurant serves creative breakfast dishes with fresh ingredients. Visitors can taste pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches. They can explore several vegan and gluten-free options available.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria (Best Pizza)
Distance: 0.7 miles
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is famous for its deep-dish pizza. It is a Chicago staple. Visitors can also eat salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.
Giordano’s (Best Deep Dish Pizza)
Distance: 0.6 miles
This restaurant is known for its signature stuffed pizza. It also offers thin-crust pizza, salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.
Cherry Circle Room (Best Fine Dining)
Distance: 2.2 miles
Cherry Circle Room is in the historic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. This restaurant offers upscale American fare in a refined setting.
Sweetgreen (Best Healthy/Vegan)
Distance: 1.3 miles
If someone is a fitness enthusiast, this restaurant can serve him the best. Visitors can taste salads and grain bowls made with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Don’t forget to explore some of the top nearby attractions when visiting the aquarium. These attractions are equally good. Also, if someone is with the family, they can have some extra fun at these destinations.
Distance: 1.0 mile
The planetarium offers hands-on exhibits and interactive shows about astronomy and space science. It also offers stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.
Distance: 1 mile
This museum features world-renowned collections of natural history specimens and cultural artifacts. These include Sue the T-Rex and ancient Egyptian mummies.
Art Institute of Chicago
Distance: 1.6 miles
It showcases a vast collection of art from around the world. Visitors can explore the top paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts spanning ancient to modern times.
Distance: 1.8 miles
This park offers beautiful green spaces, public art installations, and iconic landmarks like the Cloud Gate sculpture (“The Bean”) and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Distance: 2.6 miles
This destination has a variety of attractions and entertainment options. Visitors can witness the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Centennial Wheel, and various dining and shopping options.
Working at the Aquarium
Working at the Shedd Aquarium can be an exciting opportunity. There are a variety of job opportunities available for individuals with different interests.
Jobs at the aquarium range from animal care specialists, aquarists, educators, and administrative staff to gift shop sales associates or event coordinators.
There are also internships available for students seeking hands-on experience in animal care, conservation research, and marketing.
For those interested in volunteering, the aquarium offers a variety of volunteer opportunities. These include assisting with animal care, educational programming, and aquarium ambassadors.
The volunteer program offers a chance to learn new skills and meet new people. By joining a volunteer program, people can contribute to the aquarium’s mission of conservation and education.
Shedd Aquarium accepts donations to support its mission of animal care and conservation. Donations can help fund research and conservation efforts.
To donate, anyone can click on the ‘donate‘ button available on the homepage.
The Shedd Aquarium is a beloved attraction in Chicago. Many visitors have praised its stunning exhibits, knowledgeable staff, and commitment to animal welfare. People can find many positive reviews on the beauty of the aquarium.
The aquarium has received high ratings on popular review sites like TripAdvisor. Many visitors have noted that it’s a must-see destination in Chicago.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the Shedd Aquarium?
The Shedd Aquarium is at 1200 S Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Is it free?
No, the Shedd Aquarium is not free. There is an admission fee to enter the aquarium. However, members can get free admission into the aquarium.
How much are the tickets?
The cost of Shedd Aquarium tickets is as follows.
Members: Free admission
Chicago residents: $19.95
General Admission: Prices vary
How big is it?
The Shedd Aquarium is one of the biggest indoor aquariums in the world. It spans over 400,000 square feet and features over 32,000 animals representing over 1,500 species.
How long to spend at the aquarium?
The time visitors need to experience the Shedd Aquarium depends on individual interests. But typically, visitors spend 2-3 hours exploring the exhibits.
Where to park?
The Shedd Aquarium has a parking garage located on-site in the museum area. But this parking lot has limited space. In case visitors don’t find parking space here, they can explore parking at the nearby public parking lots or street parking.
How much is the parking?
Parking fees at the Shedd Aquarium vary based on the day and time of visit. Generally, it involves the following charges.
The parking charges apply as follows.
Up to 4 hours: $25
4 to 12 hours: $30
12 to 24 hours: $50
Special event: $30
Is the aquarium worth visiting?
Absolutely! It is a world-class facility with diverse exhibits and opportunities to see a wide range of aquatic animals up close. It’s an excellent destination for families, couples, and anyone who appreciates the beauty of the marine and natural world.
Other Nearby Aquariums
A word from FIA
We hope this guide provided visitors with all the necessary information about the Shedd Aquarium. We’ve covered everything from its various exhibits and events to nearby attractions and dining options.
If you enjoyed this aquarium guide, please share it with other visitors who might find it helpful.
Don’t forget to visit this aquarium to spend quality time with family and friends. It can also help visitors in learning about marine life and conservation efforts.