Aquariums are great “family one stops.” Family vacations are often hard to plan. When children are young they like “experience trips. Aquariums are perfect for that. Kids love fish in general. After ten minutes in the water, the kids are swimming on their own all over the tank, blending into schools of fishes and taking photos with an underwater camera to prove to their friends that they really did get that close to a nurse shark.
Monterey Bay, California – Do your kids love interactive exhibits? This may be the place for you. Monterey Bay boasts a 7000 square-foot splash zone with tunnels, toys, and other games for frisky kids who want to learn about marine life. Two particular favorites here? The otter and giant octopus exhibits.
Mystic, Connecticut – The Mystic Aquarium is notable because it’s largely outdoors, although it has plenty to do inside on cold, rainy days as well. My kids love the shipwreck exhibit (a replica of an actual archeological site) and the Dig It! Experience, where they can “excavate” marine fossils in a simulated sand quarry and string necklaces with shark or whale teeth.
Seattle, Washington – The Seattle aquarium reopened to the public in 2007 after a remodel and expansion. Located on the waterfront (just down from the world-famous Pike Place Market), it boasts a Sixgill Shark exhibit, marine mammals, an underwater dome, and lots of touch zones for an up-close experience.
Boston, Massachusetts – At the New England Aquarium, you can walk around and around a ramp down four stories past a viewing tank full of stingrays, sharks, and the famous Murtle the Turtle, who has been at the aquarium since before many visiting adults were born. Don’t miss Zoe’s favorite exhibit, the Atlantic Harbor seals, or Abby’s, the beautiful and unusual seadragons.
Atlanta, Georgia – Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, with eight million gallons of water and the most marine life outside of the ocean. Prominently featured is Ocean Voyager, where you can walk through an acrylic tunnel and feel like you’re right in the middle of the ocean – a great experience for little ones who need to feel their feet on firm ground. The exhibit features whale sharks, hammerheads, rays, and other scary sea creatures, all behind comforting but transparent acrylic walls. To relax after your close marine encounter, check out the Tropical Diver exhibit, a tranquil look at a coral reef.