Families and science lovers will swoon for these fun and unique aquariums throughout Mississippi River Country, from a historic structure on Chicago’s lakefront to expansive and pristine facilities in St. Louis and along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
Shedd Aquarium, Illinois
More than 30,000 animals—from dolphins to penguins to beluga whales to sea otters—make their home at this historic aquarium on Chicago’s lakefront. It is part of the city’s Museum Campus, which also includes Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History (as well as the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field). One of the most popular attractions in Chicago, Shedd Aquarium also provides educational programs, live animal encounters and a focus on conservation research.
St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, Missouri
One of St. Louis’ newest family attractions, St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station features 44 exhibits, 13,000 animals, more than 250 species and a 250,000-gallon shark habitat—all housed in a historic train station that served the city for nearly 75 years. Today, visitors to the St. Louis Aquarium can experience the sights (and creatures) of freshwater rivers, saltwater marshes, global waters, and the ocean’s deep, among others. Union Station also has an on-site hotel, restaurants, and family-friendly games and attractions.
The Gulf Coast city of Gulfport is the home to another new aquarium in Mississippi River Country: the Mississippi Aquarium, which boasts indoor and outdoor habitats and more than 200 species of animals on its sprawling property. Exhibits include alligators, crocodiles, North American river fish, bottlenose dolphins, penguins and an aviary of unique birds.
This fun aquarium on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga is consistently recognized as one of the top public aquariums in the country. The Tennessee Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 animals representing nearly 800 species, from river otters to macaroni penguins to paddlefish. Featured exhibits highlight fish and other species from the Tennessee River, the Mississippi Delta and waterways around the world.
Other options to check out: