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What You Need to Know to Visit Shedd Aquarium

February 29, 2024 By CityPASS

It's mind-boggling to consider that 71% of the Earth's surface is covered in water. Now, just imagine the variety and number of creatures thriving in the vast ocean, rivers and lakes of our shared blue planet. Well, you don't have to leave everything to the imagination. Discover the wonders of animal biology, behaviors and dazzling biodiversity at the historic and renowned Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois guests can come eye-to-eye with aquatic animals from diverse ecosystems around the world. Leave knowing your visit made a measurable difference for the aquatic animal world.

Plan Ahead to Visit Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium is one of Chicago's most beloved attractions. Its historic architectural significance has even earned the aquarium its status as a National Historic Landmark. Because of its overwhelming popularity, it's important to plan ahead for your visit. There are plenty of tips and tricks to get the most out of your aquatic adventure.

Shedd Aquarium Ticket Prices

The first step in making the most of your time at Shedd Aquarium is to buy tickets in advance on Shedd's website, now required. General admission includes access to all exhibits including Wild Reef, touch experiences like sturgeon and sea star touch and Animal Spotlights.

You can also check out the seasonal Stingray Touch (summer only) or add on an experience like an animal encounter, 4-D Experience, or Virtual Reality Experience.

Shedd Aquarium Free Days

If you're an Illinois resident, you can enjoy select discount and free days throughout the year. Reserve your tickets online and at least one day in advance, the earlier the better, and make sure to bring your valid ID.

Shedd Aquarium Accessibility

Shedd Aquarium believes there should be no boundaries to your experience. Visit the accessibility page on Shedd's website for details. Or, start by downloading their Sensory friendly app.

Chicago CityPASS® Tickets

Chicago CityPASS® tickets are great for anyone who plans to see many of Chicago's best attractions, and the package deal comes with some pretty impressive savings, if we do say so ourselves. CityPASS® tickets provide access to Chicago's top five attractions at a discount. If you're visiting from out of town, this is the best way to make the most of your Chicago adventure without overspending.

If you're short on time and five attractions is too many, check out Chicago C3® tickets. You can visit three attractions of you choosing and save up to . Both options include Shedd Aquarium and Chicago's other top attractions, so you can't go wrong.

Shedd Aquarium Exhibits

Shedd Aquarium boasts an impressive variety of aquatic life. From beluga whales weighing more than 2,000 pounds to microscopic plankton, you can easily spend an entire day at Shedd and still not see all the aquarium has to offer.

Wild Reef

Immerse yourself in a stunning, award-winning exhibit that features a vibrant coral reef and the diverse life surrounding it. Colorful fishes, impressive sharks and smooth stingrays abound in this fascinating exhibit. Check out the critically endangered bowmouth guitarfish, or the cunning archerfish aiming for their prey. The coral lab shows guests how Shedd Aquarium recreates reef conditions and works to restore threatened reefs around the world.

Abbott Oceanarium

Hear beluga whales chirp, see Pacific white-sided dolphins leap, witness sea otters forage for food or sea lions stretched out for a nap in the Abbott Oceanarium. Immerse yourself in the vibrant coastal ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest as you explore. Plus, join us for an Animal Spotlight here where you'll learn about incredible animal adaptations.

Polar Play Zone

Polar Play Zone is just one of the reasons Shedd Aquarium is a great thing to do with kids in Chicago. Little ones can let their imaginations run wild as they waddle like penguins and explore the Icy South play area or pilot a kid-sized submarine. Come face-to-face with Magellanic and rockhopper penguins as they preen and play. Dip your hand into the cool water of the sea star touch pool and discover the variety and textures of sea stars. Plus, get an underwater view of the belugas, dolphins and sea otters as they swim in the mesmerizing blue.

Oceans Gallery

Spot the giant Pacific octopus hiding among the rocks, or stop to appreciate the swaying kelp fronds and the intriguing leopard sharks, horn sharks and rockfish of the Kelp Forest habitat. Here you'll learn about how ocean animals display astounding adaptability in the world's temperate and cold oceans.

At Home on the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are among the world's most precious natural resources. More than 3,500 plant and animal species — some found nowhere else on the planet — live here. Visit the powerful alligator snapping turtle, or reach into cool water and feel the armored skin of sturgeons, which have evolved little from the time of the dinosaurs.

Food and Fun

If all the excitement of the deep blue sea has got your stomach grumbling, check out Shedd Aquarium's many dining options.

Bring Your Own Food

Looking to save money on your trip to Shedd Aquarium, or have a special picnic outing in mind? Shedd Aquarium's you can enjoy your own home-cooked goodness (or some of Chicago's great eats!) in designated spaces. Outdoor picnic tables are available as well in Shedd's lawn area if you want to enjoy a warm summer day.

Shedd Aquarium Hours

The best time to visit Shedd Aquarium is early in the morning on the weekdays, especially Wednesday through Friday.

Check the Shedd Aquarium calendar for hours before booking your tickets.

Parking and Getting to Shedd Aquarium

Chicago has a lot going on, and parking isn't always easy when there are multiple events happening. Concerts and sporting events tend to hike up parking costs, so plan the best way to get to Shedd Aquarium.

Nearby Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in Chicago, we recommend finding lodging near Chicago's top attractions like Shedd Aquarium. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image: © Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

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