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What You Need to Know to Visit Shedd Aquarium

March 15, 2023 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 mysterious blue oceans, rivers, and lakes of this planet. Well, you don't have to leave everything to the imagination. In fact, you can see for yourself the magnificent beauty the water has to offer at the historic and renowned Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois. Here, visitors can explore the vast number of animals living in and around the waters of the 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 your visit to Shedd Aquarium. The experience is well worth the wait, but there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to minimize wait time and use those hours for more aquatic adventure.

Shedd Aquarium Ticket Prices

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

General Admission (and Chicago residents admission) includes access to the main-floor exhibits including Waters of the World, Caribbean Reef, and Amazon Rising. You can also check out the current special exhibit (when available) and Stingray Touch (summer only).

Shedd Aquarium Free Days

If you’re an Illinois resident, you can enjoy select free days at Shedd Aquarium 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. Check their calendar for the next free day.

Shedd Aquarium Accessibility

As part of a continued commitment to foster a welcoming and inclusive culture, Shedd Aquarium believes there should be no boundaries to your experience. Visit the accessibility page on Shedd's website for the details you will need to make the most of your visit.

Services include:

The Shedd Aquarium official website has more information to help you understand their autism-friendly services with all of the details you will need to make the most of your visit.

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

The Shedd Aquarium boasts an impressive variety of aquatic life. From the anaconda, piranhas, arapaima, and stingrays of the Amazon to the exotic coral of a Philippine reef, you can easily spend an entire day at the Shedd and still not see all the aquarium has to offer.

Caribbean Reef

Make your way to the Caribbean Reef and get a 360-degree view of the diverse life within. Say hello to a bright-eyed Nickel, a rescued sea turtle. This is the perfect exhibit to begin your Shedd adventure.

Amazon Rising

In the Amazon, life is dependent on the rise and fall of the river. Yearly floods dictate how the region adapts, and you’ll get to see what it’s like to experience a year in the Amazon. Not only will you see many exotic creatures including piranhas, catfish and arapaima in the river channel, you’ll even see how human homes in the Amazon are built to withstand the heavy floods.

Wild Reef

Become immersed in a stunning, award-winning exhibit that features a Philippine coral reef and the diverse life surrounding it. Colorful fish, impressive sharks, and smooth stingrays abound in this fascinating exhibit. Check out the incognito frogfish, whose unique sponge-like shape changes colors over time to blend in with the coral. The coral lab shows guests how Shedd Aquarium recreates reef conditions and restore existing reefs around the world.

Waters of the World

The Waters of the World exhibit features 76 aquatic habitats including oceans, rivers, lakes, wetlands, tropical islands and an underwater cave. This level of the aquarium boasts the most beautiful and unusual of water-dwelling creatures. Spider crabs, octopi, seahorses, map turtles, Mountain horned dragons and more await you in this astonishing exhibit.

At Home on the Great Lakes

At Home on the Great Lakes features about 60 species of Great Lake life. Learn how to make a difference to conserve and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem. You can even touch sturgeons, which are covered in plates as thick as armor. These fascinating lake creatures can grow up to 9 feet long and are bottom-feeders that vacuum up food on the lake floor using their downward-facing mouths.

Abbott Oceanarium

Watch as Pacific white-sided dolphins, Beluga whales, sea lions, sea otters, and an array of fish and invertebrates greet you in the wonderful Abbott Oceanarium. The Animal Spotlight allows you to connect with and learn about many of the oceanarium's intelligent animals.

Polar Play Zone

The Polar Play Zone is just one of the reasons Shedd Aquarium is a great thing to do with kids in Chicago. Kids can let their imaginations run wild as they jump into a penguin suit and explore the Icy South play area. There’s also a real penguin habitat featuring Magellanic and rockhopper penguins so kids can be inspired to be their best penguin when they suit up. End your polar play adventure with the underwater viewing galleries. Here you’ll get an up close look at whales, dolphins and sea otters as they swim in the mesmerizing blue.

4-D Experience

Add a movie to your Shedd visit! The 4-D Experience immerses you in a 3-D film with some splashing and other sensory effects to make the experience even more fun.

Food and Fun

If all the excitement of the deep blue sea has got your stomach grumbling, check out the 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 Marine Munchroom has tables and chairs at the ground level entrance where you can enjoy your own home-cooked goodness (or some of Chicago’s great eats!). 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 going happening. Concerts and sporting events tend to hike up parking costs, so take a look at this page to plan around heavy traffic events and to find public transportation route information: .

Come enjoy the wonders of the water at Chicago’s renowned Shedd Aquarium. Open since 1930, this impressive attraction is home to 32,000 animals and is an adventure worth planning for.

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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