Seattle Aquarium Guide: Hours, Parking & More
Much of what makes Seattle a beautiful lure of a city is its magnificent surroundings. The Puget Sound is a tranquil and pristine estuary that is home to a variety of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals. The striking Olympic Mountain range acts as the backdrop to a city filled with unique people. Just as unique as its people, Seattle is home to a variety of Seattle attractions meant to entertain visitors near or far. One such attraction is the Seattle Aquarium. Here, the Puget Sound and nearby waters are celebrated in a well-designed space that introduces locals and visitors to the fascinating creatures that dwell just outside in the waters of the Pacific Northwest and illustrates how conservation efforts will allow such an incredibly diverse ecosystem to thrive.
Seattle Aquarium Tickets
As with any famous Seattle attraction, your best bet to avoid long ticket lines is to purchase your tickets online. You may also, learn about Seattle Aquarium discount prices offered in Seattle CityPASS ticket options. Fortunately, tickets purchased online are good for any day so you can keep a flexible schedule!
There are a few ways to get discounts on Seattle Aquarium tickets. Active military members, senior citizens (ages 65+), and persons with disabilities purchasing their tickets on-site at the aquarium can get a $2 discount per ticket. Others can save $2 by purchasing tickets online. We think the best way is with CityPASS, which offers a package deal of the best Seattle attractions at a bundled price, saving you over regular admission prices. Admission to the Seattle Aquarium is included with your Seattle CityPASS booklet, letting you skip the main ticket line altogether. CityPASS also includes a 15% off coupon for the Seattle Aquarium gift store.
Seattle Aquarium Hours
The Seattle Aquarium is open daily at 9:30am with last entry at 5pm and exhibits closing at 6pm. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve hours are a bit shorter, with last entry at 3pm. The Aquarium is closed Christmas Day and is open regular hours on all other holidays. The Aquarium is also closed for their annual fundraising gala, which is usually in early summer (check the schedule before booking tickets).
Birds and Shores
Where there are fish... there are seabirds! And at the Seattle Aquarium, these birds get an exhibit all to themselves! From the common murre (a bird that looks curiously like a penguin), to the long-billed curlew, North America's largest shorebird, there are plenty of winged creatures to pique your interest. This exhibit also features various species of fish and invertebrates, including rockfish, sea urchins, sea stars, and more.
Puget Sound Fish
Check out the creatures beneath the surface of Washington Waters in the exhibit "Puget Sound Fish," where colorful stand-outs and camouflaged sea creatures coexist in a habitat created to reflect the waters of the Pacific Northwest.
Some of the names of these captivating creatures—grunt sculpins, decorated warbonnets, split-nose rockfish—sound as if they've come straight out of a children's book. However, these animals are as real as the ocean is deep, and the Seattle Aquarium displays them in all their natural glory. You'll also get to see the eelgrass exhibit where prickleback fish and gunnels swim in and out of old bottles and small crevices. Among these intriguing aquatic creatures is one that looks like a blade of grass. This is actually a bay pipefish, a seahorse that at first glance doesn't look like an animal at all. These are just a few of the enchanting underwater creatures you’ll encounter at the Seattle Aquarium.
Life of A Drifter
Home to the Pacific Northwest's most mysterious creatures, the "Life of a Drifter" exhibit is both fascinating and strange. Watch as a Giant Pacific Octopus moves around the exhibit, each tentacle's adhesive suckers clinging to the transparent walls. The octopus roams through two sections of the exhibit, which connects via a large, clear tube. Then, step into the ring of life, where bright moon jellies float around you and light the room like living paper lanterns.
This 400,0000-gallon tank offers visitors a 360-degree view of the multitude of fish that live in Puget Sound. From schools of silver salmon to lurking sharks, you'll get to look up, down, and all around as if you were swimming in the waters right there with them. Daily fish feedings happen at 1:30 pm (you definitely want to see this!).
Here the aquarium extends its reach beyond the eclectic waters of Puget Sound and features exotic and unique warm-water creatures of the tropical Pacific Ocean. See colorful coral, seahorses, spotted lagoon jellyfish, and the brightly-striped red lionfish swim around in this exhibit.
Education and conservation are major themes for the Seattle Aquarium. Staff is readily available for answering questions and hands-on activities and exhibits bring the thrill of the ocean to your fingertips. There are even feedings and training sessions throughout the day. The Seattle Aquarium has 14 unique and fascinating exhibits, but there are a few standouts that continue to draw big crowds. Reviews have praised the Aquarium’s ability to both educate and entertain, and the following exhibits do just that:
This is the star exhibit! The "Marine Mammals" exhibit features Puget Sound's loveable otters and seals. Children and parents love this exhibit, where you can choose to see the animals from an underwater perspective or from above. Sea otters sport thick fur and are much larger than river otters. You'll often see sea otters lounging on their backs on the water's surface while river otters swim belly down. Check out the Seattle Aquarium's two Northern fur seals, Leu and Flaherty, here, too. Leu was found blind in one eye, stranded on a beach in California while Flaherty was born in the New England Aquarium before being transferred to the Seattle Aquarium. Don't forget to say "hello" to harbor seals Barney, Q, and Hogan, the Aquarium's playful marine mammals whose large exhibit allows them to swim around and hang out with plenty of wiggle room. You might have to be patient here—this is the most popular exhibit and can get crowded.
Salmon are integral to the health and functioning of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem; their health is an indication of the health of their habitat. The Seattle Aquarium has successfully built an educational exhibit featuring these fascinating and popular fish at every stage of development, including their transition from freshwater to saltwater, which few people get to see.
Window on Washington Waters
This exhibit is the first you'll see as you walk into the Seattle Aquarium. With more than 800 fish and invertebrates, "Window on Washington Waters "provides an immersive view of the water through a large, 20x40 foot window. Three times a day, divers answer questions via an aquarium interpreter, who acts as your guide to the outside.
Family Activity Center
The Seattle Aquarium is praised for its kid-friendliness. The family activity center is an entertaining and educational space that teaches about orcas and their current status as an endangered species. Here, hands-on-activities and videos educate kids and their parents on what can be done to protect orcas and ensure their longevity in the wild.
Visual Guide For Special Needs Guests
The Seattle Aquarium social story visual guide will help families and groups prepare for their visit to the Aquarium. This may be especially useful for visitors with autism, sensory sensitivities, or younger audiences. Look through it before your visit, or print it out to bring with you.
For full details on the visual guide and the accessibility offerings available, please visit the official Seattle Aquarium website.
Tips and Tricks for a Better Visit
- The Seattle Aquarium has a great layout and plenty of room to explore each of the exhibits comfortably.
- Staff are available to answer questions, so take advantage of the opportunity! Seattle Aquarium also conducts their own research on marine life.
- If you check out the Marine Mammals exhibit and you're visiting in the fall or winter, dress warmly. The Marine Mammal area is outside on the waterfront and feeling the breeze from Puget Sound might not feel as welcoming in the colder months.
- The Aquarium Cafe is an excellent place to stop and eat if you're feeling hungry. Warm up with some hearty soups or chowder, or enjoy kid-friendly food options like chicken fingers and pizza. The balcony has a beautiful view of Elliott Bay.
- If you go on a weekday during the school year you might share the space with a school group; over 50,000 students visit each year!
Seattle Aquarium Parking
Parking is probably the most difficult part of visiting the Seattle Aquarium (besides pulling yourself away from the otters, of course). If you park at the Republic Parking Hillclimb Garage, you can get a $1 discount at the customer service desk at the Aquarium. There is also four-hour metered parking available on Alaskan Way. Alternatively, the metro transit has many bus routes that will take you within a 15-minute walk of the aquarium.