When you live in a city like Chicago, it is really fun to play tourist every once in a while. While some museums can get a bit stale if you have been visiting them since you were a kid like me, so I recommend checking out the one spot on museum campus that is always exciting and unpredictable: The Shedd Aquarium!
The reason why we love coming here so often is because of the gorgeous fish and animals that live in the historic and beautiful structure. The juxtaposition of the marble architecture and colorful saltwater reefs and fish is truly stunning. Even better? When you get to set up an air mattress and sleep NEXT to these majestic exhibits. Check out our “Asleep With the Fishes” program here.
In addition to saltwater fish, the Shedd has exhibits dedicated to freshwater fish, local marine life, jellyfish (this one is my absolute favorite), stingrays, penguins, and creatures of the ocean–from seals to dolphins to whales–it is am amazing habitat to admire the animals in.
Organizers at the Shedd have done everything possible to allow kids to have a unique and close-up experience with all of the beautiful creatures throughout every exhibit, and they also created a Polar Play Zone for kids to engage in all kinds of learning, from pretending to be a penguin complete with costumes and slides to real animal encounters. My boys absolutely love being in this area, and I enjoy the wonderful underwater views of the dolphins and belugas as I watch the boys play with other kids.
There are quite a few food options at the Shedd, but I think there is one that totally reigns supreme: Soundings Cafe’. Here you can find delicious food (no boring kids meals of pizza here) and enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan while your meal is brought to you. It is very stroller friendly and a great way to eat healthy while out and about with your kiddos. You can also bring your own food in and eat in the underwater viewing area. You will have quite an amazing view!
This brief synopsis doesn’t even begin to describe the fun that my family and I have had at the Shedd Aquarium…if you are ever in Chicago looking for something to do–with or without your kids–this is the place to go. I guarantee that you will love it! And if you visit on a free day, take notice of these tips for managing what can be a crazy busy day at the museum.
A Few Tips to Visiting with Kids
*Bring a stroller (even an umbrella one) since there is a TON of walking. The entire museum is stroller accessible and you will be happy to have some extra storage. Wagons are not allowed.
*Use the side entrance if you use a stroller (look for the huge water fountain/statue of a tall man holding a fish). Typically this line is MUCH shorter than the general line.
*Park along Solidarity Drive or use Park Whiz for discounted parking.
*Be on the lookout for FREE Days. By showing a valid Illinois ID, you are allowed free general admission, which includes the amazing Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World, and Amazon Rising exhibits. If you would like to see special seasonal exhibits like the Jelly exhibit or the aquatic show, these tickets are significantly discounted on these special days for Illinois residents, so even though they aren’t totally free, it is a GREAT deal for you and your family, especially since the aquarium can be kinda pricey. Don’t leave home without checking out my “Free Day” tips.
*If you are an out of towner planning to visit our city’s AMAZING museums and attractions, I highly recommend getting a CityPASS that is valid for 9 days and gives you up to 50% discounted admission on great sites around Chicago (The Field Museum, Skydeck Chicago, Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, John Hancock Observatory, and The Museum of Science and Industry are the main features included in the package) and lets you skip the line–and trust me, the lines can be VERY long when kids are out of school on summer and holiday breaks.
*Skip the aquatic show. Unfortunately it tends to drag on a bit and it is difficult for many kids to sit through (there are lots of videos and it is hard to see some of the animals). If you have a dolphin lover, you are better off seeing the dolphin show at the Brookfield Zoo.
*After visiting the Shedd, be sure to explore the outside grounds. There are some gorgeous waterfalls and a few different path options to enjoy the most STUNNING views of the city.
Enjoy the fishies!
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