Exploring the Shedd Aquarium

...get ready for an underwater journey!

Shedd's enterence.

The Shedd Aquarium is right up there with the other great attractions in terms of the number of people who visit, because the Shedd is an amazing experience of underwater life, and one which connects people to the living world.

Located on Chicago's Museum Campus, the Shedd is the largest indoor aquarium in the world with more than 30,000 aquatic animals, and of that, there are more than 1,500 different species from all over the world.

The Shedd's History

The Shedd's history goes way back to 1924 when a businessman named John Graves Shedd donated $3 million for the creation of an aquarium in Chicago.

He needed a group to be responsible for the construction and overall operation of the aquarium, so he formed the Shedd Aquarium Society.

They selected a location near the lake and commissioned the architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White with the design of the building.

The Shedd Aquarium opened in December 1929 and the people of Chicago were able to visit the new attraction, and attended in droves even though there were no fish yet. Then saltwater arrived in 1930, and was transported by train from Florida.

Not much later the exhibits, which were displayed around a central rotunda, opened for the public to enjoy. The Aquarium continued to transport fresh saltwater from Florida until 1970, when it started creating its own.

The Shedd first began to expand in 1971 when the Caribbean Reef was added and in 1991 the amazing Oceanarium opened, doubling the size of the aquarium. Another exhibit, the Amazon Rising, opened in 2000, and the Wild Reef opened three years after that.

What Does the Shedd Offer?

The Shedd offers Habitat Chats for visitors to educate themselves about the aquatic world and its inhabitants. You will learn about how the Shedd cares for their aquatic animals, more about their natural habitats, and what they eat.

Chats are scheduled in many of the habitats and locations are posted all over, so you shouldn't have a hard time finding the information that you need.

Animal Encounters is another cool thing the Shedd has available. You actually get a chance to touch and learn about many fascinating creatures such as a tarantulas, geckos, frogs, and snakes (which are my favorite).

There are many different things to do and see at the Shedd including their five main exhibits, each with their own wild life and atmosphere.

There are five permanent exhibits at the Shedd Aquarium:

  • Amazon Rising
  • Caribbean Reef
  • Oceanarium
  • Waters of the World
  • Wild Reef
There are also other smaller exhibits and temporary exhibits which I talk about further down the page.

I would encourage people to enjoy all the exhibits because they all are amazing, but my favorite, and the ones you must see, are the Amazon Rising, Caribbean Reef, and Waters of the World.

The Amazon Rising

One of the many fish. The Amazon Rising is a journey into the Amazon where one-third of all living things live. The exhibit is an 8,600-square-foot walkthrough flooded forest recreation of the Amazon River and the surrounding jungle.

The exhibit contains about 250 different species and its highest water level is 6 feet.

You will need to watch out for crocodiles, rays, piranhas, and many other animals when exploring this exhibit.

Rivers, lakes, and flooded treetops are what set the atmosphere in this exhibit and you will see how the region's animals, plants, and people adapt and survive to the dramatic rise and fall of the rivers and lakes of the region.

The Caribbean Reef

Cool orange and white fish. The Caribbean Reef is probably my favorite out of all the exhibits at the Shedd because you are surrounded by a 90,000 gallon circular habitat in the grand rotunda.

You will be able to follow a green sea turtle, watch moray eel in the rocky crevices, see rays glide by, and be only inches of glass away from parrotfish and sharks.

You get a very good understanding of how life is in the Caribbean reef from behind the glass, and with the many cameras that are inside the large tanks, which will allow you to see the animals even more closely.

The animals are fed about 5 times a day by divers, which can give you more information about the animals. It's pretty cool if you get a chance to see the drivers feed the animals and swim with the turtles and sharks.

It's a beautiful set-up and like I said it's my favorite exhibit there, mainly because of being in a 360-degree underwater reef community and having aquatic wildlife all around you.

Waters of the World

Large crab. The Waters of the World is a very interesting exhibit because you get to, in a sense, travel the world and explore 80 different habitats.

You get to explore awesome ecosystems of the Islands and lakes and meet about a 100+ amazing animals from different kinds of frogs to giant octopus.

The Shedd Aquarium is a very engaging and entertaining time and the people there are very passionate about the animals kept in the aquarium, and the habitats they live in.

I enjoy the Shedd Aquarium every time I visit and I know you will too if you decide to go.


The Oceanarium is supposed to give people an overview of the sea life in the Pacific Northwest coast and what it is like under the waves. The Oceanarium is split into two levels, above and below the waterline.

When you are above, there are two sets of bleachers where can watch the Pacific white-sided dolphins perform their amazing stunts.

While below the waterline, you can see the Beluga Whales and Dolphins up close and see them swimming around at the bottom of the 3 million gallon tank. Sea otters and seals are also at the Oceanarium, but the stars here are definitely the dolphins.

Shows are scheduled during the day. The Oceanarium is definitely a highlight of the Shedd, and is another must see if you are at the Shedd.

Wild Reef

Large fish. The Wild Reef shows the underwater diver’s-eye view of the ecosystem of a coral reef in the Philippines. You can get as close as you want to the 25 sharks that are some of the most popular fish found in the underground wing of the exhibit.

Explore underwater gardens, wander through a lagoon, and a mangrove forest. You can also visit a fishing village where residents saved their reef from destruction, all in this award-winning exhibit.


Other Things to See & Do

Want More Exhibits?

The other exhibits at the Shedd include the Tropical Water exhibit where you will find fresh water animals of the Americas and Amazon Rising. Even more exotic animals are on display in the Asia, Australia, and Africa exhibits.

There is also an Illinois Lakes and Rivers exhibit with animals found throughout the Great Lakes such as native fish of Illinois and river otters.

Tots on Tuesdays

The Shedd Aquarium offers a special event for 3-5 year-old preschoolers, which is called "Tots on Tuesdays".

The event features a full day of fun and educational activities including crafts, a program where you have the chaqnce to touch the animals, videos, story time, and other activities that will surly put a smile on your preschoolers face.

Eating at the Shedd

Dining at the Shedd Aquarium is definitely an option. The Bubble Net Food Court offers pizza, burgers, sandwiches and much more including vegetarian favorites like falafel on pita and black-bean burgers. Salads, fruit and beverages are what make their healthy meals. They are open every day 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you would like full table service, then you will want to try Sounding Café, where you can look through their new wholesome menu. Enjoy fresh salads, wraps, and sandwiches made to order in which the ingredients are locally grown. Coffee, tea, bottled beverages, beer, and wine are also available.

The children are not forgotten, the kids menu includes classic PB&J, mini fish sliders, and other kid favorites.

Another place to stop for a bite would be the Deep Ocean Café located in the Polar Play Zone. The Deep Ocean Café serves foods such as Vienna hot dogs, slushies, macaroni and cheese, Dippin’ Dots, Mrs. Field’s cookies. Mrs. Field's Cookie House features cookies, brownies, coffee, and cold beverages.

Remember Your Visit

After your day at the Shedd Aquarium is over, don't forget to stop by the gift shop for souvenirs, jewlery, and much more so you never forget about the great time you had at the Shedd Aquarium.