For the past few years, my family and I have been visiting taking trips to Chicago to visit the Shedd Aquarium. With our children in tow, we make the almost two hour trip and spend the day watching animals and taking the opportunity to teach our children about them.
The Shedd Aquarium offers free days periodically that coincide with school vacations. When you get in for free, you are allowed to view the attractions on the main level. This includes the dive tank and a host of smaller fish tanks, as well as the large shark tanks. However, if you want to see the dolphins, penguins and beluga whales, as well as some other special exhibits, you have to purchase an enhanced ticket to view these.
Visiting with Toddlers
The last time we went to the Shedd Aquarium my boys were 18 months and 2 and half years old. They loved the interactive learning areas, such as the camping exhibit and the penguin play land. We were able to find souvenirs that weren’t very expensive in the souvenir shop on the lower level by the beluga whale tanks. If you are visiting the aquarium with young ones, I suggest stopping at this gift shop because it is considerably smaller than the one near the entrance so it is easier for kids to make a decision about what they want to purchase.
Near the beluga whale tank, there is a cafeteria like restaurant that has good food at a reasonable price-considering that you are at a tourist attraction. This restaurant is open to all patrons every day, including free days. Items like chicken strips, corn dogs and French fries can please even the most picky eater. If you are traveling with young ones, bring a sippy cup in a diaper bag for when you eat. The cups didn’t have tops the day we were there. I am not sure if this is normal or if they were just out.
The Shedd Aquarium has special shows with the dolphins and beluga whales. The seating is stadium type seating; however, seating isn’t reserved so if you want to watch the show, show up early to get a good seat. If you sit close to the show tank, you may get splashed. Because our little ones were restless by the time we made it through the rest of the aquarium, we opted not to try to make them sit still to watch the show. Instead, we took them around to the penguin play area and let them play. In the penguin play area, kids can don penguin suits and go down slides and get some energy out. Aquarium staff is on-hand by the slides to ensure that children take turns and are safe.
It is easy to make a full day out of visiting the Shedd Aquarium, especially if you read the interactive and informational signs to your children while you are there. Plan ahead and wear comfortable shoes as parking is a bit away from the entrance-plus you wall walk through the aquarium.