In operation since 1930, Shedd is one of the world's largest aquariums. It's home to over 32,000 animals!
It houses pettable stingrays, undulating jellyfish, and some massively cute beluga whales (and for just $500, a ring-trained beluga can help you with your marriage proposal). If you’ve ever wondered how much water is required for an animal population that big, the answer is five million gallons (whoa). Although it doesn’t hold the title anymore, Shedd was once the world’s largest indoor aquarium and was designated a National Historic Landmark back in 1987. The aquarium’s conservation and rehabilitation efforts have rescued many animals over the years, and the wildlife experts working behind the scenes have helped restore the health of the Great Lakes and set the standards for water and energy conservation in the city (and beyond).
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Best things to see at Shedd Aquarium
Vibrating chairs, air whooshing by your face, and wait…did something just run across your foot?! Get a front row seat to all the action with Shedd’s 4-D experience. The combination of a 3-D movie and sensory effects immerses all of your senses and ranges from kid-friendly cartoons to jump-out-of-your-seat shark encounters.
Throw on some aquarium-provided rubber boots and spend 60 minutes learning all about the resident penguins. As a trainer fills you in about penguin anatomy, nesting season, and the aquarium’s conservation work, a curious bird will wander around, eating fish, playing with toys, and maybe even giving your feet a curious sniff. And yes, you’ll even get the chance to give it a pet—that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
Sit in on an animal chat
Extra curious about sharks, beluga whales, sea lions, or penguins? The aquarium staff holds various chats throughout the day so you can learn all about your favorite marine animals. Be sure to check the aquarium’s website for the full animal chat schedule.
Best places to eat & drink near Shedd Aquarium
Dining options at Shedd
The aquarium offers several dining options on-site, ranging from grab-and-go sandwiches and coffee to outdoor dining with a waterfront view. If you’re looking to save a little cash, you can also bring your own brown bag lunch. Tables and chairs are available on the ground level or if its a nice day, head outside to enjoy your meal at one of the outdoor picnic tables.
Dive into some deep dish
Buttery crust. Chunky sauce. Globs of gooey mozzarella. And as many toppings as you can imagine. Excessive? Yes. Delicious? Depends on who you ask. But one thing is for sure—no trip to the Windy City is complete without indulging in at least one piece of this famed pie. You’ll find a handful of deep dish pizza places within walking distance of the aquarium, so once you’ve had your fill of fish, go fill up on a piece with all the fixings.
Shedd Aquarium directions and parking
Best way to get to the Shedd Aquarium
Off of Lake Shore Drive, exit to 18th Street and follow Museum Campus Drive around Soldier Field. The parking lot is just south of the aquarium. The Shedd is also easily accessible by CTA or Metra, and there are several Divvy bikes stations around the aquarium (Chicago’s bike sharing program), so feel free to bike!
Best parking near the Shedd Aquarium
There is limited paid street parking available on Solidarity Drive. Pay-to-park boxes accept both coins and credit cards and are generally open during daylight hours. The Museum Campus also has several parking lots—the closest to the Aquarium is just south off of Museum Campus Drive.
Shedd Aquarium FAQs
When is the best time of day to visit?
The Shedd is known to get very crowded later in the day, so it’s best to arrive early. Doors open at 9am and you should plan to spend at least a few hours.
Can I store my stuff?
Yes, coin-operated lockers are available—remember to bring some loose change. Large packages or suitcases will not fit, so make sure to leave those in the hotel.
Are wheelchair and stroller rentals available?
The Shedd Aquarium does not have strollers available to rent. Wheelchairs are available for free checkout on a first-come, first serve basis.
Is re-entry permitted?
Yes! Just hold onto your ticket.
Can the animals be photographed?
Yes, but please turn the camera’s flash off. Tripods are not permitted.