Vacationing with kids can be stressful, but the right family-friendly attractions can make all the difference between the trip you talk about for years afterward and the one that brings you to your “never again!” breaking point. (Let’s be honest, with little ones or even teens, a museum visit often ends in snooze-fest or temper tantrum territory.) A trip to the aquarium, like a day at one of these awesome zoos, is a guaranteed win. Interesting underwater creatures, helpful guides and interactive exhibits mean that everyone will learn something—and have a blast, too. Ready to dive in? Swim, err scroll, on for the best aquariums in the U.S. that kids of all ages will love.
1. Georgia Aquarium (atlanta, Georgia)
The largest aquarium in the world, the Georgia Aquarium invites visitors to come face-to-face with sharks, rays, dolphins, penguins, sea lions, seals and beluga whales! This iconic Atlanta institution also promises a special treat for toddlers—the chance to wade in a pool with slippery sea creatures, enjoy story time, do crafts and hang with costumed characters.
2. National Aquarium (baltimore, Maryland)
With nearly 20,000 critters, the National Aquarium has plenty to enthrall animal lovers young and old. There's an Indo-Pacific reef habitat filled with blacktip reef sharks and colorful fish. While the ring-shaped, 225-gallon Shark Alley exhibit lets visitors get up close and personal with toothy predators. (Just maybe don’t watch Jaws before you go.)
3. Monterey Bay Aquarium (monterey Bay, California)
Located on historic Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an education and conservation superstar that’s home to more than 500 different species of marine life. At the highly interactive Splash Zone, kids can play on a waterbed, discover an enchanted kelp forest and watch penguins being fed. (Parents will most certainly have a blast, too.)
4. New England Aquarium (boston, Massachusetts)
Planning a family trip to Beantown? Beeline it to the New England Aquarium. This giant marine center on Boston Harbor offers interactive exhibits (the shark and ray touch tank is a must-see), a giant IMAX 3D theater and whale-watching excursions through a partnership with Boston Harbor City Cruises that depart from Central Wharf.
5. Oregon Coast Aquarium (newport, Oregon)
What’s there to do at the Oregon Coast Aquarium? Well, that depends on how many hours you have free. Step back to prehistoric times in Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, watch sea lions and harbor seals twirl through water, try to spot the elusive giant Pacific octopus and learn about the annual migrations of coho salmon.