|Ticket Price:||General Admission - Adults $8 | Children $6 (ages 3-11)|
|Hours:||Summer: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day through Labor Day, Sept. 2.|
I cannot believe I have never been to the Shedd Aquarium before. I grew up in northwest Indiana so you would think I would have gotten there by now but nope. My children both love and I mean LOVE water and water animals. When we decided to go on a mini family vacation close by, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was the first place we thought of.
Tax returns…I love them but usually we pay off medical bills. This year, however, we decided to take a mini family vacation sort of last minute but couldn’t go far. Chicago isn’t that far from Indianapolis, IN. I mean 4 hours or so is ALMOST day trippable (yep made up word) but it was better if we stayed over night.
We got on one of those discount hotel sites and found a good deal near the Shedd Aquarium. We were so excited! We drove up to NW Indiana to stay with my sister and her family and then drove up to the Shedd from there. It basically split up our trip which was nice and we didn’t have to rush to go to the Shedd.
We weren’t sure what to expect except water and sea creatures…obviously. We were not prepared for how awesome that place is! There is SO much to see and do for kids of all ages. Depending on what ticket you buy you can see Waters of the World, the Caribbean Reef, Wild Reef, Polar Play Zone, Abbott Oceanarium, Amazon Rising, the Aquatic Show or Jellies. Yeah there is THAT much to see.
Our journey began with the wonderful vallet parking option. A tad more expensive but on a cold Chicago day it was so worth it to leave our coats in the car and go straight in. We did find lockers right when we got in the doors though so we got to put up lunches (which you can bring instead of buying from there) and 1 backpack. We did have a stroller for the Diva…she gets cranky still around 1-2 and it could hold the 1 backpack we had to bring with us.The line is MUCH shorter if you get to go through Will Call and non existent if you print your tickets ahead of time! We had to do both and you can pay for the vallet at Will Call too! It was seriously so convenient and we were allowed inside within minutes of arriving.
Yes the prices are a little high but if you live nearby get a membership and if not it is DEFINITELY worth it for a special day with kids! We have been discussing how far Chicago is really and how many times we would have to go to make it worth getting a membership…because we want to go back already.
The FIRST thing you do when you enter the Aquarium is get your picture taken if you. One of those souvenir ones that attractions and places have but we never get those. I think we say no out of habit now but they always cost money and I am never happy with how I look in them. Ok so maybe it was for selfish “I want to look good in pictures” reasons but we did say no…politely though. Then we walked a few feet and had NO idea where to go first.
My son decided he wanted to see sharks, pet a star fish (or sea star) and see jellyfish. It sounded like a plan so we went looking for sharks and found our way 1 level below to the Wild Reef. There was so much to see in just that one area!
Electrifying in their diversity and dazzling in their colorful reef home, 540 species of aquatic life—from rays to flashlight fish—call the Wild Reef home.
We saw coral and fish that live there and of course Nemo! There were sharks in a BIG tank in the middle including one that looked like it had a saw as a nose (My son’s words). There were these adorable little snakes that stuck up out of the sand. We learned about a fishing village and how they saved their reef, we learned that coral was not a plant but an animal and we even learned how we can help keep the waters of the world clean and the animals healthy.
We spent quite a bit of time there looking, learning and loving it all but the end did come eventually. When we left the Wild Reef area we started to make our way towards the Polar Play area but were sidetracked by the Jellies exhibit. I am so glad we got to see this exhibit because it is only running for a limited time and we learned so much.
My kids do love Jellyfish and the only ones they have seen are from our local zoo so we had no idea there were so many types. There are thousands of species and the Shedd has more than 10 of them there. Another thing I didn’t know about Jellies is they have no blood or brains…yeah…really. I knew about no bones but I honestly thought they had brains and to be honest didn’t think about blood.
Once we left the Jellies we finally found our way to the Polar Play Zone. One of the first things we noticed here was a pretend play submarine for kids. It was very busy of course but we stopped for a minute anyway and then watched the Beluga whales for a bit. My Diva loves whales and insists every large aquatic animal is a whale of some sort.
The next area had the Penguins which are my Diva’s first favorite animal ever so we watched those for a bit. There was also an area where kids could dress up like a penguin and go down a penguin slide! I almost couldn’t get them to leave that part but my son really wanted to pet a Sea Star.
We found the Sea Star petting area along with a water play pool to learn about coral and shells. My daughter didn’t want anything to do with petting the Sea Stars but she loved the little play pools. My Gentleman, however, loved petting the Sea Stars and said it was his favorite thing ever. After that awesome experience it was on to the Aquatic Show!
Let me tell you that this show was amazing. I mean we watch our Dolphin Show at our zoo at least every other time we go and it is always a hit but this show had a new type of dolphin, The Pacific white-sided dolphin which looks awesome. It is mostly black with a white strip down its side. First though we saw the Beluga whales do a show! Whales performing! My daughter was ecstatic and I admit I was pretty excited too.
My son loved the Penguin walk but he said his favorite was when the dog came out and did tricks like the dolphin! It was a pretty show too with a movie playing on the backdrop which covered the windows so there wasn’t the distracting outside world or a glare. They really did think of everything for this show.
The seats weren’t the most comfortable since they were made out of rocks but the view was nice and if you couldn’t see clearly you were able to watch on the video backdrop. The show is absolutely worth seeing and even my squirmy 3 year old Diva sat through it all and loved it.
Next up was the (also worth it) 4D adventure show. We chose Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs 15 minute experience. Oh boy was it too! I wasn’t sure what to expect because we have never been to one of those before. When I saw the 3D glasses I wasn’t sure my kids would be ok watching it but for 15 minutes they were just fine. They were familiar with the movie so they liked it right away. I thought it was going to just be a clip but it turned out to be a summary of the movie.
Here is a gallery of some of the pictures from our visit.
Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs told in 15 minutes with vibrating chairs, stinky smells at the appropriate times and even water spraying you when the Dino mama sneezed. I actually felt gross for a second even though part of me knew it was water. Eww…but the timing was perfect and the kids thought it was hilarious. After that we were pretty hungry so we went to the locker for our lunches and nearby was a set of tables for just that purpose!
You technically leave when you go to the lockers or the area where we ate but they gave us these handy wristbands so we were able to go back in with no problems. I love places like that! If we wanted to though we could have eaten at one of the two cafeteria types places inside and the prices weren’t too bad either. After we were done eating we went back in to discover Amazon Rising.
In this area they had TONS of animals that not only lived in the water but on land as well. It was so cool but unfortunately there was a really awful smell that comes with it. My kids couldn’t take it for long so we didn’t get to see everything. That was probably ok though since I am not sure they would think spiders were so cool if they saw the HUGE Goliath spider…but I was interested. Though we DID get to see a HUGE fish, an anaconda which my son thought was the coolest thing ever and piranhas!
I think my love for horror movies is evident in the animals I like so it was no surprise that I loved the anacondas and piranhas. Turns out there are plenty of creepy but lovely to me animals in and around water. In the non creepy list I love sea horses which were in the next area we went to, Waters of the World.
There were frogs, lizards, sea horses and even a Great Lakes exhibit complete with a Sturgeon touch pool. The Sturgeon can reach up to 9 ft but usually is around 3 ft and feeds like a vacuum off the bottom of the lakes. Another neat fact we learned is this particular fish was around in the time of the dinosaurs! The Gentleman thought that was sooo cool but the Diva was more interested in the Sea Horses.
The frogs were neat because they had the colorful (but poisonous) ones and right in the middle of all of that was the Caribbean Reef tank. That was pretty neat and we actually got to see the diver go in and feed the animals in there. Stingrays, balloonfish, bonnethead sharks and a sea turtle named Nickel that was rescued. The diver talked about the various animals (including Nickels story) while he was feeding them.
The gift store (which we of course HAD to visit) had a HUGE upside down octopus decoration that I want in my house. There were so many neat things I wanted to buy but I settled for my key chains. One for each of us that we get from every place we go and the Shedd had a few options. There were postcards (which I use for my special event scrapbooks for us and the kids), T-shirts, jewelry and everything you could think of including stuffed animals of course.
My kids both had to have new stuffed animal friends from the gift store. I was honestly in love with the fact that they had Sea Stars, Jelly Fish and Stingrays in plush form. There were of course many many other things but the kids were happy with their new friends. The Gentleman chose a Sea Star, a Stingray and a Pacific Dolphin while the Diva chose a Jellyfish and a Sea Star. We splurged but they did choose some cool animals.
When it was time to leave we were sad but we did have a very full and fun day. My kids are still talking about it and showing off everything they learned. It was an amazing and fun family vacation experience and we cannot wait to go again.
If you get a chance to go make sure you catch the Aquatic Show and if you go soon enough you can still see the Jellies exhibit. The All Access pass is worth it especially if you have kids since it gives you access to every exhibit and the 4D show and Aquatic Shows too.
If you visit Chicago you will definitely want to add the Shedd to your list of things to see and do but if you live near Chicago I would highly recommend a membership so you can see it all the time! Like I said we would go more often if we could and are currently calculating distance and cost to see about a membership.