A Guide to Chicago's Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

TripSavvy / Brenna Hernandez

John G. Shedd Aquarium shares the esteemed Museum Campus with Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum. Donated to Chicago by Shedd, who was the second president and chairman of the board of Marshall Field & Company, the revered Chicago institution opened in 1930. Since that time, it has added several permanent exhibits to the main aquarium, effectively doubling its size. The Shedd Aquarium boasts a National Historic Landmark designation and it's one of the top attractions in the South Loop neighborhood.

Address: 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.

Phone: 312-939-2426

Aquarium Admission Options:

  • Express Pass: Same Day Admission (express entry, plus access to all of Shedd, including the aquatic presentation, Stingray Touch, a 4-D Experience)
  • Total Experience Pass (includes the main aquarium, Oceanarium, 4-D Experience, aquatic show and the Wild Reef)
  • Shedd Pass Plus (includes general admission, 4-D Experience, Wild Reef, Oceanarium)
  • Shedd Pass (includes Waters of the World, Caribbean Reef, Amazon Rising, Wild Reef, Abbott Oceanarium, Polar Play Zone)
  • Aquarium Only: Waters of the World, Caribbean Reef, and Amazon Rising only
  • The Shedd Aquarium is included with the purchase of a Go Chicago Card.
  • The Shedd Aquarium is included with the purchase of a Chicago City Pass. (Buy Direct)
  • See current prices
  • See how to visit Shedd Aquarium for free.

Getting There By Public Transportation

  • By bus: south-bound CTA bus line #146 (Marine-Michigan)
  • By train: Red Line CTA train south to Roosevelt, then take a Museum Campus trolley or transfer to CTA bus #12

Driving From Downtown Chicago:

Lake Shore Drive (US 41) south to 18th Street. Turn left onto Museum Campus Drive and follow it around Soldier Field. Look for signs that will point you to the visitor parking garage. The Shedd Aquarium is just north of the parking garage and the Field Museum.

Parking at the Shedd Aquarium:

There are several lots on the Museum Campus, but most tend to fill up quickly and your best bet is in the main parking garage.

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Abbott Oceanarium

Beluga whales at the Shedd
Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

The oceanarium aims to recreate the peaceful rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, and with its huge, soaring windows overlooking Lake Michigan, you might actually believe you are on the ocean. The tidal pools and coves are also home to sea stars, sea otters, Pacific white-sided dolphins and beluga whales. There are daily aquatic presentations in the Rice Amphitheater, which is located in the Abbott Oceanarium.​

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Amazon Rising

Amazon Milk Frog
Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Did you know the Amazon is home to one-third of all living things on Earth? Visit this exhibition to learn all about it. Look out for piranhas, tarantulas, stingrays, monkeys, and an anaconda. This exhibit offers viewers an in depth look into one of them most delicate ecosystems on the planet. Docents are always nearby to answer questions or to educate visitors by showing them replicas of fish and other animals.

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Amphibians Exhibition

Amphibians Exhibition at Shedd Aquarium
Shedd Aquarium

Shedd rivals Lincoln Park Zoo when it comes to showcasing amphibians in Chicago. Visitors will find more than 40 species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians swimming, hopping, climbing and hiding in this special exhibit. These masters of disguise are known to hide in plain sight against bark, leaves and light-dappled shadows.

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Caribbean Reef

Visitors gathered around Caribbean Reef exhibit at John G Shedd Aquarium.
Charles Cook / Getty Images

This 90,000-gallon exhibit, which is at the hub of Shedd's original galleries, is a great place to start your visit. Guests may take a 360-degree tour of the underwater reef community and watch eels, green sea turtles, stingray and even sharks co-exist and navigate within their home. Throughout the day, you can see aquarium divers inside the central tank. They'll give an informative talk while feeding the reef's inhabitants.

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Polar Play Zone

Piquet the Dolphin with her Calf at the Shedd Aquarium
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

While much of the Shedd is family friendly, the Polar Play Zone is designed just for kids, much like the Chicago Children's Museum and others like it. It's very interactive, allowing children to get in the spirit of the experience by slipping into penguin suits or a kid-sized submarine. Kids can crawl through tunnels and zip down slides while the caretakers watch. When play’s all done, they'll get a little closer to the whales, dolphins, and sea otters in the underwater viewing space.

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Wild Reef

Zebra shark at Shedd
Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

The Wild Reef features a huge display of live coral, and more than two dozen sharks swimming in a 400,000-gallon habitat with tall windows that gives visitors the feeling of an underwater experience. Spot animals with the most unusual patterns, shapes and textures made expressly to blend in with the dazzling diversity of the reef. Wild Reef is home to more sharks, stingrays, and live coral than any other exhibit at Shedd.

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Shedd Aquarium Dos and Don'ts

dolphins jumping out of the water
Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

DO arrive before 9:30 a.m. to get the early bird parking rate and avoid long lines.

  • DO buy the All Access Pass if you can afford it.
  • DO find seating for the dolphin show at least 30 minutes early, especially on weekends.
  • DON'T bring large strollers or bulky bags. It is hard to maneuver among the big crowds.
  • DON'T use flash photography or tripods, both of which are prohibited.
  • DO keep an eye on small kids, especially when the museum is crowded. You may want to decide on a meeting place for larger groups.
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Dining at Shedd Aquarium

cafe at Shedd
Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium has established three distinct restaurants on premises:

Soundings Café: The largest of the three, Soundings offers fresh salads, wraps, and sandwiches made to order. All feature organic, locally grown ingredients. Starbucks coffee and beverages are also available. The casual atmosphere includes inside with lakefront views or on an outdoor terrace.

The Bubble Net: The family-friendly menu includes pizza, grilled burgers, sandwiches and burritos. There is also vegetarian choices and healthy fare for kids.

Deep Ocean Café: Located in the Polar Play Zone, the restaurant features favorites like Vienna hot dogs, mac and cheese, slushies, Dippin’ Dots and Mrs. Field’s cookies.

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