Chicago is great city but I hadn’t been there in over twenty-five years. We had a long weekend available and decided to take a road trip with the kids to Chicago. They love the zoo so we thought Shedd Aquarium would be just as fun. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago was full of fascinating sea creatures, fish, dolphins, penguins, and even beluga whales. There are few a few things as first-time tourists that I wish we would have known going into the aquarium before we got there.
Transportation to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
Chicago is a big city with lots of traffic and tons of things going on every day. Shedd Aquarium is located at 1200 South Lakeshore Drive in Chicago’s Museum section.
You can drive to the aquarium. Self parking ($19) and valet parking ($25) is available. The self parking lot fills up quick so plan to arrive early. Public transportation information can be found here.
Arrive at Shedd Aquarium Early
The aquarium opens at 8am during the summer. We got there are nine and were asked if we had a city pass or are we getting a one-day pass. We were getting a one-day pass so we were shown to a covered walkway that went up the steps. We did think it was odd that the one-day pass guests had a covered walkway when the city pass holders did not. We found out why when we left.
We left the aquarium at 1:00pm and there was a line of people waiting to get inside just to buy tickets. The line went down the steps, along Lake Michigan, and then curved down a side street. There were at least 1,000 people waiting in line to get into the aquarium.
Ticket Prices and Shows for Shedd Aquarium
Ticket prices are expensive for the aquarium. It cost us $117 for our family of four. The tickets included two shows: Fantasea and Planet Earth 4-D Experience. I liked that the aquarium gave you tickets for your time for the individual shows. This is the only way that they can keep the crowds down.
Fantasea: This show features the beluga whales, rockhopper penguins, white-sided dolphins, and a sea lion. If you have ever been to Sea World you will be familiar with this type of show. The Amphitheater has a wall a glass so the guests have a spectacular view of Lake Michigan.
4-D Show: Shedd Aquarium offers two 4-D shows: Planet Earth and Happy Feet. Shows run every twenty minutes so try to arrive at Phelps Auditorium at least 10 minutes before your show is scheduled to start in order to get in line.
Do Not Miss Oceanarium and Polar Play Zone
If you do not have kids you may be inclined to avoid the Polar Play Zone. I strongly advise against this. If you walk through the play area you can see through the tank from the Fantasea show. Try to plan your visit to this underground area with the show time and you can watch the animals perform from an underwater perspective.
The Oceanarium is on either side of the amphitheater. One side has the sea otter habitat and the other side houses the beluga whales. We went there after the Fantasea show and watched the trainers reward and practice with the whales.
It took us almost four hours to see the shows and experience the exhibits at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The place was busy but that just added to the live under-the-sea experience.