{April 5, 2013}   Underwater Wonderland

During a two-day stay in Chicago before Easter, we devoted one day to exploring the Shedd Aquarium, a place I’ve been wanting to visit for years. Its web site says Shedd is “the world’s largest indoor aquarium featuring 19,000 aquatic animals from around the world.” I believe it. We spent more than five hours there and didn’t see everything it had to offer.

Rather than detail our entire visit, I’ll let the photos do the talking. But I do have a few suggestions should you decide to visit.

Arrive early. We visited when Chicago public schools were on spring break, so it was especially busy. We arrived about 10 a.m., an hour after it opened, and there was a two-hour wait to buy admission tickets. We already had tickets, but had to stand in the will-call line for more than 45 minutes. Doug took the boys to the gift shop while I waited in line. The woman behind me had a well-behaved toddler in tow who was becoming frustrated with the wait. They had already missed the 10 a.m. aquatic show they’d reserved online because the will-call line was so long. It wasn’t much, but I let her go ahead of me to save her, her son and husband a few minutes.

Buy aquatic show tickets ahead of time or immediately upon arrival. The show was included with our tickets, but show times were sold out by 10:50 a.m. when we reached the front of the will-call line. We were out of luck. As I walked away from the ticket desk, the woman I’d let go ahead of me pulled me aside. “You didn’t get aquatic show tickets?” she asked. When I said no, she said, “They replaced our tickets with ones for the 2:30 p.m. show. Please take them.” I said it was so nice of her to offer, but I couldn’t. “That’s our son’s nap time, so we won’t be able to go anyway,” she explained and handed me the tickets. Wow. It was such a sweet and unexpected gesture.

Dress your kids in something distinctive. I read that tip online a few years ago and it does help. I had our boys wear tie-dyed T-shirts, which makes it easier to spot them in a crowd.

There are dive presentations, animal encounters and chats scheduled throughout the day. They really add to the experience, so try to catch a few of them. The dive presentation included a story about Nickel, a rehabbed sea turtle, and offered the opportunity for audience members to ask questions. The chat about beluga whales and sea lions was interesting, too.

Know ahead of time that you can’t take photos anywhere in the aquarium using a flash. I’m sure my camera has a special setting for situations like that, but I didn’t take the time to figure it out. I took nearly 300 photos and with the flashed turned off, many were dark or blurry. The next time we go, I’ll be prepared.


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