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Friday, July 17, 2015

Chicago: Shedd Aquarium with Kids

This is first in a series of posts about taking the family to Chicago. There's still time to go this summer, and fall is a great time to visit too. One stop on the family list is the Shedd Aquarium. Situated on Lake Michigan, It's the world's largest indoor aquarium though we still like the Monterey Bay Aquarium better!

If you plan to go to the aquarium, plan ahead or you'll be waiting in the huge line like you see in the photo above. More info on strategies to get in quickly at the bottom - trust me, you'll need it!

The aquarium is surrounded by a park, with great views of downtown Chicago. You can walk along the lake to get there if you're in the downtown area.

We got tickets to the aquatic show. My kids are now tweens/teens, so they weren't impressed. But I enjoyed the show and learning a bit more about the animals. They had some hokey movies playing in the background where you can see the sunset above, showing a bit more about caring for the animals.

The Shedd has a lovely penguin exhibit. The website has some fun penguin facts here.

Of course the Shedd has a couple of kid-friendly restaurants. We thought the tray return area was fun.

The Shedd has exhibits on the Great Lakes, Amazon, Caribbean, Wild Reefs and more. I always like visiting the stingray touch tank, which we did during this visit. We also saw the 4-D movie Sea Monsters, which made us laugh. I think we saw it somewhere else before.

Details for visiting the aquarium:
Lockers: They have locker rentals in the basement, which you'll need if it's coat weather.

Tickets: Do not just shop up at the Shedd Aquarium and expect to get in quickly. Buy your tickets online or get a CityPASS. (Disclosure: CityPASS provided us with two review passes for our family (we needed to purchase additional tickets). I think they're so great I became an affiliate. All opinions are my own).If you're going for the first time, I would recommend not getting add-on tickets for extra attractions until you know that you will want them. There's a lot to see at the aquarium without the additional shows and movies. 

Ticket prices/packages can be kind of confusing because they have a lot of options. You'll save money online and you can also book the times for your "experiences." Get the Total Experience Pass and everything is included, for $38/adult online, $29/child. You have to book at least a day in advance. General admission at the door is as low as $8/adult, $6/child but that doesn't include entrance to all exhibits, and certainly none of the experiences. In between that (but closer in price to the top level) is the Shedd Pass and Shedd Pass Plus. Too many options!

CityPASS: If you're visiting a number of places in Chicago, consider getting a CityPASS. We got two press ones to try out (not enough for the whole family) and they will save you money. But almost more importantly, we got to skip lines. This is a huge thing if you plan to visit the Shedd Aquarium when it's busy, which is pretty much always. Any time I've gone to this aquarium (I've been several times - I have family in Chicago) there is a massive line out the door. Get your tickets in advance, get a membership or get a CityPASS, all of which let you bypass the line. We pretty much laughed at everyone in line as we walked by them. I know, it's not polite. The line waiters just planned poorly.

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