Readers Choice

10Best Readers' ChoiceChosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

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    #10 - National Aquarium - Baltimore

    The National Aquarium, located right on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, is home to some 17,000 fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals living in its award-winning habitats. One of the aquarium's newest offerings, Blacktip Reef, recreates the coral-filled reefs of the Indo-Pacific, complete with pop-out viewing windows where guests can come face-to-face with a school of blacktip reef sharks and Calypso, the 500-pound green sea turtle.

    Photo courtesy of National Aquarium

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    #9 - Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium - Omaha, Neb.

    The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium inside Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo takes visitors on a tour of the world's marine habitats, from the polar regions to the Amazon, and everywhere in between. The facility underwent a major facelift in 2012 and now features a 500-gallon touch tank, Ocean Drifters jellyfish exhibit and Eel Reef, in addition to the guest-favorite 70-foot Shark Reef tunnel. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium contributes a significant portion of its budget to conservation efforts.

    Photo courtesy of Raymond Bucko, SJ

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    #8 - Mystic Aquarium - Mystic, Conn.

    The Mystic Aquarium, part of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., seeks to create thought-provoking encounters between visitors and marine life. The aquarium's most popular residents, New England's only beluga whales, can be spotted from above and below the water. Visitors who want to get even closer to the whales and other aquarium animals can do so through a range of Encounter Programs at an additional cost.

    Photo courtesy of Ryan Donnell/Mystic Aquarium

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    #7 - Vancouver Aquarium - Vancouver

    In June, he Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park unveiled the biggest expansion in its history, nearly doubling its gallery space. The new and improved aquarium now houses some 50,000 animals, with new exhibits highlighting the British Columbian tidal pass, coral reefs of the Red Sea and colorful fish of Africa's Lake Malawi. The aquarium's Ocean Wise program works with Canadian businesses to help consumers make environmentally sound choices.

    Photo courtesy of Hamid Attie/Vancouver Aquarium

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    #6 - Monterey Bay Aquarium - Monterey, Calif.

    A frequent Association of Zoos and Aquariums honoree, the Monterey Bay Aquarium features a 28-foot-tall kelp forest - one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world - as well as exhibits on jellyfish, sea otters, giant Pacific octopus and the award-winning Splash Zone, featuring 45 interactive exhibits perfect for families. With a location right on the shores of Monterey Bay, the aquarium's ocean view deck is a perfect place to spot sea otters and migrating humpback whales in the wild.

    Photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium, Photo by Randy Wilder

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    #5 - Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga, Tenn.

    On a self-guided tour through the award-winning Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, guests trace the journey of a raindrop from its beginnings in an Appalachian Mountain cove forest all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in its original River Journey building. The newer Ocean Journey addition takes guests below the waves to observe corals, jellies, sharks and penguins. The aquarium's 70-passenger high-speed River Gorge Explorer takes visitors on a naturalist-guided excursion along the Tennessee River Gorge.

    Photo courtesy of John Bamber/Tennessee Aquarium

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    #4 - Shedd Aquarium - Chicago

    Chicago's John G. Shedd Aquarium, nicknamed "The World's Aquarium," features 32,000 animals representing 1,500 species from fresh- and saltwater environments around the globe. Recognized by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums for both its conservation efforts and innovative exhibit spaces, the Shedd Aquarium lets visitors get up close with beluga whales, sea otters, dolphins, penguins and a host of colorful fish.

    Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

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    #3 - Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies -Gatlinburg, Tenn

    More than 350 species are represented among Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies 10,000 aquatic residents. Shark Lagoon, with its moving walkways through underwater tunnels, is the aquarium's biggest and most popular attraction, but kids love the interactive Penguin Playhouse, where they can come nose-to-beak with endangered African penguins both above and below the water.

    Photo courtesy of emma.kate

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    #2 - Texas State Aquarium - Corpus Christi, Texas

    Corpus Christi's most popular attraction, the Texas State Aquarium, features 330 species of aquatic animals, many native to the Gulf waters just offshore. At Tortuga Cay, visitors can see a variety of species of rehabilitated, non-releasable sea turtles. New in 2014, the Nearshore exhibit showcases live along the Gulf shoreline, where stingrays, American alligators, grouper and wading birds make their homes. During hot Texas summers, kids can cool off at the aquarium's HEB Splash Park.

    Photo courtesy of Texas State Aquarium

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    #1 - Georgia Aquarium - Atlanta

    With more than 10 million gallons of water, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is one of the world's largest. Among the exhibits dedicated to Georgia aquatic wildlife, river species, tropical and cold environments, the crowning jewel in the aquarium is Ocean Voyager by Home Depot, a 6.3-million-gallon exhibit featuring four whale sharks and four manta rays.

    Photo courtesy of Georgia Aquarium

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Georgia Aquarium makes biggest splash with readers

Texas State Aquarium, Ripleys, Smokies also winners

It seemed to be a case of Bigger is Better with our readers in the Best Aquarium Contest!  Georgia Aquarium, with its massive tank the size of a football field, took top honors, while voters keen on The Lone Star State voted their Texas State Aquarium into a very close second.  

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, in America's beloved Smoky Mountains, landed a solid third place finish and Chicago's Shedd Aquarium demonstrated its fans and followers with a very large fourth place finish.   Rounding out the top five?  A second Tennessee nominee, the Tennessee Aquarium in beautiful downtown Chattanooga.

This was one of the most popular Readers' Choice contests we've had to date, and it was so fun watching fans, followers, families and locals prompting each other to vote for their favorite.   A great campaign was run by all!  

The original 20 nominees were very carefully chosen, based on data provided by the AZA, so inclusion in the contest was an honor in itself.   Being voted one of the 10Best by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best?  An accolade worth bragging about!   

The full list of winners in the 'Best Aquarium' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice is as follows:

  1. Georgia Aquarium - Atlanta
  2. Texas State Aquarium - Corpus Christi, Texas
  3. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies -Gatlinburg, Tenn
  4. Shedd Aquarium - Chicago
  5. Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga, Tenn.
  6. Monterey Bay Aquarium - Monterey, Calif.
  7. Vancouver Aquarium - Vancouver
  8. Mystic Aquarium - Mystic, Conn.
  9. Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium - Omaha, Neb.
  10. National Aquarium - Baltimore

Congratulations to all our winners!  

The other 10 nominees - all well worth a visit - were:

ABQ BioPark Aquarium - Albuquerque, N.M.
Adventure Aquarium - Camden, N.J.
Aquarium of the Bay - San Francisco
Aquarium of the Pacific - Long Beach, Calif.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - New Orleans
New England Aquarium - Boston
New York Aquarium - New York
Oregon Coast Aquarium - Newport, Ore.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium - Tacoma, Wash.
Seattle Aquarium - Seattle
 

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Meet the Experts

Libby McMillan

10Best Senior Editor Libby McMillan is a bonafide animal lover.  She also likes the water so much she once lived on a houseboat for 4 years: manatees were her neighbors.  Libby has recently visited a few of the nominees, and after doing the research necessary to choose the nominees, now has several other facilities on her own must-see list.  

Lydia Schrandt

10Best Photo Editor Lydia Schrandt grew up dreaming of becoming a marine biologist, and while her career path changed, her love of marine life never did. She's been to many of the nominees, camera in hand, and considers the rest a bucket list for her future travels.

Travis Seward

As Editor in Chief of 10Best since its founding 11+ year ago, Travis Seward has seen a good portion of the USA, and truly appreciates how an eductional attraction can use influence upon a captive audience to affect a more positive future for the environment.

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