Newly opened Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium named Best Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies takes second place

Aquariums put us face to fin with aquatic life from the world's oceans, lakes and waterways in a fun and educational setting. The best aquariums also play a vital role in animal conservation by taking part in rescue efforts and advocating for the environmental health of our oceans.

  • Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium
    Springfield, Mo.

    Founded by Johnny Morris, CEO of Bass Pro Shops, Springfield's Wonders of Wildlife celebrates hunting, fishing and stewardship of the land and water through 1.5 miles of immersive galleries featuring 4D dioramas and a new 1.5-million-gallon aquarium. Some 35,000 animals representing over 800 species are on display, including zebra sharks, sea turtles and freshwater sport fish. Unique to the aquarium is its collection of historic boats used by fishing legends and celebrities, like Jimmy Buffet, Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey.
    Photo courtesy of Wonders of Wildlife

  • Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
    Gatlinburg, Tenn.

    The stunning scope of life living in our seas is on colorful display at the Gallery of the Seas inside Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in downtown Gatlinburg. Piranhas and poisonous dart frogs dwell within the Tropical Rainforest, while guests can come nose to beak with penguins in Penguin Playhouse, a massive indoor/outdoor habitat where the birds can be spotted from above and below the water. The all new Shipwrecks exhibit uncovers the history of many notorious shipwrecks through reenactments, buried treasures and replicas.
    Photo courtesy of Joe Reyes / Flickr

  • The Florida Aquarium
    Tampa

    One of the top aquariums in the South, the Florida Aquarium displays some 7,000 plants and animals from a range of fresh and saltwater environments, including alligators, sharks, seahorses, river otters and free-flying birds. The Florida Wetlands Trail highlights regional life in a recreated mangrove forest, while the Journey to Madagascar takes visitors across the globe to observe a host of interesting animals – ring-tailed lemurs, hissing cockroaches and colorful chameleons. At Stingray Beach, visitors are invited to touch stingrays and sharks.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Tampa Bay

  • Dallas World Aquarium
    Dallas

    The large, diverse collection at the Dallas World Aquarium occupies a series of naturalistic exhibits, including kelp beds and coral displays. A tunnel links the two original buildings to the seven-story Orinoco Secrets of the River – an exhibit highlighting the habitats of the South American rain forest, from the canopy to the riverbed. Guests can spot toucans, tamarins, tree boas, teals and free frogs, along with sloths, stingrays, sakis and swans.
    Photo courtesy of oddharmonic / Flickr

  • Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
    New Orleans

    This aquarium displays and animal interactions available at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans take guests along the Mississippi River, below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and deep into the Amazon rain forest. The 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit features sharks, rays and tarpons in a stunning setting; other guest favorites include sea otters, penguins, sea turtles and even owls.
    Photo courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute

  • Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
    Toronto

    Visitors to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada explore the seven seas without ever leaving Toronto. Highlights include Canadian Waters, showcasing the marine life of the country's fisheries, kelp forests and the great lakes, and Curious Creatures, where visitors can observe species from the most remote corners of the planet, including peacock mantis shrimp and giant isopods.
    Photo courtesy of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

  • Aquarium of the Pacific
    Long Beach, Calif.

    The Aquarium of the Pacific – the largest aquarium in Southern California – displays over 11,000 animals representing 500 species from the largest body of water on the planet, the Pacific Ocean. More than 150 sharks populate Shark Lagoon, including toothy sand tiger sharks and whitetip reef sharks, and guests can even feel the slippery skin of bamboo and epaulette sharks. The largest exhibit, the Tropical Reef Habitat, houses more than 1,000 fish, colorful coral, sea turtles and sharks. The NOAA Science on a Sphere exhibit offers imagery and real-time ocean and weather data.
    Photo courtesy of Visit California/Hub

  • Georgia Aquarium
    Atlanta

    The crown jewel at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is the Ocean Voyager exhibit, where guests can watch whale sharks, manta rays and giant schooling fish swim past 22- to 33-foot tall viewing windows within the same exhibit. Other guest favorites include a stellar penguin exhibit, as well as many marine mammals – beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, sea otters and California sea lions. A planned 2020 expansion will include a new main entrance and new shark exhibit.
    Photo courtesy of Georgia Aquarium

  • North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
    Pine Knoll Shores, N.C.

    One of four North Carolina Aquariums, the facility at Pine Knoll Shores is one of the highest rated among visitors who can follow the journey of a loggerhead turtle from the beach into the ocean, touch a stingray and observe playful river otters splashing and swimming. The thousands of aquatic animals on display in the aquarium come from all corners of the planet.
    Photo courtesy of Jack / Flickr

  • Vancouver Aquarium
    Vancouver, B.C.

    The Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park houses some 50,000 animals, with exhibits highlighting the British Columbian tidal pass, coral reefs of the Red Sea and colorful fish of Africa's Lake Malawi. It’s also the Ocean Wise headquarters, where scientists, educators, and conservation experts work to protect our oceans and inspire others to join in their mission.
    Photo courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium

These 10 aquariums, nearly all accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, nominated by a panel of 10Best experts and voted the best in North America by 10Best readers, win big with their high quality exhibits and visitor interactions.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Aquarium are as follows:

  1. Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & AquariumSpringfield, Mo.
  2. Ripley's Aquarium of the SmokiesGatlinburg, Tenn.
  3. The Florida AquariumTampa
  4. Dallas World AquariumDallas
  5. Audubon Aquarium of the AmericasNew Orleans
  6. Ripley's Aquarium of CanadaToronto
  7. Aquarium of the PacificLong Beach, Calif.
  8. Georgia AquariumAtlanta
  9. North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores - Pine Knoll Shores, N.C.
  10. Vancouver AquariumVancouver, B.C.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Kyle McCarthy (Family Travel Forum), Mommy Nearest , Eileen Ogintz (Taking the Kids) and Alan Sironen (Zoo Consultants International) were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of America's aquariums.

Congratulations to all these winning aquariums!

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Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Mommy Nearest

Mommy Nearest

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz

Alan Sironen

Alan Sironen