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Best Aquarium (2020)

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Note from 10Best: Someday, we'll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we'll keep supporting the places that inspire us.

  • Wonders of Wildlife

    Wonders of Wildlife
    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

    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 Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

  • Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

    Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
    New Orleans

    This aquarium on the Mississippi River displays and animal interactions available at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans take guests 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 Aquarium of the Americas

  • Texas State Aquarium

    Texas State Aquarium
    Corpus Christi, Texas

    The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, the largest Aquarium in Texas, offers a journey through land and sea including encounters with the fascinating wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Notable exhibits include a spacious jungle featuring flamingos, flying birds, and sloths, and a 400,000-gallon deep sea habitat, where visitors can get up close and personal with sharks prowling among a sunken shipwreck. Additional exhibits give guests a captivating look at sea turtles, dolphins, otters, and other amazing animals, while stingray touch pools and a 4D theater provide even more interactive educational experiences.
    Photo courtesy of Texas State Aquarium

  • Tennessee Aquarium

    Tennessee Aquarium
    Chattanooga, Tenn.

    Visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga trace the journey of water from the mountains through the Appalachian Cove Forest, into the Ohio River where it joins with the Mississippi that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. A broad array of wildlife highlights ecosystems along the way, including alligators, otters, snapping turtles, catfish and sunfish. Featured habitats – delta swamp, tropical rain forest, spiny forest and reefs – provide homes for frogs, penguins, sharks, jellyfish, cuttlefish and lemurs, while professional keepers and divers happily share their expertise with visiting guests.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Aquarium

  • Georgia Aquarium

    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

  • Adventure Aquarium

    Adventure Aquarium
    Camden, N.J.

    Many surprises await visitors at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. Among the aquarium's 15,000 aquatic critters in two million gallons of water are hippos, the world’s smallest species of penguin and the world’s largest species of hammerhead shark. Guests can reach out and touch sharks, sting rays, sea stars and horseshoe crabs. Live diver presentations and keeper interactions with sea turtles and hippos enhance the visitor experience.
    Photo courtesy of Jeff Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

  • Mystic Aquarium

    Mystic Aquarium
    Mystic, Conn.

    The most popular residents at the Mystic Aquarium are New England's only beluga whales; guests can observe these gentle giants from above and below the surface. Animal interaction is the name of the game at Discovery Lab, while Shark Lagoon features one of the ocean's most misunderstood animals. African penguins, bearded dragons, American alligators, seals, sea lions and more than 30 species of frogs also call the aquarium home.
    Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium

  • Newport Aquarium

    Newport Aquarium
    Newport, Ky.

    Encompassing a million gallons of water and thousands of animals from around the world, the Newport Aquarium operates the first shark ray breeding program in the world. The Amazon Tunnel allows visitors to walk along the floor of the Amazon River during its flooded season, while the Dangerous & Deadly exhibit showcases some of the world’s most lethal aquatic creatures. Eight species of crocodiles from four different continents can be seen at Gator Alley – one of the most diverse crocodilian collections in the country.
    Photo courtesy of Newport Aquarium

  • OdySea Aquarium

    OdySea Aquarium
    Scottsdale, Ariz.

    OdySea Aquarium brings the ocean to the deserts of Arizona. Visitors can observe some 6,000 animals representing more than 300 species. Exhibits explore the rivers of the world, deep seascapes and coral reefs, with special areas for penguins, otters and the more bizarre creatures that live in our oceans.
    Photo courtesy of OdySea Aquarium

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. These 10 aquariums represent the best in North America for their high quality exhibits and visitor interactions.

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

  1. Wonders of Wildlife - Springfield, Mo.
  2. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies - Gatlinburg, Tenn.
  3. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - New Orleans
  4. Texas State Aquarium - Corpus Christi, Texas
  5. Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga, Tenn.
  6. Georgia Aquarium - Atlanta
  7. Adventure Aquarium - Camden, N.J.
  8. Mystic Aquarium - Mystic, Conn.
  9. Newport Aquarium - Newport, Ky.
  10. OdySea Aquarium - Scottsdale, Ariz.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning aquariums!

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