Aquariums in the Midwest

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Aquariums in the Midwest 

From saltwater species to freshwater fish, there are so many things to learn about at the many aquariums in Iowa and the Midwest. Some are close enough for a day trip or a quick weekend away. You’ll get a chance to see sharks up close, explore an old barge, and touch a sticky anemone. Check out our list of aquariums in the Midwest, including Des Moines, for a great experience.

Please note if you hold a zoo membership or aquarium membership that belongs to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums you may receive a discount at other aquariums in the Midwest. Make sure you double-check before you visit! 

Aquariums in the Midwest, Midwest, Iowa, Aquariums, travel, St. Louis Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium


Blank Park Zoo 

Address: 7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines, IA 50315

Tickets: Adult-$16.00, Child-$10.00 (2-12), Senior-$14.00 (65+)

Blank Park Zoo has its aquarium which is a popular attraction at the Des Moines local zoo. The Discovery Center is connected right to the lobby area when you arrive at the zoo. You will find a waterfall, a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, and lots of fish to see. My kids spent a long time running from tank to tank to see the colorful fish. Another favorite water animal to view is the Magellanic penguin. They love to put on a show for visitors. The sea lion exhibit is another fun one to watch! 

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Address: 350 E 3rd St, Dubuque, IA 52001

Tickets: Adult-$20.95, Child-$14.95 (3-17), Senior-$18.95 (65+) 

Tip: Blank Park Zoo Members receive 50% off 

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is located in Dubuque, IA, about 3.5 hours from Des Moines. Learn about the Mississippi River and the animals that call the banks of the Mississippi River home. Check out the boat shop to learn about boat building. In Riverworks Splash Zone, you can steer boats down the river and through locks, explore a beaver lodge, and see live animals found in local rivers and wetlands. You will find ocean animals as well such as stingrays, jellyfish, and more. In the summer you can explore the William M. Black Dredge Boat. Climb on the Logsdon Sand & Gravel Barge to explore what it was like to live and work on the river. 


Shedd Aquarium 

Address: 1200 S Dusable Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605

Tickets: Tickets start at $25.70+, depending on the day. Purchase online before going. 

The Shedd Aquarium is part of the Museum Campus which includes the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium and is one of the top aquariums in the United States. Sitting right on Lake Michigan, you will get to learn about the animals of the Great Lakes such as bullfrogs, sturgeon, snapping turtles, and more. In the Abbott Oceanarium, you will explore the vibrant coastal ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest. Take a trip below and visit the Wild Reef filled with sharks. Your children will love the Polar Play Zone, where they will enjoy the sea star touch pool, a kid-sized submarine, and underwater viewing of whales, dolphins, and sea otters. Another fun experience is the stingray touch! You can touch and even feed the stingrays. If you are planning to visit other Chicago attractions, then check out the City Pass


Sea Life at Mall of America

Address: Level One, Mall of America, 120 East Broadway East Side, Bloomington, MN 55425

Tickets: Adult-$27.99, Child-$24.99 (2 & under free) 

Tip: Buy tickets online before you go to guarantee admission 

Sea Life at Mall of America is just four hours north of Des Moines. The aquarium has over 11 exhibits with an underwater tunnel that is 300 ft long. In the tunnel, you will see Sand Tiger Sharks, rescued sea turtles, a pair of giant 14-foot-long Green Sawfish, and more. Walk through the giant rainforest filled with creepy cockroaches, hungry piranhas, and crocodiles. Check out Ray Lagoon with a giant shipwreck, and sharks, and get a chance to feed the stingrays. They have daily educational talks about turtles and sharks. For an extra fee, you can get a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about how they care for the animals. 


Kansas City Sea Life Aquarium 

Address: 2475 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108

Tickets: Adult & Child-$19.99. Buy tickets online to guarantee admission

Tip: Blank Park Zoo Members receive 50% off 

The Kansas City Sea Life Aquarium is located in Kansas City and just under three hours away from Des Moines. You’ll get to walk through a tunnel with ocean animals swimming above you. Check out the sea turtle rescue center. The interactive touch pool has chocolate chip sea stars, pencil sea urchins, and cowrie snails. Doodle Reef is a chance for guests to create virtual sea creatures and then see them come to life on a live display. For an extra fee, you can get a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about how they care for the animals. 

Kansas City Zoo

*New aquarium coming spring 2023

Address: 6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, MO 64132

Tickets: Adult-$22, Child-$19 (3-11), Senior-$19 (55+). Buy online and early to save $5

Tip: Blank Park Zoo Members receive 50% off 

Kansas City Zoo has a new aquarium opening in the spring of 2023. The aquarium will have 34 exhibits that will tell the story of how ocean currents connect animals across the globe. There will be sea turtles, sharks, jellyfish, giant octopuses, sea otters, and more. 

St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station

Address: 201 S 18th St, St. Louis, MO 63103

Tickets: Adult- $25-$27, Child- $18-$19, 2 and under free

The St. Louis Union Station offers a ton of fun for families including an aquarium! You can touch jellyfish, pet a shark, stingrays, and more. The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station is an immersive and engaging experience offering unique perspectives of our underwater world.  


Henry Doorly Zoo and Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium 

Address: 3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107

Tickets: Adult-$18.95, Child-$12.95 (3-11), Senior-$17.95 (+65) 

Tip: Blank Park Zoo Members receive 50% off 

The Henry Doorly Zoo and Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium is about two hours from Des Moines in Omaha. They have a 70 ft shark tunnel, sea turtles, and Antarctic Penguins. Watch the sea lions and harbor seals from the underwater viewing window. Whether you have been there a hundred times or it is your first time, it is always tons of fun for families to explore. 

Looking for something closer to home? Check out PetSmart, Petco, Jester Park, or Clive Public Library for their small aquariums!

Jackie Fioritto

Jackie Fioritto

Hi, I’m Jackie. I am a teacher who recently became a stay-at-home mother of two. My husband and I moved to Des Moines from Green Bay, Wisconsin a few years ago. Originally, I am from Chicago, Illinois. My family has loved exploring Des Moines and all that it has to offer!

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