The 10 Best Aquariums In US [175 Analyzed & Reviewed]

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Looking for the Best Aquariums In USA?

How about ones not named Georgia, Sheed, or the Monterey aquarium? I got you covered. A new study by us at Aquarium Store Depot ranked Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, MI, as America’s most beautiful aquarium. 

We analyzed the number of Tripadvisor reviews1 that contained words such as ‘beautiful,’ ‘breathtaking,’ and ‘picturesque’ for 175 public aquariums across America. Each was then ranked based on the percentage of reviews containing these beauty keywords, to determine America’s most eye-catching aquariums. 

Key Takeaways

  • Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, MI, is found to be America’s most beautiful aquarium, with 30.7% of visitor reviews referencing its beauty. 
  • Butterfly House & Aquarium in Sioux Falls, SD, is second, with 30.1% of reviews talking about its beauty. 
  • Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, CA, is third, with 25.8% of reviews mentioning its beauty. 

The People’s Choice for 10 Best Aquariums In US

Let’s get straight to our topic and discuss our top ten from this analysis and review. Below is is a video from our YouTube channel. If you like our content, be sure to subscribe. We go into greater detail in the blog post below.

1. Belle Isle – Detroit, Michigan 

Topping the list of America’s most beautiful aquariums is Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, Michigan, where 30.7% of its reviews contain keywords describing its beauty.  

First opened in 1904, it is one of the oldest aquariums in America, hosting more than 200 different saltwater and freshwater species. The historic building hosts tropical fish from all over the world, with the majority of species coming from the Great Lakes region. The aquarium was closed in 2005 but was reopened in 2012 after the community showed there was enough demand to support it. 

2. Butterfly House – Sioux Falls, South Dakota 

Second on the list of America’s most beautiful aquariums is the Butterfly House & Aquarium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with 30.1% of its reviews containing beauty keywords.  

The only public saltwater aquarium in the Dakotas, Butterfly House & Aquarium hosts hundreds of species of fish and corals. The fish on display come from all over the world, ranging from the Indo-Pacific region to the Caribbean. At the aquarium’s Under the Dock exhibit, visitors can see species such as yellow stingrays, horseshoe hawkfish, and princess parrotfish. 

3. Birch – La Jolla, California 

In third place is Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, California, where beauty keywords featured among 25.8% of its reviews. Birch Aquarium was first established in 1903 and went through a series of relocations until establishing itself at its current location at the University of California, San Diego.  

Also known as Scripps Aquarium, it boasts a vast selection of marine life, such as a Loggerhead Sea turtle and a giant Pacific octopus and is home to a huge two-story tall kelp forest. 

4. Point Defiance Zoo – Tacoma, Washington 

With 24.6% of its reviews containing beauty keywords, the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, is the fourth most beautiful aquarium in America.  

Featuring species from the Pacific Ocean, Point Defiance is home to animals such as the scalloped hammerhead shark and the giant Pacific octopus. This is in addition to having one of only two jelly globes in the country, which is part of their wider jellyfish display.  

5. Seacoast Science Center – Rye, New Hampshire 

In fifth is the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire where beauty keywords featured in 23.3% of its reviews. The Seacoast Science Center showcases species from the Gulf of Maine and further afield. Exhibits include tropical reef habitats, interactive edge of the sea touch tanks, and a whale exhibit that is situated underneath a 32-foot whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling.  

6. VIA – Schenectady, New York 

The sixth most beautiful aquariums in the USA is VIA Aquarium in Schenectady, New York, with 21.7% of its reviews featuring beauty keywords. The VIA Aquarium features 45 exhibits of marine and reptile life.  

It offers experiences such as stingray feeding, behind-the-scenes tours to discover how the aquarium runs, and the chance to be a junior aquarist for a day. 

7. Sea Life Park Hawaii – Waimānalo, Hawaii 

Sea Life Park Hawaii is the seventh most beautiful aquarium in America, with 21.3% of its reviews containing beauty keywords.  

It is located on the east coast of the Hawaiian island of O’ahu and features an aquarium, marine mammal park, and bird sanctuary that boasts a wide range of flora and fauna for visitors to experience.  

Visitors can also learn about native Hawaiian sharks inside the Shark Cave exhibit and interact with nature’s smartest aquatic marine mammals in the Dolphin Lagoon. 

8. Mississippi Aquarium – Gulfport, Mississippi 

With 20.1% of its reviews containing beauty keywords, Mississippi Aquarium ranks as the eighth most beautiful aquarium in America. 

Opened in 2020, the Mississippi Aquarium hosts more than 200 aquatic species across 12 fresh and saltwater exhibits. Species on display include sharks, stingrays, and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins – the latter of which visitors can book an interactive experience with. 

9. Branson (At The Boardwalk) – Branson, Missouri 

In ninth place is the Aquarium at the Boardwalk in Branson, Missouri where 20.1% of reviews describe its beauty.  

Also known as Branson Aquarium, the Aquarium at the Boardwalk boasts many unique ways to experience the aquatic habitats on display, such as underwater tunnels where you can view sharks and stingrays swimming above, as well as their interactive Jelly Infinity room that showcases jellyfish. 

10. Cape Cod Museum of Natural History – Brewster, Massachusetts 

Rounding out America’s top ten most beautiful aquariums is the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, Massachusetts, where 19.8% of its reviews feature beauty keywords.  

The museum and accompanying aquarium showcase the wide variety of flora and fauna that live in the cape’s land and water habitats, with both freshwater and saltwater aquatic species on display. The museum provides plenty of learning opportunities for visitors, especially about horseshoe crabs, which have been a focus of the museum’s conservation efforts through their horseshoe crab head start program. 

Mark Valderrama, Owner of Aquarium Store Depot, said:  

“The waters of our planet are home to all kinds of weird, wonderful, and beautiful life. While many people might not get the chance to experience this life in its natural habitat, aquaria provide people the opportunity to see the wonders of aquatic life from all over the world, as well as learn of their important conservation and restoration efforts. 

“Belle Isle Aquarium is not only one of America’s oldest aquaria but also one the country’s most beautiful to experience. This stands to reason, given that the historic building hosts a range of aquatic life from all over the world, giving visitors the chance to not only admire the exhibits but also to learn about both local Great Lakes species and those from further afield.” 

Methodology

Tripadvisor reviews for 175 American aquariums were analyzed to determine the prevalence of keywords in their reviews relating to beauty. These keywords were ‘beautiful,’ ‘breathtaking,’ ‘stunning,’ ‘pretty,’ ‘gorgeous,’ ‘cute,’ ‘picturesque,’ and ‘scenic.’ Aquariums were then ranked according to the percentage of reviews that contained any of these keywords. 

Rank Aquarium Location Total Reviews Beauty Keywords Count Beauty Keyword Percentage 
1. Belle Isle Aquarium Detroit, Michigan 127 39 30.7% 
2. Butterfly House & Aquarium Sioux Falls, South Dakota 521 157 30.1% 
3. Birch Aquarium La Jolla, California 1,956 504 25.8% 
4. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Tacoma, Washington 1,012 249 24.6% 
5. Seacoast Science Center Rye, New Hampshire 150 35 23.3% 
6. VIA Aquarium Schenectady, New York 143 31 21.7% 
7. Sea Life Park Hawaii Waimanalo, Hawaii 1,533 327 21.3% 
8. Mississippi Aquarium Gulfport, Mississippi 134 27 20.1% 
9. Aquarium at the Boardwalk Branson, Missouri 717 144 20.1% 
10. Cape Cod Museum of Natural History Brewster, Massachusetts 303 60 19.8% 
11. Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center Riverhead, New York 662 122 18.4% 
12. Moody Gardens Galveston, Texas 2,841 522 18.4% 
13. Seymour Marine Discovery Center Santa Cruz, California 257 47 18.3% 
14. Discovery World Milwaukee, Wisconsin 553 96 17.4% 
15. Waikiki Aquarium Honolulu, Hawaii 1,822 311 17.1% 
16. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Columbus, Ohio 2,704 457 16.9% 
17. Discovery Bay at Minnesota Zoo Apple Valley, Minnesota 841 141 16.8% 
18. South Carolina Aquarium Charleston, South Carolina 2,429 406 16.7% 
19. Atlantic City Aquarium Atlantic City, New Jersey 481 79 16.4% 
20. ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain Burlington, Vermont 576 93 16.1% 

Aquariums with fewer than 100 total reviews were omitted from the ranking. 

Here are other aquariums that missed the list, but are still worth visiting:

  • Georgia aquarium
  • Shedd aquarium
  • Monterey bay aquarium
  • Audubon aquarium
  • National aquarium
  • New England aquarium
  • Oregon Coast aquarium
  • New York Aquarium
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Tennessee aquarium
  • Florida aquarium
  • Newport aquarium
  • Dallas World Aquarium
  • Mystic Aquarium – Functions as a conservation center to protect aquatic animals

Why Is Georgia, Sheed, And Monterey Excluded?

I know I will get this question a lot about this post and study. These three are, without a doubt some of the best aquarium exhibits you can visit in the US. In fact, you can make an argument for the Georgia aquarium being one of the world’s best. However, in this study, I wanted to focus on the smaller aquariums and work on a methodology that would highlight them more. You see these three on EVERY list, so why not work on a method that will highlight many aquariums that are overlooked and are great to visit?

What’s Your Favorite One?

Have you visited an aquarium that you are raving about? Let us know in the comments below. We love to hear about your experiences. Maybe we will go visit one of your choices on our tour of aquariums.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The Dallas World aquarium in downtown Dallas is worth noting. I believe it opened in 95/96 in the heart of Dallas. At one time it even had penguins, a black jaguar, flamingos, manatees, a few south american red tail catfish, etc. Not to be confused with the aquarium at Fairpark, which I believe closed do to lack of funds.

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