The Shedd Aquarium Reviewed - Something for Everyone

On a warm day in late summer, the Shedd Aquarium was a lovely place to
visit.  Clearly many others agreed with us, evidenced by the huge line in
place when we arrived.  Entering the lobby, we noticed the large octagonal
tank we remembered from visits long before the Shedd’s many additions.  It
is still a fascinating place with crowds gathered watching many species moving through the water, waiting for feeding time.

Worth the wait

Nearby, cases displayed fish from many parts of the world.  Around us
parents were telling children what to look for, names, shapes, colors and
the children looked in the cases trying to see the creatures within.  There
were some larger groups, tours, grandparents and here and there, some older visitors. As we explored the fascinating collections, we were especially captivated by the tree frogs, theKomodo dragon and lizard display, the leafy sea dragon, the dolphin show, the penguins and Soundings, the restaurant.

Look at the Leafy Sea Dragon

Interestingly, the 1892 Columbian Exposition Fisheries Building inspired the Shedd Aquarium.  It was “...designed by Henry Ives Cobb of Chicago, the Fisheries' two acres of exhibition space was well balanced with the Olmsted-designed lagoon to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. The highlight of the display was ….the double row of floor-to-ceiling aquaria, filled with hundreds of species of fresh and salt-water fish. The building was also noteworthy by its departure from the Beaux-Arts form of the Court of Honor, focusing instead on walls of delicate glass and multicolored

Approaching the Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium’s name is synonymous with its benefactor, John G. Shedd, the prominent civic and business leader who contributed $3 million so that Chicago could join all the truly cosmopolitan cities of the United States and Europe in building an aquarium and one that would be the best.  Sadly, John Graves Shedd did not live to see the Aquarium. In 1924, there was an agreement between the Chicago Park District and the newly formed Shedd Aquarium Society to build an aquarium next to the Field Museum, an act that would begin a process to transform the city landfill into a campus of world-class museums.

The Shedd from the East, the Oceanarium

There were no animals in December 1929 when the 300-foot diameter octagonal Beaux Arts Building covered with white Georgia marble aquarium opened but people flocked to see it anyway.  But at its official opening, May 30, 1930, it contained the greatest variety of sea life ever exhibited at one
institution.  There were six galleries radiating from the central rotunda that housed a 40-foot tropical swamp.  In 1931, when the last of the galleries were completed and opened to the public,  Shedd recorded its highest-ever attendance of 4.7 million people.

Little and cute

Additions over the years include; the Caribbean Reef in 1971, the Oceanarium in 1991, Amazon Rising: Seasons of the River in 2000, Wild Reef in 2003.  Shedd Aquarium was the first cultural institution — and only the third building of any kind  in Chicago with a soy-based roof. It is made from the equivalent of 36 acres of soybeans and the reflective white coating stays cool in the summer, lowering the aquarium’s air-conditioning bills while countering the urban heat island effect created by black asphalt roofs.  The building is notable for its architecture with its basic design taken from classical Greek architecture blends with the Oceanarium with a more modern style that represents the Pacific Northwest.  The Oceanarium , with its 2 million gallon main tank, is backed by a wall of windows that look out onto Lake Michigan, making it feel even larger.

The Dolphin Show

We were pleased to be among the nearly 2 million visitors Shedd welcomes each year making this the most visited aquarium in the U.S. and the second most popular attraction in Chicago.  Shedd also cares for 22, 000 animals and is a leader in wildlife conservation around the world. Its website states, “We engage and inspire, entertain and inform. We are a vital teaching and learning resource, conservation leader, neighborhood partner and global collaborator. We are passionate about our animals, their habitats and the planet we share.” 

We loved the "Lizards and the Komodo King" exhibit which is in place through summer, 2008.  You can see Faust, the Komodo dragon, and his court of 25 other lizard species, which is sponsored by Motorola and the Motorola Foundation from: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Special Exhibit Gallery. The Dolphin Show made a big “splash”.  We watched the Pacific white-sided dolphins jumping, “walking on water”, and swimming with the trainers.  There was also a great quiz for children attending.

A Beluga in action

We intended to visit Shedd’s newest addition, the baby Beluga calf born on August 16, 2007 at 2:42 a.m.  This is the latest in a series of baby Belugas born in the last few years.  In order to facilitate bonding, the Beluga family is not receiving visitors at this time, but anyone interested in them can view their progress on the Shedd website at:

The view from Soundings Restaurant

Our lunch at Soundings was delicious. It offers full table service and a menu that's as great as the view of Chicago. Sustainable seafood and
organic, locally grown produce are specialties, with wine and cocktails available. Summer hours: 11 - 3. Winter hours: 11:30-2:30. For reservations, call 312-692-3277 though families might prefer Bubble Net, the family-friendly food court where you can eat hearty and healthy, in summer: 11 – 4, and winter: 11 - 3.  

Shedd offers new, exciting events continually.  Find out what’s new at:  An unusual concert will take place on Sunday, Sept. 30 when the musical group, Fifth House Ensemble, explores the relationship between classical music and the aquatic world with performances of George Crumb's Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale), Solomon's Etudes to Spring: The Lake, Schwanter's Black Anemones and other water-inspired pieces. Free with general admission.

Learn about the Shedd Aquarium’s iniative to save the Great Lakes at:

John G. Shedd Aquarium is at 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Prices and events at (312) 939-2426, (312) 939-2438  or

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