10 Best Aquariums in the World
For many of us, aquariums offer our very first glimpse of what life looks like under the sea. Our oceans and fresh water bodies are teeming with marine life—a dazzling array of animals, plants, and organisms that shape our world, and a visit to an aquarium can be the first step in teaching children how to care for their planet.
There’s no shortage of aquariums, though. According to the MarineBio Conservation Society, there are more than 200 marine aquariums and ocean life centers around the world.
Need some help narrowing down your options? These 10 are Budget Travel’s list of the best aquariums across the globe.
1. Georgia Aquarium: Atlanta, GA
The largest aquarium in the U.S. has tens of thousands of animals swimming in over 10 million gallons of water. Located in Atlanta, the massive institution is home to some of the biggest fish in the world. Daredevils can even swim with the aquarium’s whale sharks. For kids, there’s a petting area where you dip your hands into a shallow pool filled with rays and baby sharks, including Bonnethead sharks, which have eyes in the back of their heads. Don’t miss the museum’s dolphin show, where trainers showcase the beauty, athleticism, and intelligence of bottlenose dolphins.
2. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom: Hengqin, Zhuhai, People's Republic of China
Want to explore the largest aquarium in the world? This aquarium in the People’s Republic of China boasts eight themed areas inside the park, each representing a different part of the ocean. Chimelong’s whale shark exhibit offers stunning views of one of the largest creatures in the world through its massive viewing window. The aquarium also has a dolphin’s island, otter’s den, and sea lions theater, where the animals show off acrobatic movements to the beat of tango, rock, and Brazilian samba music.
3. Marine Life Park: Sentosa island, Singapore
This Singapore aquarium is home to more than 100,000 marine animals of over 1,000 species from across 50 different habitats. The museum’s shark encounter lets guests swim inches away from some of the ocean's stealthiest predators, such as the hammerhead, silvertip and sandbar sharks. Visitors can also meet face to face with Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. When you’re done gawking at the sea life, check out the high-speed water slides and lazy river at Adventure Cove Waterpark, which is located next to the aquarium.
4. Dubai Mall Aquarium: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
One of the world’s second-largest shopping mall is also home to an aquarium with more than 33,000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks. Rising to the mall’s third floor, the museum is famous for its 48-meter tunnel, where people can watch the museum’s divers feed sharks and rays throughout the day. For a closer encounter, the aquarium offers a 30-minute tour of the museum’s back-of-house facilities, where you can feed shark babies and learn about the center’s shark breeding program.
5. Shedd Aquarium: Chicago, Illinois
Opened in 1930, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is one of the oldest aquariums in the world. Home to sea otters, lake sturgeons, giant river turtles, blacktip reef sharks, and other water animals, the museum specializes in providing learning experiences for visitors of all ages. Take advantage of the free audio guide, which provides detailed accounts of the aquarium’s most memorable species, including the incredible rescue story of green sea turtle Nickel. Penguin lovers can meet, touch, and feed Magellanic penguins while learning about penguin anatomy, nesting season, and the museum’s penguin conservation work in South Africa.
6. Oceanogràfic: Valencia, Spain
Located in the avant-garde architectural complex of Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia, the Oceanogràfic aquarium offers a truly immersive experience. It has Europe’s longest underwater tunnel, where visitors get a front-seat view of more than 100 sharks of 21 different species. In addition, the aquarium features stunning sea life from the Mediterranean ocean, including barracudas, snakelocks anemones, and spiny lobsters. It also offers nighttime attractions, including live music and dolphin shows.
7. Oceanário de Lisboa: Lisbon, Portugal
This Lisbon aquarium showcases four marine habitats crossing the temperate, tropical, and cold waters of the different oceans of the planet. The museum’s permanent exhibition features a stunning array of jellyfish, rich algae, penguins, and amphibians such as dusky salamanders, European tree frogs, and rubber eel. Kids can enjoy an overnight stay at the museum where they learn more about sharks.
8. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Monterey, California
Another stateside aquarium well worth visiting is Monterey Bay’s. The museum’s ocean-view decks are a great vantage point for viewing local wildlife, from sea otters and seals to humpback whales and white sharks, which gather to feed in the bay after spending months offshore in waters as far west as Hawaii. Daily shows include sea otter feeding, penguin feeding, seabirds feeding, and “Luna: A Sea Otter's Story,” where guests learn about the threats facing California's sea otter population by following one sea otter’s journey.
9. Vancouver Aquarium: Vancouver, Canada
Opened in 1956, Canada’s largest aquarium houses around 300 species of fish, nearly 30,000 invertebrates, and more than 50 species of amphibians and reptiles. The museum offers a number of full-sensory experiences, including sea lion training, otter feedings, dolphin shows, and walrus encounters. It’s also the headquarters of Ocean Wise, a non-profit where scientists, educators, and conservation experts spearhead initiatives such as shore cleanup efforts and sustainable seafood practices.
10. Texas State Aquarium: Corpus Christi, TX
Dedicated to promoting the environmental conservation and rehabilitation of wildlife from the Gulf of Mexico, this Corpus Christi, TX aquarium offers a unique look at the animals that populate the rich habitats of this region. Kids will especially enjoy the museum’s slot meet-and-greet experience, where guests get a personal introduction to Xena or Chico, one of the Linneaus’s two-toed sloths. The aquarium’s wildlife rescue center helps rehabilitate marine mammals, sea turtles, raptors, and shorebirds who are injured in the wild.
Harry Potter Fans: Here's Where You Should Travel Based on Your Hogwarts House
So you’re the ultimate Harry Potter fan but can’t decide where to take your next trip? First of all, true Potter fans should be aware of Pottermore.com: the official fansite where you can get sorted by the Sorting Hat into your Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry house. Your house is based on a variety of personality quirks and preferences, meaning you’ll fit in with the overall atmosphere of the house you’re sorted into. Once you know your Harry Potter Hogwarts house, you’re on the road to finding the perfect travel destination. Because let’s be honest, a gutsy Gryffindor may have very different travel goals from a humble Hufflepuff, and likewise a rational Ravenclaw’s travel bucket list might not overlap with a shrewd Slytherin’s vacation goals. Have no fear, Potter fans: read on to find out the perfect travel destination for your Hogwarts house. Best Destinations for Gryffindor: Utah or Nicaragua Being the house of Harry, Ron and Hermione themselves, Gryffindors are known as the brave, adventurous, daring and chivalrous of the Hogwarts lot. You have nerve and are very well-rounded, so only a very adventurous destination will do. Gryffindors are an active bunch, so we think you’ll love an outdoorsy travel destination like Utah. Hike through the otherworldly red-clay rock formations in Bryce Canyon, practice your rune-reading at an ancient petroglyph site in Moab or produce a patronus in Zion National Park. For a bit more adventure, Nicaragua is another great spot for a Gryffindor getaway. You can try out some exciting Muggle activities like volcano boarding down the active volcano Cerro Negro, swimming between wild islands or canoeing through jungles, where you might just spot some fantastic beasts. Best Destinations for Ravenclaw: Greece or Ethiopia Ravenclaw, you are the most intelligent members of the wizarding world. You have a thirst for knowledge, valuing brains and information over guts. To that end, we suggest a cultural travel destination for your house. Greece would make an ideal vacation for Ravenclaws. You can spend your time learning the (somewhat strange, we know) teachings of Muggle philosophers and perusing their ancient human sites, like the amazing Acropolis – Professor Binns would be proud. Ravenclaws are also deeply interested in diverse cultures and ancient history, so consider travelling to the cradle of Muggle civilization: Ethiopia, where some of the oldest human ancestors came from, a crossroads rich in culture and religion. Visiting cultures such as the Surmi, Mursi and Karo people offers a chance to see how local communities have preserved ancient traditions, while the 1600-year-old rock churches of Tigray show just how long the religious history is in Ethiopia. Best Destinations for Hufflepuff: Canada or Taiwan Dedicated and loyal, Hufflepuffs are the all-around nicest witches and wizards. They tend to be trusting, kind and value justice and fairness, and for that we think the best travel destination for a Hufflepuff is somewhere social and friendly with good nightlife. Canada would be the perfect travel destination for a Hufflepuff. Canadians are known the world over for being some of the friendliest Muggles, and they value equality and diversity. Travelling Hufflepuffs can enjoy the relaxed, peaceful pace of Vancouver; practice their bubblehead charms in the waters of Lake Ontario; or head to Newfoundland to pay homage to beloved Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory’s most famous spell, turning a rock into a labrador. Taiwan is another destination Hufflepuffs will love for its egalitarian and friendly attitude. And as the first country on the Muggle continent of Asia to legalise LGBT marriage, it is Dumbledore-approved. Night markets, such as Miaokou in northern Taiwan, are brimming with food and friendly locals, and a great place for Hufflepuffs to experience Taiwan’s welcoming attitude firsthand. Best Destinations for Slytherin: Tokyo or Fiji Okay, so Slytherins sometimes get a bad rap around the world due to one or two evil wizards who came through your house, but let’s not forget Harry Potter himself was one request away from Slytherin. You are a house of ambitious, determined and highly inventive witches and wizards. And you love what’s cool, unique and exclusive. We think a great travel destination for Slytherins is somewhere that values tradition as well as exclusivity, and where better for that than edgy Tokyo? Centuries-old shrines stand alongside sleek skyscrapers, and you can practise potions while sipping a cocktail with an amazing city view somewhere like Asahi Sky Room. Slytherins are also highly driven leaders who sometimes need a true escape from the wizarding world. In that case, Slytherins should visit a resort island like Fiji or the Seychelles, where they can just rest their wands for a while. Harry Potter Travel Destinations for All Wizards (and Muggles Too!) No matter which house you are sorted into, there are a few Harry Potter travel destinations that will appeal to everyone. You can’t go wrong with a trip to Great Britain, Harry’s homeland. There are numerous Harry Potter sights in Britain, but don’t miss a trip to the Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, an absolute must for any Potterhead. This magical studio tour leads you through all of the sets used in the making of the Harry Potter films as well as an animatronic workshop where you can interact with multitudes of fantastic beasts, from a grindylow to Buckbeak himself. While you’re in England, don’t forget to swing through King’s Cross train station to visit Platform 9¾, where you can have your picture taken pushing your luggage cart through the brick wall and onto the Hogwarts Express platform. And head up to Edinburgh, Scotland, where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. You can even book a stay in a Harry Potter-themed flat while you’re here. In Florida, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is another spellbinding experience. This theme park brings the magic of Harry Potter to life, with strange and wondrous experiences at every turn and plenty of rides that take you right into Hogwarts itself.
Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle Gets a Makeover
Sleeping Beauty isn’t the only one with a set of fairy godmothers. Since January, Disneyland’s Imagineers have been hard at work refurbishing the princess’s castle, and last week, ahead of the hotly-anticipated opening of Galaxy’s Edge on 31 May, the results of the Anaheim icon’s montage-worthy makeover were finally unveiled. Rendered in faded blues and pinks before the latest update, the once-muted exterior has since gone technicolor, with vibrant hues, a new roof, and a dash of pixie dust for good measure. More Magical Than Ever Now boasting cotton-candy pink turrets, cobalt-blue shingles, and gold accents at the entrance, along the battlements, and on the roof, Disney’s first-ever castle retains its earlier color scheme—albeit in heavily-saturated form. “It’s as though the entire castle has been enchanted,” Walt Disney Imagineering art director Kim Irvine told the Los Angeles Times. Not only does the new palette give the nearly 64-year-old structure a fresh look, it gives it a vertical boost as well. Per the official Disney Parks blog, the crews “used an ages-old painting technique called atmospheric perspective to visually heighten the castle,” Irvine said. “We warmed the pink hues on the lower towers and gradually added blue to lighten the colors toward the top.” A New Palette Opened in 1955, the castle originally featured tan and grey stones, slate-blue turrets, and a pale-pink facade, and though it’s been revamped multiple times throughout the years, the building’s color scheme remained subdued—the stuff of reality, not fairy tales—until the park’s 50th anniversary, when the pinks began to pop and a smattering of lively blue shingles were installed to break up the sober grey roofline. The castle got another facelift ten years later, but its vivid hues soon faded in the California sun—an issue the design team was eager to avoid this time around, applying a clear coat to protect from UV rays, according to the OC Register. “When they come to Disneyland, [people] expect something that’s different than what they would see on their city streets or in their downtowns,” Irvine told the Register. “We have to push the color, we have to push the fantasy.”
What’s the best Father’s Day gift for a dad who loves to travel? Well, my credentials for weighing in on this question are at least baseline: I happen to be a father and a travel editor. First of all, “travel” for Father’s Day doesn’t have to mean covering a great distance. I’m here to tell you from personal experience (which in this case happens to be supported by clinical research) that neither a fancy meal nor carefully (or not) chosen “stuff” can compare to taking an easy day trip or one-tank escape to a place your dad loves—or a place he’s never been before. Experiences Are Better Than Stuff You’ve read the studies (or, at the very least, you’ve read the summaries of studies in listicle form on social media): Meaningful experiences make people happier than obtaining possessions. A major study at Cornell University was even more specific: “Doing makes you happier than owning.” My Most Memorable Father’s Day In support of “doing” rather than “owning,” please take a look at the photo above, which illustrates my most memorable Father’s Day. The picture of a medieval garden might suggest that my family sprung for a flight to Spain. Nope. All we had to do was take the half-hour drive from our home in the Hudson Valley to one of my favorite museums, the Cloisters, in upper Manhattan. Full disclosure: My wife and two daughters don’t exactly love the Cloisters. Medieval art is an acquired taste, and to date only I, among the four of us, has acquired it. But you don’t have to love ogling paintings and sculptures of angels, martyrs, and the Holy Family to enjoy the Cloisters. We had a lovely few hours strolling the gardens in full mid-June bloom, grabbing a bite to eat at the cafe, and taking in the epic views of the Hudson River from the museum's terraces. Talk to Us: What’s Your Dad’s Favorite Day Trip? Have you got a special day trip in mind for your dad this Father’s Day? Post a comment below. If you’ve got a photo, even better: Post is to Instagram and tag it #mybudgettravel.
Yes, You Can Take Your Dog to the Movies
Sure, you could take your furry friend for a jog around the neighborhood, or let him run loose at the dog park. But what if you’re craving an indoor activity, yet dying to get out of the house? Big news: There is such a thing as a dog-friendly movie theater.A Movie Theater for Dog Lovers Launched as a passion project by founder Eric Lankford (with an assist from Bear, his mini Australian Eskimo pup), K9 Cinemas in Plano, Texas, is the first of its kind, and between the comfy couches and the welcoming atmosphere, the locals are lapping it up. Of course, the free drinks certainly don’t hurt. Not only does the $15 ticket price get you and your dog in to see the second-run film of your choice, it also buys you bottomless wine (or four whiskeys, or unlimited soft drinks if you’re underage).What's It Like to Watch a Movie With Your Dog? Between the barkers and the booze, the whole thing has the potential to become a bit of a free-for-all, but the theater has instituted some firm guidelines to make the experience a clean, safe, and fun one for pets and humans alike. For their first visit, owners are required to provide medical records and proof of vaccinations for each pup in attendance – and at max, only two dogs are permitted per person. They must be kept on a leash at all times, except in designated areas, and any messes are the responsibility of the owner, not the management. So far, it’s been a recipe for success. Thanks to an intermission that allows for a mid-movie outdoor break and lower volume levels to accommodate sensitive ears, the cinema’s canine clientele has been on its best behavior – aside from the odd bark or two at dogs on the screen, that is. They’ve been such good pups, in fact, that the theater has plans to screen new releases in the near future. A former contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense, Lankford was searching for something fulfilling for the next phase of his career, and with this Texas theater, he seems to have found it. “K9Cinemas was born because I love my dog, and I love movies,” he says. “It’s truly accomplished the initial goal I set out to make myself and others happy.” Get inspired to travel everyday by signing up to Lonely Planet’s daily newsletter.