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National Aquarium

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore’s historic Inner Harbor is home to the very modern, and angular, National Aquarium building. Families can enjoy popular animal experiences like Dolphin Discovery and Shark Alley at the aquarium, and then venture outside to explore more kid-friendly attractions like the USS Tork submarine, Lightship Chesapeake and paddleboats.


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Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans)

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans)

Come face to face with an array of sealife at a 400,000-gallon water tank filled with stingrays, sea turtles -- and 17-foot-long sharks! They’re all part of the Gulf of Mexico exhibit at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. The aquarium showcases aquatic life throughout North and South America. 960 1280

Stephen Saks/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

Texas State Aquarium (Corpus Christi, TX)

Texas State Aquarium (Corpus Christi, TX)

At the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, visitors can see the 2 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins -- Shadow and Kai above water … and below, courtesy of an underwater viewing room that features a 70-foot-long window.  960 1280

Philip Lange/ iStock/ Thinktsock  

Ripley’s Aquarium (Gatlinburg, TN)

Ripley’s Aquarium (Gatlinburg, TN)

In the heart of the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find Ripley’s Aquarium. The facility in Gatlinburg, TN, is home to 10,000 sea creatures, representing more than 350 individual species, such as giant stingrays, snappers and some very large sharks -- as long as 13 feet! 960 1280

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies  

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (Kure Beach, NC)

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (Kure Beach, NC)

It’s only fitting that the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher should be located near … Cape Fear! You and the kids will encounter plenty of fear-factor moments: Touch a live shark, discover North Carolina’s fiercest predator and come face-to-face with an alligator -- if you dare. 960 1280

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher  

National Aquarium (Baltimore)

National Aquarium (Baltimore)

You’ll find all kinds of fish at the Baltimore National Aquarium. Since it opened in 1981, the aquarium has garnered an astonishing collection of sea life: nearly 20,000 specimens representing 660 species. 960 1280

Richard Cummins/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport, OR)

Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport, OR)

Wow, are we underwater, Dad? It’ll feel like it as you and the kids journey through this underwater tunnel at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Cool views like this help explain why the facility in Newport, OR, has been ranked one of the top 10 aquariums in North America by Coastal Living magazine. 960 1280

Oregon Coast Aquarium  

Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, CA)

Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach, CA)

This 5-acre site in Long Beach, CA, is home to the Aquarium of the Pacific. The little ones will enjoy plenty of interactive fun: Kids can pet sharks and stingrays, and feed nectar to parrots known as lorikeets. 960 1280

Pete Starman/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images  

Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, CA)

Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, CA)

Did you know that corals are animals, not plants? Your kids will learn these and other facts at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Coral Reef Kingdom. See them ooh and aww at the colorful ocean homes where these tiny animals live in colonies. Also check out the aquarium's other attractions, including stingrays, jellyfish and sea otters. 960 1280

Doug Steakley/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

New England Aquarium (Boston)

New England Aquarium (Boston)

These brave kids stick their hands in the “touch tank,” as stingrays glide through the clear shallow water. Kids (and adults) can touch various species of sharks and rays at Boston's New England Aquarium, including cownose rays, southern stingrays and coral catsharks. 960 1280

Brian D Cruickshank/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

The Florida Aquarium (Tampa, FL)

The Florida Aquarium (Tampa, FL)

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Florida is home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from around the world. 960 1280

Richard Cummins/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

John G. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago)

John G. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago)

You’re looking at one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world. The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago houses more than 5,000,000 gallons of water in which 25,000 fish (and counting!) make their home. 960 1280

Charles Cook/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta)

Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta)

How’s this for big: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta contains between 100,000 and 120,000 fish and other sea creatures. One of the biggest reasons to visit is to see the aquarium’s whale sharks -- it’s the only institution outside of Asia to house this particular shark species. 960 1280

Barry Williams/ Getty Images  

Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga, TN)

Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga, TN)

Come face to face with sharks at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, TN. The captive sharks may look menacing but they're typically not a threat to humans. Unless, of course, you engage in some spearfishing -- fortunately, not an option at this aquarium! 960 1280

Stephen Saks/ Lonely Planet Images/ Getty Images  

Waikiki Aquarium (Honolulu)

Waikiki Aquarium (Honolulu)

Just what makes a fish a fish? Find out at the Waikiki Aquarium, the third oldest aquarium in the US. At the aquarium’s very official Fish School, kids as young as 5 can learn all about the many critters of the sea and their amazing adaptations to their environment. Don’t worry, though, it’s not all learn and no play -- the class includes a scavenger hunt among the exhibits.
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Waikiki Aquarium  

Newport Aquarium (Newport, KY)

Newport Aquarium (Newport, KY)

Sharks, sharks and more sharks! Sand tiger, sandbar, whitetip, blacktip reef and zebra -- see these intriguing shark species glide above your head in Newport Aquarium’s underwater tunnel. Also explore the aquariums additional attractions, such as the Jellyfish Gallery, Frog Bog (home to 20 species of exotic frogs) and Gator Alley, where visitors can stare into the eyes of Tut, their Nile crocodile.
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Kentucky Tourism  

New York Aquarium (Brooklyn, NY)

New York Aquarium (Brooklyn, NY)

See these cute black-footed penguins at the New York Aquarium, located on Coney Island. As the oldest continually operating aquarium in the US, the aquarium holds no shortage of marine mammals and aquatic life, from sea lions, otters and walruses, to cownose rays and moray eels.    960 1280

Julie Larsen Maher/WCS  

Downtown Aquarium Denver

Downtown Aquarium Denver

Yes, even mermaids live at the aquarium … or at least put on a good show. At Downtown Aquarium Denver, see live mermaid performances in the Under the Sea exhibit. Also check out the aquarium’s exhibits spanning barrier reefs, rainforest, wharf and desert habitats. 960 1280

Downtown Aquarium, Denver  

Downtown Aquarium Houston

Downtown Aquarium Houston

Houston’s 6-acre Downtown Aquarium is home to a veritable who’s who of aquatic animals: Electric eels, nurse sharks and stingrays are among the 200 diverse species of underwater life found here. In between exploring exhibits like the Louisiana Swamp (yes, alligators live here) and the Rainforest, unwind at the aquarium’s Dive Lounge. 960 1280

Downtown Aquarium Houston  

Kentucky State Fair
Kentucky State Fair

Kentucky State Fair

The Bluegrass State's big-name concerts -- including Rascal Flatts, Journey and Hank Williams Jr. -- and serious horse shows draw over 600,000 visitors to the state fair in Louisville each year. 960 1280

Kentucky State Fair  

California State Fair

California State Fair

California's State Fair in Sacramento earns the nickname "Big Fun" with a petting zoo and water park for kids, as well as live thoroughbred racing and a brewfest for adults. 960 1280

California State Fair  

Oregon State Fair

Oregon State Fair

The Oregon State Fair's biggest attractions in Salem include the Hart of the Garden made up of over 8,000 flowers and the Fairlift which gives visitors a bird's-eye-view as it travels from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. 960 1280

Oregon State Fair  

State Fair of Texas

State Fair of Texas

It's true that everything's bigger in Texas, including its state fair in Dallas which draws over 3 million people annually to see the 52-foot-tall mascot Big Tex and eat an astonishing array of fried foods. 960 1280

Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas  

Arizona State Fair

Arizona State Fair

With over 75 rides, 100 food booths, a stellar concert lineup and warm weather, it's easy to see why the Arizona State Fair draws over 1 million visitors to Phoenix in October and November. 960 1280

Jillian Danielson  

Ohio State Fair

Ohio State Fair

In addition to agriculture, the Ohio State Fair in Columbus is heavy on entertainment where you can hear the likes of Gavin DeGraw, Jason Aldean or see a new star born during Ohio Idol. 960 1280

Ohio State Fair  

Puyallup Fair

Puyallup Fair

Don't let the name fool you, this is Washington's largest fair which draws 1.3 million visitors to Puyallup each year for rides, rodeo and the new Rainforest Adventure, where kids get the chance to experience an authentic tropical rainforest atmosphere in a lush exhibit complete with toucans, anacondas, snapping turtles, and more. 960 1280

anaxila, flickr  

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

Like most fairs, one of the biggest draws to the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights is the live music at the Grandstand. The second-biggest state fair in the country (second only to Texas which runs twice as long) offers entertainment that ranges from country music legend Alan Jackson to stock car races to the ever-popular live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. 960 1280

Minnesota State Fair  

Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair's slogan is "nothing compares," and it's true nothing compares to the life-size, 600-pound butter cow on display for the more than a million fairgoers in Des Moines each year. It also one-ups a fair staple: Food on-a-stick, offering over 50 types including the deep-fried cupcake and hot bologna on a stick. 960 1280

Iowa State Fair  

Wisconsin State Fair

Wisconsin State Fair

Held just outside Milwaukee in West Allis, otherwise known as America's Dairyland, it's no surprise the biggest attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair is the cream puffs -- betcha can't eat just one. 960 1280

Wisconsin State Fair Park  

The Big E Fair

The Big E Fair

Even though it’s located in Springfield, Massachusetts, The Big E Fair is actually New England's regional fair. Despite not technically qualifying as a state fair, any fair where you can try Maine lobster and baked potatoes as well as Vermont's maple syrup and Ben and Jerry's ice cream easily makes this list. 960 1280

TheBigE_ESE, flickr  

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