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Ohio’s aquariums are unique, from the buildings they reside in to the interesting species that are housed within. Riverfront, inside the age-old walls of an antique building, amongst stunning gardens—these are just some of the intriguing environments. As a bonus, some are even connected to a zoo, so in one day families can awe over giraffes, wild cats or monkeys, and then polar bears, penguins, manatees and sharks. But what we love most about these special aquariums may be that conservation is a focus, and many animals are there to be rehabilitated and returned to the ocean. Ohio, like many states, is taking a whole new approach to aquariums.
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Greater Cleveland Aquarium, Cleveland
Greater Cleveland Aquarium is set within an old historic powerhouse right in the Cuyahoga River—railcars, along with other city features, used to be powered by this rustic 1800s structure. With the exposed bricks and ducts being fully incorporated into the design, this aquarium is quite unique compared to more modern constructions. A progression, from game fish to exotic ocean species, are featured within the exhibits. Walk through water surrounded tunnels, learn about fish you didn’t even know existed, and further appreciate the local ecological system after a visit.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Powell
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is in Powell and features both a variety of land and sea animals. Manatees, affectionately nicknamed “sea cows”, are a major part of the diverse aquarium. Working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the establishment is one of the very few to help rehabilitate these lovable water babies, to ultimately return them to their natural habitat in Florida. Say hello to these big guys face to face, while they continue their road to recovery. Manatees are fascinating creatures, and alone make the trip here very worth it. But in case you needed another reason, many other fascinating creatures, such as giant polar bears, also call the aquarium home.
Toledo Zoo, Toledo
Toledo Zoo also features an aquarium alongside it’s dry land exhibits, and the water wonderland kind of steals the show. Tanks are strikingly displayed with dramatic coral landscape and calming colors, and there’s an educational dive show that will have your kids learning all kinds of marine biology—they’ll never suspect. Little ones will find this attraction easy to traverse, as interactive opportunities like touch tanks are accommodating to all ages. It’s a great weekday activity with toddlers or something to save for the whole family. The graceful sea turtles are fun to watch gliding through the tank waters.
Akron Zoo, Akron
Akron Zoo is largely a land animal facility, but the aquarium is full of interesting fish, like the Brownbanded Bamboo Shark which is reminiscent of a catfish, squirmy Electric Eels, Chain Dog Fish, and a Walking Bat Fish—yeah, those actually crawl across the seafloor kind of like a baby bat would on dry land. Don’t forget to say hello to the adorable penguins. A great cafe with surprisingly tasty grub, such as veggie burgers and salads, add another appealing aspect for grown-ups, while young ones can splurge on pizza! Or you could too, no one’s judging.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, in addition to mammals and a simulated rainforest, has a small aquarium that adds a little something extra—all the regular zoo stuff is pretty show-stopping though. Folks here work hard to preserve the natural lands in which they reside, which makes a visit that much more special.
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has some stunning water displays with strikingly gorgeous animals such as furry white polar bears, enormous but lovable manatees, and more ferocious fellows like a type of snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle known in the United States, and gargantuan alligator gar with creepy long snouts. In addition to the aquatic fun, families can hop aboard a scenic train ride through the grounds, ride the old fashioned carousel and delve into an impressive 4-D movie experience. The gardens are worth a visit as rainbows of blooms are surrounded by fluttering butterflies.
Newport Aquarium - Newport, Kentucky
Newport, Kentucky sits right over the border of Ohio, and has an aquarium so darn close, and so darn amazing, that it would be wrong to exclude it. Probably one of the more interactive aquariums around, guests can have one-on-one experiences with the beloved penguins—you can even gently pet the little guys or gals. It’s truly an aquarium experience of a lifetime. Further adding to the unbelievable magic are the mermaids who will come floating through the tanks to mesmerize your imaginative little ones. So now maybe you understand why we could not just leave this complete gem out.