Cleveland has a lot of great museums and family-friendly attractions to visit. But if you have kids who love the underwater world, then you need to plan a trip to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is found on the west bank of The Flats, in the historic FirstEnergy Powerhouse building (which dates back to 1892!) overlooking the Cuyahoga River. The aquarium covers 70,000 square feet, and is actually a relatively new addition to the city, having opened in 2012.
Inside the Cleveland Aquarium, you’ll find 8 different themed galleries, housing more than 2,500 animals from oceans, lakes, and rivers from all around the world.
Why we love the Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The aquarium makes for a great indoor activity on cold or rainy days in Cleveland, and is a place that both kids and adults can enjoy.
Some reasons we personally love the aquarium include:
- Location – The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is in a really cool historic building in the Flats (keep an eye out for the original brick walls and old coal chutes and chimneys inside), right next to huge parking lots that make visiting easy.
- Size – The aquarium is plenty big to hold the interest of kids and adults for an hour or two, but not so big as to be overwhelming.
- Kid-friendliness – The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is extremely kid-friendly, with kid-eye-level tanks and displays, and plenty of learning opportunities.
- Accessibility – The aquarium is fully accessible with the help of two elevators and a relatively flat floor plan. Strollers and wagons are encouraged.
Top things to do at the Cleveland Aquarium
Inside the aquarium, you’ll find 8 different themed areas or galleries. These are:
- Ohio Lakes & Rivers
- Asia & Indonesia
- Tropical Forest
- Industry & Habitat
- Giant Pacific Octopus
- Coastal Boardwalk
- Tropical Reef
- Shark Gallery & SeaTube
There’s also the Imagiquarium play/discovery area, and the Nautica Cafe – but as of January 2022, both of these are still closed due to the pandemic.
Within the 8 themed aquarium galleries, here are our picks of our favorite things to see and do:
1. Learn about local fishes
In the Ohio Lakes & Rivers gallery, you can learn about some of the native fauna that live all across Ohio. Get up-close to catfish, sturgeon, and turtles in a cool tank that’s perfectly kid-height.
2. See animals from around the world
You can find a green tree python and leaf frogs in the Asia & Indonesia gallery, plus birds, piranhas, and poison dart frogs in the Tropical Forest gallery.
And of course keep an eye out for the Giant Pacific Octopus as you walk through its habitat!
3. Learn about conservation
In the Industry & Habitat gallery, you can learn about the history of the building the aquarium currently resides in, and also about ocean conservation, coral reef restoration, and more.
In this gallery, you can also learn about invasive species like lionfish, as well as see eels and weedy seadragons.
4. Touch a stingray
A highlight for many Greater Cleveland Aquarium visitors is the chance to touch the backs of live stingrays in the Coastal Boardwalk gallery. This 11,000-gallon touch pool is inhabited by three different species of stingrays.
There are step stools to help kids reach the touch tank, plus hand-washing stations throughout the gallery.
(This gallery is themed like a boardwalk, and also has another touch pool, a cool jellyfish tank, and more. We usually spend the most time in this gallery!)
5. Walk through the shark tunnel
This highlight will come towards the end of your visit, when you’ll have the chance to walk through a 175-foot-long “seatube” that will make you feel like you’re walking along the ocean floor. In the 230,000-gallon tank above you, you can spot barracuda, pufferfish, and three different species of shark.
Just note that the SeaTube can be too over-stimulating and/or downright scary to some kids – Amanda’s baby nephew loved the rest of the aquarium, but hated this part!
6. Daily feeds/encounters
During non-pandemic times, the aquarium also does daily live feedings and animal encounters that are sure to please the budding marine biologist in your life.
During the holidays, the aquarium also plays host to “SCUBA Claus,” who dives with an elf helper in the shark tank.
How to visit the Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Thinking you’d like to plan a visit to the Cleveland aquarium? Here’s everything you need to know about visiting:
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is open Monday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with the last entry one hour before closing.
Cleveland aquarium tickets
Currently (as of January 2022), you must purchase timed tickets online in advance of your visit. You’ll need to enter the aquarium on the date and time specified – but once inside, you can stay as long as you’d like (typical visits last anywhere from 45-90 minutes).
Tickets cost $19.95 for adults and $13.95 for kids age 2-12 (kids under 2 are free). Purchase tickets here*.
*Note that if you anticipate visiting the aquarium more than twice in a year, you can save money with an annual pass. They offer annual passes for individuals, couples, and even families (this last one is a good deal at $130 for 2 adults and up to 6 kids).
There is a large surface lot right in front of the aquarium building. Usually this lot is a cash-only paid lot, but during the pandemic parking has been free.
Who’s ready to plan a visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquairum?
Amanda was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and has always been a fangirl of her home state. Now, she’ sharing her love of the Cleveland area with the world, highlighting all the best things to do, see, and eat in the CLE. She’s been running Cleveland Traveler since January 2019.