Photo by Dale McDonald, courtesy Greater Cleveland Aquarium
These colder months may be sending you on a quest for indoor activities, but we’re going to offer one step better: a trip below the equator. Visit the the Indo-Pacific and Australian coral reefs at these three regional aquariums that promise a couple of hours away from the winter weather.
Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Cleveland’s aquarium boasts more than 50 exhibits, starting off local with Ohio lakes and rivers. Find out which fish swim the state’s waters in the aquarium’s handmade stream, such as the shovel nose sturgeon and the blacknose dace. Next, branch out to the rivers and lakes of Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia, where you can wave hello to Toby, the aquarium’s Giant Gourami, and pat the shells of rescued tortoises that were once abused or neglected pets. The Discovery Zone includes the moon jellyfish exhibit in the ceiling, lighting the room with their pale glow, as well as information on pollution’s effects on marine animals and organisms. Check out the lionfish in the Indo-Pacific gallery, stroke a stingray in the Coastal gallery’s 11,000-gallon touch pool, and visit all of the bright fish at the Tropical Reef gallery. Watch the scuba divers in the Shark SeaTube when they go in for their daily dive at 1:30 p.m., and don’t miss the stingray feeding at 3 p.m. 2000 Sycamore St., Cleveland, Ohio, (216) 862-8803, greaterclevelandaquarium.com
The PPG Aquarium is located within the Pittsburgh Zoo, so visitors get two for the price of one when they visit either. Warm up for the aquatic fun just outside of the aquarium at Water’s Edge, where you’ll find a polar bear, sea otters, and a sand tiger shark. Inside the aquarium, discover the macaroni, king, and gentoo penguins before checking out the deep sea creatures, such as the octopus and squid. Though smaller than other aquariums, the PPG still has plenty of sharks, stingray, and sea horses to show. On February 28, the zoo is celebrating International Polar Bear Day, so guests can learn how to contribute to saving polar bears in the wild. 7340 Butler St., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (412) 665-3640, pittsburghzoo.org
The Shores & Aquarium is just one section within the surrounding Columbus Zoo, along with Dinosaur Island, the Baboon Lagoon water park, and an African safari zone. The aquarium houses the zoo’s manatees—and in an interactive exhibit, guests can take a trip on a coastal boat to follow the West Indian sea cows. Fans of penguins can learn more about the species from their keepers, including how the Humboldt penguins communicate. Run your hand over a sea urchin spine or pet a starfish in the Discovery Reef Tide Pool, and be sure to check out the aquarium’s 550 pound Aldabra Tortoise. The zoo hosts events throughout the year, and on February 21, guests can join in on the zoo’s 13th annual Polar Bear Plunge to raise funds for the Special Olympics. 4850 W. Powell Rd., Powell, Ohio, (614) 645-3400, columbuszoo.org