The third time was a charm for us in terms of visiting the Cleveland Aquarium. On our first two attempts the crowds were huge and the wait was very long. A friend had advised not to go when the place was crowded as there was not a lot of room around the exhibits. Good advice as we soon found out. We finally made it into the aquarium on Christmas Eve.
The aquarium is built in an old power plant. Overall I think that the designers did a nice job of integrating the exhibits into the old industrial building, including an overhead tank for the jellyfish in the old smoke stack. And while the flow through the exhibits is pretty good, there is not a lot of space between the tanks, so if there is a crowd you will have to wait your turn.
It also seems that the layout of the aquarium is fairly accessible to persons with disabilities, including wheelchairs. The only steps that I recall were from the street-level building entrance down to the aquarium entrance, but there is a small elevator available for transport of folks who cannot handle the stairs. Once in the aquarium the path through the exhibits and tanks is flat and mostly level (some very slight ups and downs to negotiate).
There are several rooms of tanks. The first area has freshwater tanks focusing on Ohio rivers and lakes. But there are also reef displays and larger tanks with sharks and other large fish. All of the exhibits and tanks were very nice, although some of them seemed to be a bit cloudy. It was not enough that you could not see the fish, but the seawater tanks just did not seem as clear as I remember at other aquariums. There were several folks available throughout the aquarium to answer questions (not sure if these were all paid employers or if some might have been volunteer docents). There is a large tank about halfway through the tour that is the “petting zoo” with several rays and other critters ready “shake your hand.”
When we visited, the crowd was light, so we were able to see all the tanks, exhibits and plaques with little to no wait. It took us about 45 minutes to make it through whole of the building, including taking a few photos. While it was a nice visit, I thought it was a bit overpriced ($44 for two adults).
Oh, and of course there is a small gift shop at the end of the tour.
We had an enjoyable time at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. I do recommend visiting if you have time. Its location is just a bit off the beaten path, being in the west side of the Cuyahoga River from the downtown area, but it is not that far of a drive from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and could make a wonderful combination for a day with the animals.
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