Shedd Ranked Top-Attended Cultural Destination in Chicago for 7th Consecutive Year

February 3, 2014

More than 2 million guests make the “World’s Aquarium” a top draw in Chicago

CHICAGO – On the heels of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement to grow tourism in Chicago to 55 million by 2020, Shedd Aquarium, a recognized leader in animal care, conservation and education, announced that more than 2 million guests walked through the iconic bronze doors of the aquarium in 2013, making Shedd the top-attended cultural organization in Chicago for the seventh year in a row. Known as the “World’s Aquarium,” Shedd welcomed exactly 2,015,130 guests and remains one of the most-visited aquariums in the United States.

“Shedd is proud to be a leader amongst Chicago’s vibrant cultural partners, contributing to the more than 46 million people that visited our incredible city last year. More importantly, we are grateful to our guests whose support allows us to continue our mission to connect people to the living world,” said Ted A. Beattie, president and CEO. “Shedds’ roots run deep in Chicago. Our partnerships with local community organizations further our important work to create affordable access and educate guests everywhere.”

Last year, more than 24 percent — or 490,625 guests — entered the aquarium’s original galleries with free admission. Advancing its commitment to provide accessible access in 2013, more than 50 percent of Shedd guests visited at a discounted rate and explored the aquarium through several new and returning extended-hours programs.

“Shedd Aquarium is a true asset for cultural travelers and helps to keep Chicago at the top of the list as a visitor destination,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO, Choose Chicago. “Our museums and zoos have an enormous economic impact, providing jobs and playing an important role to provide enriching educational experiences, especially as we continue to aggressively position Chicago as a global destination.”

An estimated 82 percent of Shedd’s total visitors came from beyond the city of Chicago, including 13 percent visiting internationally. In addition, Shedd offered 52 Illinois Resident Discount Days, daily discounts for Chicago residents, students and senior citizens as well as free admission for registered teachers, police and fire personnel, and active-duty military.

As an education innovator, Shedd continued its commitment to provide learning experiences for a wide range of students — young and old — as well as resources for educators. In 2013, Shedd subsidized more than $1.5 million for school children throughout Illinois, helping 60,525 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students learn through free field trips, on-site and off-site educational classes. In addition, 114,214 Illinois students visited Shedd with free admission. For Chicago public schools, Shedd’s bus fund program sponsored by Target provided 280 buses last year.

“Shedd is a living museum, an employer, business leader and major tourist attraction – a powerful source of economic activity in the city of Chicago,” Beattie added.

According to a 2010 study released by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the cumulative economic impact of the 212 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States includes $13.2 billion in economic activity (contribution to GDP), $4.4 billion in personal earnings (salaries and wages) and 132,015 jobs.

In 2013, Shedd opened its first 20,000 gallon outdoor exhibit with the introduction of a new Stingray Touch experience, inviting visitors to feel the supple skin and movement of approximately 40 cownose rays and yellow rays. The revamped At Home on the Great Lakes gallery provided visitors with a hands-on learning experience and up-close encounter with invasive and native animals—including a new sturgeon touch experience. The continuation of the Jellies special exhibit also proved to be extremely popular among guests. Additionally, Shedd provided permanent homes for three rescued sea lions, including Cruz, the first blind marine mammal at the aquarium and welcomed four rescue dogs in the brand new aquatic show — “One World”— celebrating the human connections with all animals and demonstrating the “Shedd Way” of animal care.

Shedd Aquarium is proud to be one of the 11 member museums of Museums In the Park (MIP), a coalition of Chicago museums located on Chicago Park District property.

With 32,000 animals representing nearly 1,500 species from around the world, Shedd Aquarium continues to directly engage guests through its amazing animals, education programs and conservation initiatives. In its 84th year, Shedd continues to offer the most diverse collection in the world – living up to its role as the “World’s Aquarium.”

PHOTOS/VIDEO: High resolution photos and broadcast-quality footage are available for download:

Shedd Aquarium is supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District. Shedd Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums

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