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Fuel Your Curiosity at Shedd Aquarium This Spring Break

April 03, 2023

Two girls reach into the cold salty water of an open-topped tide pool in Polar Play Zone to gently touch the bumpy, soft ridges of a sea star.

Dive deeper at Shedd Aquarium this spring break to explore the full wonder of the aquatic animal world. Guests can discover some of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world – coral reefs – in a refreshed Wild Reef exhibit or marvel at how aquatic animals shimmer, display vibrant colors, use patterns and how they move in special exhibit Underwater Beauty. With a living collection, there’s always something new and different to uncover at Shedd Aquarium. Further, there are even more ways to connect to aquatic life this spring break with experiences, exhibits and other opportunities for families and adults.


Wild Reef has been refreshed and re-imagined – telling a new story about our oceans and Chicago’s contributions to aquatic conservation. Surrounded by vibrant colors, lush reefs and a dazzling diversity of animals, guests dive into a thriving reef system. Explore the plethora of ways corals serve the living world and discover what corals need to survive and thrive. Become memorized by a new jelly habitat, get curious about animal adaptations like how an archerfish can spit an accurate stream of water to knock prey into the water for consumption, or discover how growing more heat tolerant coral species is one way we can create more resilient reefs. Guests will walk away with a sense of hope and empowerment about the world’s coral reefs and be inspired to protect the connections between reefs and the animals that call them home.


Presented by Citadel, Underwater Beauty is the most diverse special exhibit in Shedd’s history, featuring over 1,000 animals representing 100 species from across the globe. Created fully in-house by Shedd Aquarium, Underwater Beauty is unique in its focus of showcasing living art shaped by the unmatched forces of nature and time. Unlike other exhibits at the aquarium focused on a specific class of animals or native region, this diverse special exhibit focuses on shimmer, color, pattern and rhythm. Each section astounds the senses and showcases a unique feature or form of beauty under the water’s surface. It lends itself to discovery around animal adaptations like how corals reflect beautiful colors of light to help them thrive and grow, an inky-black spot on the tail of the four-eyed butterflyfish can deceive predators and seahorses use their long tail to anchor and sway.


A sign of spring, the Magellanic and rockhopper penguins at Shedd Aquarium have begun building nests as part of their annual breeding season. Guests can come face-to-face with the birds and watch as the penguins continue to update and refresh their nests with rocks, sticks and other materials. The penguin habitat is also located near Polar Play Zone, where kids can burn out their energy pretending to hop around a “rocky” penguin playscape or exploring a kid-sized submarine.


Connect with nature, peers and Shedd’s staff during free monthly program offerings for teens. During Teen Nature Days, explore local beaches, waterways and forest preserves, while helping to restore and protect them. During the Teen Workshops Home Aquarium Series, practice setting up an aquarium, receive a home aquarium handbook, and learn directly from Shedd aquarists.


General admission tickets include access to all Shedd Aquarium’s galleries and exhibits. Here are some other offerings for a great visit:

  • Animal Spotlights: These presentations introduce you to select animals that call Shedd home. Stop by the Abbott Oceanarium and join an animal care expert highlight amazing adaptations of belugas, sea lions, dolphins or penguins.
  • Touch Experiences: Interact with a living fossil at the sturgeon touch in Shedd’s At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit to feel their leathery texture and hard bony plates. Or dip your hand into the cool water of the sea star touch in Polar Play Zone to discover their strong skin and examine their hundreds of tiny tube feet that help these extraordinary animals feel, feed and move around their environment.
  • Virtual Add-On: Immerse yourself with 360-degree, 3-D live-action journey into virtual reality “Swimming with Humpbacks.”
  • Guided Tour Add-On: During the 75-minute tour, guests will experience the best of Shedd and encounter the aquatic animals that call the aquarium home like never before. Explore the iconic Caribbean Reef exhibit and learn more about the rescued green sea turtle Nickel. Sit in the best seats in the house for an Animal Spotlight, and afterward have an exclusive chat with an animal care expert to hear first-hand about what it takes to care for aquatic life at Shedd. Then go behind-the-scenes Wild Reef for an in-depth look at the shark habitat. The Must See Tour is the perfect way to hit all the highlights in just a little over an hour.

PHOTOS: High resolution visuals of Shedd Aquarium are available for download: Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez