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Best Things to See, Touch, Hear and Do at Shedd Aquarium This Summer

May 30, 2019

A young visitor takes a photo of the shark habitat in the Wild Reef.

Calling all animal enthusiasts and nature lovers this summer to Shedd Aquarium to get immersed in the aquatic world. Whether it's a visit to the aquarium for the popular Jazzin' at the Shedd evening events or in a kayak in the Chicago River, there's something for guests of all ages and interests.

Be Immersed in Nature

  • Explore: Paddle the Chicago River, remove litter and monitor wildlife with Shedd conservation experts in the aquarium's Kayak for Conservation program.
  • See: Experience Shedd like an insider by joining one of the aquarium's experts on a 45-minute guided walk through the galleries to hear about your favorite animals with a Private Personalized Tour. Or see Shedd from the perspective of our animal care staff during a Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
  • Touch: Dip your hands into the 78-degree habitat to discover the unique texture and movement of cownose rays in the popular seasonal outdoor exhibit, Stingray Touch.
  • Hear: Live jazz at Shedd every Wednesday night this summer during Jazzin' at the Shedd. Experience great music, the city skyline, fireworks and animals.
  • Do: Get your hands dirty and help restore local habitats during Shedd's Great Lakes Action Days (GLADs).
  • Learn: Join a Teen Science Expedition: Apostle Islands to conduct science experiments and methods in the field to learn about animals or drop by the Teen Learning Lab at Shedd to follow your curiosity about science, animals, art and the natural world. There's also a variety of learning opportunities for all ages through the youth, family and adult programming.
  • Experience: Beauty worth saving in Shedd's special exhibit Underwater Beauty, sponsored by Citadel, that features the dreamlike patterns of angelfishes, wrasses, tangs and butterflyfishes.
Urban Outpost guests paddle the Chicago River in Kayaks, receiving a nature tour from Shedd experts.

Kayak for Conservation

Beginner to advanced kayakers can paddle the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River with Shedd's conservation experts to monitor wildlife, pick up litter and collect data that contributes to the aquarium's research of the river ecosystem. Running from June 1 through Sept. 28, Kayak for Conservation offers participants the opportunity to make a positive impact on Chicago's rebounding aquatic ecosystem.

  • River Explorers: Introductory paddling experience occurring weekly from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Mondays for $40/person; $34/member
  • River Monitors: Intermediate paddling experience occurring weekly from 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays and Mondays for $50/person; $42/member

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Private Personalized Tours

While a traditional visit to the aquarium is fun, a Private Personalized Tour takes your experience to the next level. Guests can experience Shedd like an insider by choosing from a variety of animals/exhibits they'd like to dive deeper into, with the help of a special tour guide. These 45-minute walking tours will happen daily throughout the summer to ensure guests have plenty of opportunities to design their ideal experience.

  • $74.95 for adults; $64.95 for children; $35 for members

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A guest experience guide showing a couple a long corridor of habitats behind the scenes at Shedd.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour

During this 60-minute guided tour, view the aquarium from a new angle and witness Shedd Aquarium at work. Stop at the onsite animal hospital to learn how preventative care and innovative water-quality practices keep the animals healthy. The final destination is the microbiome laboratory.

  • $59.95 for adults; $49.95 for children; $18.95 for members

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Volunteer talks to children at Stingray Touch.

Stingray Touch

Now open and included in general admission, Stingray Touch offers guests an opportunity to see the schools of stingrays swim, dip their hand into the habitat to interact with the animals and learn about these fascinating fish. The exhibit features facility updates to ensure a barrier-free experience for all guests and has a designated accessible area that allows guests who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to reach the habitat. The seasonal outdoor exhibit can be found on the aquarium's south terrace.

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Guests listen to the band on the terrace at Jazzin' at Shedd.

Jazzin' at the Shedd

Jazzin' at the Shedd is back with a lineup of three of Chicago's top jazz ensembles each week. Jazzin' is a great time to discover the unbelievable that lives here! Wonder how the already technicolor mantis shrimp would look if you could also see ultraviolet light, like it can. And touch the stars - sea stars, that is, whose five-part body plan is unique among all other groups in the animal kingdom.

  • Every Wednesday from 5-10 p.m. starting June 12 and ending August 28
  • $19.95 Chicago residents; $24.95 Nonresidents; Free for Members

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Two teens with long pole graspers search for trash hidden in the sand during a beach sweep.

Great Lakes Action Days (GLADs)

Give back to the wild places in your backyard by cleaning beaches, removing invasive plants and collecting important data through citizen science projects with Shedd's Great Lakes Action Days. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to join and make a difference for local waterways. Events are held year-round at natural areas along our local Lake Michigan shore and throughout the Chicago metro area.

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Three teens in a narrow tandem kayak on the Great Lakes grin for the camera.

Teen Science Expedition: Apostle Islands

Discover Lake Superior's natural treasures while learning about aquatic science and exploring the ecology of the Great Lakes region. Participants will kayak to remote islands and camp in the wilderness, as well as conduct science experiments in the field to learn about animals. This is a 7-day, 6-night camping experience in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

  • July 9-15
  • $2,100 for teens; $1,900 for teen members

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Teens in Shedd's Teen Lab work together on an iPad.

Teen Learning Lab

Discover how Shedd is a place for teens to explore their interests, gain valuable advice from mentors from a variety of careers at the aquarium and make a difference within the aquarium, while connecting with like-minded peers along the way. Follow curiosity about science, animals, art and the natural world in this free space designed by teens for teens.

  • From Memorial Day to Labor Day: Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2-7 p.m.
  • FREE

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Youth, Family and Adult Learning Programs

Shedd Yoga Flow

Before Shedd opens for the day, calm your body and mind with a yoga class held outdoors where you can take in our stunning city and lakeside views. After class, look nature in the eye with an up-close animal encounter or behind-the-scenes experience.

  • June 23, July 7 and 13, August 10 and 25 from 8-10 a.m.
  • $40/class; $35/class for members

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Family Workshops

A two-hour program that includes learning about animals through hands-on activities, animal encounters and/or time in Shedd Aquarium's exhibit spaces. Each program includes a guided art lesson that allows the whole family to create a work of art inspired by nature.

  • Saturday, July 7 from 10 a.m. to Noon (Upcycled Art)

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 A flower hat Jelly at Shedd Aquarium.

Underwater Beauty Special Exhibit

The limited-time exhibition explores the full wonder of our living world, revealing beauty beneath the waves that not only astounds the senses, but motivates guests to protect our waterways. Underwater Beauty, presented by Citadel, will transport guests through a world of stunning aquatic splendor.

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PHOTOS: High resolution visuals of Shedd Aquarium are available for download:

Photo Credit: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez