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Bridget Coughlin, Shedd's CEO, stands before Shedd's historic bronze doors. Bridget C. Coughlin, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer

Sharing the Spark—Celebrating Increased Access at Shedd Aquarium

At Shedd Aquarium, we’re constantly reminded how animal encounters change lives. We see it in thrilled smiles from children who’ve just watched a dolphin glide by. We hear it when guests—and staff members—debate their favorite animal sighting. We celebrate it when guests share that a day at Shedd inspired them to #SheddTheStraw, eat sustainably or even pursue a dream of working with animals.

We know that a day at Shedd can spark compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. That’s what prompted us to make changes last July to increase access like never before.

The front entrance to Shedd Aquarium with banners announcing "All Are Welcome".

Shedd streamlined access under a single general admission package, easing the path into the building. We expanded our Illinois Resident Free Days, sponsored by Ford Motor Company Fund, to include nearly all exhibits and programs at Shedd. We welcomed our nearest neighbors, reducing admission for Chicago residents by 50 percent. And we eliminated cost-of-admission barriers for qualified low-income visitors by offering them free entry through the Museums for All program, powered by ComEd.

Thousands of military families added Stingray Touch and Caribbean Reef to their summer memories through Shedd’s participation in the Blue Star Museums program, which offered them free entry. More than 13,000 Museums for All guests from around the country joined us for free visits as well, coming to Shedd to experience one of our core values, looking nature in the eye.

A young boy sits among many other people standing and sitting next to the floor-to-ceiling side of Wild Reef's shark habitat. He is looking up in wonder as a shark swims above, directly above him due to the curved top of the glass.
Two members of the Army National Guard consider and touch a shark jawbone in Wild Reef as an expert explains.

“Thank you, Shedd Aquarium,” one guest shared, “for your ‘All Are Welcome’ banners and for so generously and thoughtfully opening your doors to my family with free admission by showing my EBT card without any questions asked or hesitation by your staff. We had an extraordinary experience there. We learned a lot and simply loved having an adventure together in the city.”

We continue to look for ways to sustain these life-changing connections—and expand them too, working with community groups, new partners and guests of all abilities. Thank you to everyone who has supported us in this vision. Every guest who gains access to Shedd is one more person to help us build a world thriving with aquatic life, sustained by people who love, understand and protect it.