History of the Shedd Aquarium

History of the Shedd Aquarium

After you’ve enjoyed one of our exciting Chicago Architecture Tours, you might ask, “What else should we do in Chicago?” Go down to the Museum Campus, right by Soldier Field, to explore the Shedd Aquarium. Spend your day with us, and then stop by one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world to discover the mysteries of the deep.

History and Design

Shedd Aquarium

Established in 1930, the John G. Shedd Aquarium was one of the first inland aquariums in the world. Its location so far from the ocean required the creation of a specially designed railroad car, the Nautilus, to transport fish and seawater from Key West, Florida all the way to the Chicago. A total of 1,000,000 gallons of water were moved to fill the original 132 exhibit tanks. The innovative car was used for nearly 30 years, until it was finally retired in 1959.

The facility expanded in 1971 to include a massive 90,000-gallon Caribbean exhibit with a living coral reef on display for visitors to see. That same year, the Aquarium received funding for the first of its exploratory vessels, the “Coral Reef,” a manned 75-foot vessel charged with the mission to explore the waters of the Caribbean, conduct research, and bring back specimens for study. The original vessel was replaced by the current ship, the “Coral Reef II,” in 1985 and continues its mission of education and exploration to the present day.


The Shedd Aquarium features a number of permanent exhibits that are open to the public year-round, including:

  • Waters of the World – The oldest exhibit in the facility features galleries that highlight the varying types of waterways found throughout the world.
  • Amazon Rising – An 8,600 sq. ft. interactive exhibit that features more than 250 species of living rainforest plants that lets visitors to learn about the fragile ecosystem of the rainforest during a walkthrough tour.
  • Stingray Touch – A seasonal outdoor exhibit that allows visitors to touch live stingrays and learn about conservation efforts for threatened species of marine life.
  • Abbott Oceanarium – A large addition housing a variety of marine wildlife, including penguins, sea lions, and sea otters, as well as a 2,000,000-gallon whale harbor that enables visitors to see their favorite marine mammals in action.

The Shedd Aquarium Is the Perfect Destination after Your Shoreline Sightseeing Architectural Tour

Schedule a Chicago Architecture tour today and learn about the Windy City from our knowledgeable guides. Then take your family over to the Shedd Aquarium to experience the splendor of aquatic wildlife up close.