$14 to $17, (856) 365-3300
This aquarium on the bank of the Delaware River in Camden was formerly the New Jersey State Aquarium, but it reopened in May 2005 after a massive renovation and name change. It boasts all the requisite sea life, like the playful saltwater seals and spindly spider crabs that look like something out of an episode of Fear Factor, but it also includes more typical zoo-type animals, like crocodiles, porcupines, and hippos. Speaking of fear, if you're adventurous, you can don a wet suit and swim with Jaws in the ominous shark realm. Actually, there's an experienced shark handler in the water with you, and it's really quite safe.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
This New Orleans aquarium, one of the country's premier facilities, isn't new, but fans are looking forward to its reopening sometime this summer after it was shut down by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. In the meantime, you can help everyone there get back on their feet, or fins, as the case may be, by donating to the Species Survival Emergency Fund.
Aquarius Aquarium Institute
Completion isn't expected until 2011, but plans are well under way for a gorgeous new public aquarium in Fresno, California. The facility, designed by Arthur Dyson, AIA, dean emeritus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, will be built on 10 acres overlooking the San Joaquin River.
$8 to $14, (303) 561-4450
Formerly the Ocean Journey public aquarium in downtown Denver, this million-gallon-plus facility is now privately owned by Landry's Restaurants (along with other "aquarium/restaurants" in Nashville, Houston, and Kemah, Texas). After a redux, it reopened in July 2005, offering programs that let you play marine biologist or zoologist for a day, camp out overnight in the rain forest exhibit, or swim with the fishes - including moray eels and 250-pound grouper! - in the Under the Sea display.
$17 to $23, (404) 581-4000
Increasing traffic to downtown Atlanta is the world's new and largest aquarium, boasting more than eight million gallons of water and more than 100,000 fish. To beat the crowds, avoid midday; go as soon as the aquarium opens or a few hours before closing. Crowds tend to be a little lighter Tuesday through Thursday. You can also shell out an extra $50 per person for a guided behind-the-scenes tour, which takes small groups deep into the aquarium to watch workers feed the fish, inspect the impressive veterinary and kitchen facilities, check out the more than 300 pumps and miles of pipe it takes to run the place, and more.
Gail Benjamin Living Planet Aquarium
$4 to $7, (801) 355-3474
Before construction could begin on its permanent home, Salt Lake City's new aquarium had to shut down and find a bigger space. After a record-breaking crowd showed up to its preview exhibit, officials reevaluated the locale, so its temporary exhibit now has a new home, with 20,000 square feet of space featuring a replica of an 1830s sailing ship and more than 110 species of sea creatures, including a 100-year-old lobster.
North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
$6 to $8, (866) 294-3477
Closed for the past two and a half years to accommodate visitors’ growing expectations, this aquarium on one of the state’s barrier islands, 147 miles southeast of Raleigh, reopened in May at three times its previous size. The exhibits are bigger and better (to the tune of $25 million), but, in keeping with today’s top facilities, the aquarium includes a new 150-seat auditorium, more classrooms, a larger gift shop, and increased guest parking. While you’re there, make a point to check out Blackbeard’s sunken pirate ship and the German submarine in the 300,000-gallon Living Shipwreck exhibition.
$6 to $13, (206) 386-4300
Seattle’s 29-year-old public aquarium is currently in the midst of a $37 million expansion and renovation (scheduled for completion in June 2007). While some of the changes are structural (the aquarium sits on a 100-year-old pier), the enhancements include a 120,000-gallon Window on Washington Waters exhibit, which boasts a 20-by-40-foot panoramic viewing window.