5+ Aquariums in PA: Best & Closest Aquarium Options

Pennsylvania is home to a several aquariums throughout the state that provide an opportunity to explore and learn about aquatic creatures.

Whether you’re a resident of Pennsylvania or planning a trip to the area, visiting an aquarium can be an exciting and educational experience for all ages.

Here, we’ll highlight some of the best aquariums in Pennsylvania and what makes each one unique.

From freshwater fish to sharks and rays, Pennsylvania’s aquariums offer a diverse range of marine life to discover. So, grab your family and friends and get ready to dive into the fascinating world of aquatic creatures!

While Pennslylvania may be known for it’s important historic sites, Philly cheesesteaks, fun indoor water parks, hot air balloon festivals and Hershey’s chocolate, they’re also home to some amazing aquariums!

#1 Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Website

The Pittsburg Zoo is a nonprofit organization and is the largest zoo and largest aquarium in the state. They have amazing animals including:

  • Exotic animals
  • Kunekune pigs
  • Polar bears
  • Sea lions
  • Aquatic life from around the globe

Our family loves visiting this aquarium (and partly because we get to see the elephants and other animals too!), as they have the fish and aquatic creatures you would expect but they also have some of the larger sea animals like sea lions, otters and some sharks.

We’ve even participated in some of their educational programs which were amazing! If you’re able to do an animal encounter, definitely do it!

And don’t get me started on the penguins! They are just too cute and it’s so fun to get to see them up close and swimming.

This aquarium (which used to be called the PPG aquarium), has a Sea Turtle Second Chance Program which helps with wildlife conservation.

#2 Electric City Aquarium & Reptile Den

Scranton, Pennsylvania | Website

This aquarium is definitely a popular tourist destination that has exotic fish, sea turtles, snakes, lizards, and more. The Electric City Aquarium & Reptile Den is home to some of your more familiar creatures as well as others from around the world.

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As you go through the aquarium, you’ll spend time at exhibits like:

  • Ocean tank
  • Sea turtle tank
  • Reptile den
  • Stingray bay
  • Interactive exhibits including touch tanks

In addition to seeing all the aquatic life, you will also see a lot of reptilian life. Kids love the reptile petting zoo. At Stingray Bay, you have the opportunity to touch and feed the stingrays too!

#3 The Aquariums

State College, PA | Website

The Aquariums is actually on the campus of Penn State in the student union building, Hub-Robeson Center, on the ground level. If you’re a student or a visiting family, this is a nice place to stop for a quick visit as there is no admission cost.

There are 2 saltwater aquariums that were donated by the class of 1999. The tanks have 40 different species of coral and brightly colored exotic and tropic fish including:

  • Clown-fish
  • Surgeon fish
  • Blue-legged hermits
  • Starfish
  • Blue face angles
  • Sponges
  • and more

Aquariums Near PA

These aquariums are close to Pennslyvania so that you can easily be able to visit without going too far and are well worth it.

#4 Adventure Aquarium

Camden, NJ | Website

While not technically in Pennsylvania, Adventure Aquarium is located right over the bridge in New Jersey on the Camden waterfront. Since the aquarium sits just a few minutes outside of Philadelphia, this is still considered one of the top Philadelphia attractions.

If you’re in Philadelphia and wondering if you should go to the Philadelphia Zoo to see aquatic animals, for a closer look at these creatures, you’ll definitely want to go to Adventure Aquarium instead.

  • Over 15,000 aquatic animals
  • Underwater shark tunnel
  • HIppos
  • A shark bridge that hangs just above Shark Realm
  • Stingrays
  • 3D Theater

Adventure Aquarium is actually home to the largest collection of sharks in the Northeast. You can visit to see everything from sea turtles, sea stars, and…

Fun fact: this aquarium is the only one in the world to have Nile hippos on exhibit

Source: National Aquarium Baltimore

#5 The National Aquarium

Baltimore, MD | Website

If you’re willing to go on a day trip, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD is an amazing aquarium to go to and it’s only 90-minutes from Philadelphia. This aquarium is one of the most renowned aquariums in the United States.

Being the most renowned aquarium in North America, you can be sure they have a wide variety of aquatic ecosystems.

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We’ve been to this aquarium a number of times (I remember going when I was little) and it’s easy to spend hours here (practically the whole day), mesmerized by all the exhibits and creatures.

Source: National Harbor

The kids really enjoyed the dolphins and the jellyfish moving around.

Their conservation efforts are to combat climate change, save wildlife and habitats, and to stop plastic pollution so they are doing a lot for not only the earth but also for the creatures who live here.

The National Aquarium is really the industry leaders when it comes to aquariums.

#6 The New York Aquarium

Brooklyn, New York | Website

The New York Aquarium is only 90-minutes from Philadelphia making it an easy day trip.

This was really a phenomenal experience and we had a blast interacting with different animals. The newer shark exhibit is very big and the kids loved watching the sharks swim by so close.

Source: New York Aquarium

Some of the highlights from our visit were:

  • The live seal show
  • Seeing penguins and sharks
  • Interactive kids area
  • Shark tank tunnel
  • 4D show in the Aqua Theater

If you visit on Wednesdays at 3pm, you can get in free or give a donation but you need to reserve your spot online the Monday prior. Just note, there will be a lot of people at this time so if you don’t want to visit with the crowds, go another day.

Note: as you can probably expect with New York, the aquarium has paid parking. It has filled up before on weekends so make sure to go early or plan some extra time to find parking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the largest aquarium in Pennsylvania?

The largest aquarium in Pennslyvania is The Pittsburg Zoo and Aquarium. The marine aquarium is 2-stories and has 45,000 square feet with a number of aquatic habitats.

How many aquariums are in PA?

There are 3 aquariums in Pennsylvania (although only 2 that the general public will likely visit) and there are 2 out-of-state aquariums that can easily be visited on a day trip without going too far.

Does Erie have an aquarium?

There is no aquarium in Erie, PA. The closest aquarium to Erie is the Pittsburg Zoo & Aquarium. The Erie Zoo, however, reopened in 2023 after previously losing it’s accreditation.

Photo of author

Emma Williams

Emma was born and raised in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the state with her 3 kids, husband and Labrador. She loves nature and finding new, fun places to go.