Shedd Aquarium with preschoolers + tips & tricks for a successful trip!

January 17, 2017

Disclaimer:  I received complimentary admission for my family of four in exchange for this blog post.  All opinions and ideas within in the post are my own!

We had the opportunity to visit Chicago this weekend, and what a treat!  We didn’t do any traveling this year over the holidays, but since we are moving to the West Coast in only 13 weeks (we found out we are moving sooner than expected) we wanted to get away to Chicago one more time while we still live so close by.  Visiting Chicago in January with two small children in tow, visiting the Shedd Aquarium is non-negotiable.  It is cold outside, but the aquarium is warm, toasty, educational, and interactive.

The Shedd really represents the kind of place I want to homeschool my children at.  They talk about their conservation efforts, share ways children can preserve their ecosystem, all while providing many opportunities for hands on learning and bonding.  There is so much to see and discuss with your kids, and I find the darkness of some exhibits to be calming if your younger kids get easily overstimulated.

I read online that the show would be too much for younger kids, but I didn’t find this to be true.  My boys were really into it!  They loved watching the dolphins jump and dance.  I got misty eyed during the show as they talked about a dog who had been returned to the shelter three times his first year of life.  I was so happy to see him thriving at the Shedd, and my two year old dog enthusiast adored watching him do tricks.

The bottom level is full of interactive opportunities to learn.  The kids could touch sea critters or pretend to be penguins.  With a 2.5 year old and 4.5 year old, this was a really fabulous area.  They were engaged and learning, but they didn’t even know it.  Another component I appreciated, the tables outside of exhibits.  My son had a wonderful time matching the fish from the tablet to the fish in the tank!  Then, it was easy to sneak in interesting pieces of information about the fish.

We did visit the gift shop, but didn’t purchase anything.  There were several books I jotted down the title for to check out at the library, but we try not to purchase items at gift shops.  I don’t want to set that precedent! The shirts are extremely reasonably price, I noted.  Two for 25 for kiddos and 2 for 30.00 for adults.   Since we actually drove up that morning, we didn’t pack lunch. If local, I strongly encourage you to pack a lunch and save that expense.  I was really disappointed, like REALLY, DISAPPOINTED in the food I got.  I went for chicken tenders, and couldn’t even eat them.  They were hard as rocks and both mine and my husband’s fries were cold.  It was pretty hard to be cranky about my mediocre lunch, when I had such a perfect view of Lake Michigan on one side, and two little boys sharing their excitement of Otters on the other.  The boys enjoyed their pizza, for sure.  If I could reorder my lunch, I would have eaten at the Burrito Gusto, the guests eating bowls and burritos from there had tantalizingly delicious looking lunch trays.

It wasn’t very busy in there, and I attribute that to arriving right when they opened.  I think a Friday is a wonderful morning to go, because kids are in school.  Bring 1.00 in quarters so you can get a locker for your coats and things you don’t need all day.  We took our time, and we were very leisurely and spent about four hours in there.  The boys were exhausted and fell asleep before we left the parking lot!

We may have overpaid for parking, I’m not sure what the standard downtown parking costs generally are.  We always pay in the 22.00 lot between the Field Museum and the Shedd.  In the past, we’ve hit both in one morning before nap.  This has worked well for us to maximize our parking money!  Additionally, if you belong to certain local science museums across the country, you get free admission to the Field museum.  (and other Chicago attractions, actually.)  If you don’t belong to a science or children’s museum, that participates in the ASTC program.  Check out the Chicago City PASS. It is another way to land great savings on a fabulous Chicago weekend.  Also, military members receive free admission, too! Kids 2 and under are also free.

I have nothing but praise for the Shedd Aquarium and all they are doing to teach families more about the ocean and how they can make a huge difference in their own backyards!  My boys got to touch a Sturgeon, see three Bulgoga whales from arm’s length, and watch dolphins soar through the water and jump into the sky.  With adequate planning, this special experience can be affordable too! 

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