If you’re busy checking off items on your summer bucket list, add in a visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Located in the Powerhouse in the Flats, the GCA building is unique with exposed ductwork and curved brick walls and smokestacks serving as a cool backdrop to a variety of aquatic creatures. The Aquarium features several round tanks, giving visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with the creatures on display. Many are low enough to be eye-level to stroller occupants.
As you enter GCA, you’ll walk through an area that highlights the aquatic life found in Ohio’s lakes and rivers. From there, you’ll move on to view what is contained in lakes and rivers of the world, which feature tanks showcasing aquatic life from Australia, Asia, South America and Africa. One of the first fish you’ll see is the giant gourami, Toby. He’s the one with a huge forehead (a five-head) who is native to Southeast Asia and thrives in slow-moving fresh water.
You’ll also see the African Tortoises, who came to GCA from an animal sanctuary. Purchased as pets, the tortoises were either donated to or rescued by the sanctuary because they were abused, neglected or unwanted. Visitors are encouraged to interact with them by touching their shells; these tortoises love this friendly form of communication.
The Indo-Pacific gallery displays fish from the Red Sea, Eastern Asia, Indonesia, Fiji and Hawaii. One of the main attractions is the venomous lionfish. With its red and white zebra-like stripes, he’s the star attraction in the large, round tank.
The Northern Pacific area boasts three cold-water arch exhibits that feature unique creatures such as green surf anemones, longhorn decorator crabs, and California sea cucumbers along the log hallway that once served as the Powerhouse’s coal chute. As you reach the end of the chute, you’ll turn the corner and walk under our Giant Pacific Octopus tunnel tank.
Next, the Coastal gallery is a fan favorite, with an 11,000 gallon Touch Pool. At this Touch Pool, you’ll learn the “two-finger touch” technique to let you safely interact with friendly stingrays. When we were there, one ray was particularly active, seemingly trying to splash water at an older gentleman in a loud Hawaiian shirt, so dress accordingly. This area also features live coral, which GCA has been growing from tiny fragments from other institutions, letting them display live coral without harming fragile natural reefs. In this 500-gallon exhibit, Candy Cane, Striped Mushroom, Trumpet and many other colorful corals are on display.
In one of the Powerhouse’s original smokestacks, you can look up to see the moon jellyfish exhibit in the Discovery Zone and watch the jellies as they appear to glow in the dark.
One of the coolest things to see is the Shark SeaTube gallery. Holding 230,000 gallons of water, it’s home to four species of sharks and an amazing variety of aquatic life. But the coolest feature, by far, is the 175-foot SeaTube which provides unprecedented viewing of sharks, moray eels, groupers, stingrays and more. If you time it right, you may be able to take a selfie with a shark.
Feeding time at the aquarium takes place at 3:30 PM each day. This gives visitors an opportunity to watch as the aquatic animals in one of six areas: the Amazon exhibit, Sea Tube, Cave exhibit, Archerfish exhibit, Gamefish, or Sharks receive their afternoon meal. Typically, the GCA divers are in the shark exhibit each morning and afternoon. There will also be animal encounters of some type; you’ll receive a copy of that days schedule when you purchase your admission tickets.
At around $20 for adults (age 13 and up) and $14 for kids (age 2 to 12), the cost of admission is a little steep. There are plenty of experts on hand to answer questions, so depending on how inquisitive your kids are, that may be well worth the price. Plan on spending at least 90 minutes when you visit. Your admission tickets are good all day; you can reenter once you exit as long as the Aquarium is not at capacity. After you experience the Aquarium, if you plan to return, you might want to consider applying the cost of the day’s admission toward the purchase of an annual pass, which provides free admission and free parking for a year.
For more information about the aquarium, visit: greaterclevelandaquarium.com.