Hi everyone! Today I’m sharing my visit from the Shedd Aquarium, as well as the Field Museum! Both of these museums are located in Chicago, in the south loop on the museum campus. They’re two of my favorites!
So last week I had a few days off work and quickly arranged a museum day! My sister works at the aquarium so she was able to get us tickets and in we went!
She did join us for a bit to get us started at the new exhibit, “Underwater Beauty” which shows all the colors, patterns, rhythms, and, well, beauty under the water’s surface! We ended up walking through the exhibit four times throughout the day, because it was just so beautiful and fun to see. The peacock mantis shrimp, spotted sea jelly, and so many amazing animals were on display. My mom’s favorite was the jellyfish as she and my dad had no idea they existed until we went to a past exhibit at the Shedd all about jellyfish.
We also went out to the “Stingray Touch” area, where you get to touch stingrays! I love how straightforward the names of the areas are. After washing our hands we went to the pools and my mom, who said she didn’t want to touch a stingray, touched one almost immediately. I have short little arms so I could barely reach them. Eventually I did touch two and they feel so soft! Don’t worry, the stingers were removed from these guys and they live at the Shedd full time so no danger to anyone there. We also saw the garden here which actually provides some food for the animals. There’s a turtle named Nickel in the aquarium who gets a head of lettuce every so often. He was run over by a car I believe and so his back legs are paralyzed, but he has a happy home at the Shedd now.
Oh, my sister also mentioned there’s an area where they used to sell city passes (passes to museums and other attractions around the city) out here but a bird has her nest there and now she divebombs anyone who gets too close. Until the baby birds grow up and leave, they can’t use that area!
After these two areas it was time for the Land & Water Show! My mom and I actually headed in half an hour early as the front seats fill fast. We got front row but only all the way to the side because of school/camp groups that already had space reserved. The dolphins were getting ready for their show and jumping around a bit in the space before being called out of the area. Basically there’s three big tanks that are separated by gates. The middle one is the largest and they use that one for shows. Before each show there’s a host that picks out some kids and they do a few fun activities which are always fun to watch.
Once the kids part is over they bring out a few animals. We got a sea lion (NOT a seal, they’re different!) as well as a few penguins. I’ve gotten a blind sea lion before, a hawk, and an owl in the past so those are options too but sometimes they switch them out or certain animals just aren’t in the mood. I hear the hawk likes to fly away and not come back when asked to a lot haha! The sea lion was a hoot as he did a ton of fun little tricks such as kisses, hugs, foot tapping, and salutes. One of the penguins did a number 2 on stage and was quickly carried away as he didn’t seem into it but the other penguins waddled across the stage just fine.
After all of that we got to see the dolphins! They did a lot of explanations on them, specifically the Pacific white-sided dolphins which is what the Shedd has. After showing us some of the trainings they do with the dolphins and how they care for them, the dolphins did a few tricks and jumps for us. They’re so graceful!
Normally there’s a part with the belugas as well but this time there wasn’t. Like I said, they change it up or sometimes the animals don’t want to do it. Once the dolphins weren’t cooperating at all so they were called out of the area, and the belugas were brought in for an extra long session instead. It all depends and the Shedd does a great job of listening to the animals and what they’re comfortable with that day.
After that we walked to the otters on the side but there were only two of them out and they were swimming below (they have a place behind the habitat if they don’t want to be seen and apparently they’re quite mean!). So we walked downstairs where you can see the animals under water. The otters were fun, and then we watched the dolphins a bit. But the belugas are my favorite so we quickly headed there. On the way is the penguin enclosure which my mom loves! They have two types of penguins and there’s a huge viewing area for them as they’re very popular.
We finally got to the belugas, which are my favorite animal ever. I love their melon heads! We noticed that they were hanging out a lot at the surface so we headed back upstairs to see them from above. Once we arrived my sister texted me that it was her break and asked where we were. I told her to meet us by the belugas and she quickly arrived. Just after that we noticed the trainers coming out to work with the belugas!
Only five of the eight belugas were in the enclosure for trainings so the others were likely in the large middle enclosure. My sister volunteers with the belugas sometimes so she’s starting to recognize them which was SO COOL. During the training they not only work on tricks but also the trainers pretend to take blood samples from the belugas to make sure that when they do need to actually take them the belugas aren’t scared or nervous. They then practice retrieving, jumping out of the water, and even singing on command!
Each beluga gets a symbol and they have to recognize their symbol to know which trainer to go to. My sister said Naya gets a star and she remembers that because Naya is a superstar mom! I think her baby is named Kimalu and hers is half yellow and half black because Naya’s is yellow and her dad’s was a black symbol. Or perhaps it was Grayson that was the baby? Like I said, there were five and it was hard to keep track after awhile!
Anyway, I was over the moon that I was able to see this happen. We must have watched for over an hour, including the time before and after the training session and before and after my sister joined us. I could have watched them all day! (Also the stores do not have beluga jewelry and I am low key offended by that.)
After the beluga watching we headed to the other exhibits. Those are permanent exhibits but still fun! They include exhibits on the Caribbean Reef, the Amazon, the Great Lakes, and more. There’s an anaconda, tarantula, and monkeys in the Amazon section, which I like to tell my sister escaped. The Caribbean Reef is where kids (and me) yell “DORY” and “NEMO” because they’re in that section. Those are fun too, and the ducks are adorable!
That pretty much concluded our visit to the Shedd. My mom and I sat out on the patio looking out towards the lake and city skyline. It was Lollapalooza weekend too so we could hear that going on in the distance as Grant Park is just north of the museum campus. After that we went to the main shop and my sister joined us after her work shift.
The museum itself isn’t very large but the animals are so nice to watch and each area does take time because you can stop and watch how they behave. I really love the changes the Shedd has made in recent years. The Land & Water Show as well as several special exhibits used to be extra on top of the ticket price. My sister explained that a new president took over who thought that there was no point in the amazing conservation efforts and trainings if no one saw them so he made the tickets more inclusive. The aquarium is already pretty pricey so it’s nice that more people get the chance to see what they do for the animals. Since we get tickets through my sister (or before through my mom’s work as they had a partnership with the Shedd) we try to do stuff like buy some of the merch, get snacks, or (at other museums) do special exhibits which are extra to contribute a bit as well.
We also then walked over to the Field Museum which is next door and my sister also got us in there. I didn’t get many photos as we were sort of rushing through and I wanted to conserve my battery before using my external ones. We first stopped by to meet Maximo, the Titanosaur, the new dinosaur in the main hall! Sue, the T-Rex, which used to be there was moved upstairs. The Field Museum has special exhibits for the mummies and Arctic dinosaurs but we didn’t have much time left so we didn’t buy tickets for those. We did check out the mummies store though which was fun.
The permanent exhibits here include a ton of taxidermy, and my sister actually said that the animals which sadly pass away at the Shedd are sent to the Field so they can work on them. The animals look incredible. There’s the regular animals you see day to day as well as now extinct animals or animals from around the world. In addition to robins or snowy owls there’s flamingoes, giraffes, lions, quetzal birds, peacocks, a hippo, and so much more! We also walked through the Egypt pyramid section and the Africa section.
Upstairs we walked through the exhibit that showed the history of the world from when it was first formed to how life started to form and become what it is today. There was information on the major extinctions and artifacts left from more recent times. This part reminded me of the Anthropology museum we went to in Mexico earlier this year. Oh! And this is where Sue the T-Rex is now, but her hall isn’t complete yet. You can only peek in a bit to see her.
After that we quickly walked through the Hall of Jades and Hall of Gems which, funnily enough, have items made of jade and displays of fine jewelry in them. The Field feels bigger and even though not a lot changes it’s always really interesting. I loved the Ancient Americas exhibit as well as the Pawnee Earth Lodge which is incredibly interactive and you can touch real Native American items.
Then we decided to head out so we could all go home. By this point it was rush hour on a Friday so the bus crawled by but my sister made it to her stop just fine and my mom and I headed off to the train station so we could get some dinner before our train. It was a long and tiring day but super fun and educational for sure!
So that was my day at both the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum! Which one do you think you would prefer? Or would you prefer the Museum of Science and Industry which I wrote about last time? Let me know!
Thanks for reading!
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