The Shedd Aquarium is a great place to bring your children, your deep-sea curiosity or your deep-seated melancholy: The museum's line of fish can entertain, educate or sooth with the flip of a fin.
Start your visit at the Caribbean Reef just past the Group Lobby. Under an ornate glass dome, the Reef bubbles with bonnethead sharks, vividly colored fish and an adorable green sea turtle named Nickel. TV projectors above the tank provide in-depth info on the sea creatures, and surrounding plaques offer tidbits of trivia. If you've got a pressing question (like a very young guest who was overheard wondering "where do fish sleep?"), wait for a volunteer diver: The flippered folk appear throughout the day and can answer your inquiries from underwater.
But if you're not in the mood to study the aquarium field-trip style, tune out all that educational stuff by pressing your forehead to the glass; you'll feel like you're swimming with the sharks or trundling over the faux coral yourself. In the Waters of the World Exhibit, get creeped out by the dark and slimy Australian lungfish (they look like something out of Ursula the sea witch's garden) or stand inches from giant, sunbathing lizards at Amazon Rising.
Finally, the Oceanarium is (in this museum-hopper's opinion) the jewel in the Shedd's crown: Encased completely in glass, the giant room looks out over the lake and offers views of the Adler Planetarium, Navy Pier and the city skyline. Beluga whales and dolphins glide, flip and careen through an infinity-style pool. One level down, an underwater observation area provides floor-to-ceiling views of the underwater creatures.
All-access passes cost $23 for adults/$16 for seniors and kids 3-11 ($17 and $12 for Chicago residents, respectively).
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg