The 2 Best Aquariums in Virginia

You can collect ocean life samples in Virginia Beach or sleep with the sharks in Lynchburg. Virginia’s aquariums have it all.
Written by Cassandra Hamilton
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you’re looking to encounter ocean life in its natural habitat, you can’t miss the boat tours from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. This pick tops our list for the best aquarium in
While the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center have amazing options for education, they’re not the only aquarium in the state. Head towards the mountains to
to get to SeaQuest for some incredible animal interactions and private event options. 
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#1: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

Address: 717 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
Admission cost: Kids 3-11: $19.95, Adults 12-61: $24.95, Seniors 62+: $22.95
What makes it special:
For kids in Virginia, nothing says a special field trip like a visit to the
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center
. This aquarium and science center specializes in education for the next generation through experiences like toddler programs, youth summer camps, and a conservation series aimed at middle and high school-aged children.
They also have a dazzling display of biodiversity with over 300 species featured. The aquarium’s exhibits cover both land and sea, with everything from two Komodo dragons named Teman and Sanchez to sand tiger sharks and zebra sharks.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center also feature the following marine life:
  • Moray eels
  • Sea turtles
  • River otters
  • Porcupinefish
  • River terrapins 
If you’re looking for activities beyond marveling at exhibits, check out one of the featured activities. You can go on a boat tour to watch dolphins or whales or check out the Adventure Park which has ziplining, rock climbing, and treetop bridges. You can also go on an ocean collections boat tour, where you collect specimens of ocean life like a marine biologist and discuss your findings with a guide. 
Pro Tip Reserve a ticket online for kids aged 0-2!

Conservation efforts at Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center

Conservation efforts at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center include:
  • Stranding response program, which ensures animals that are stranded on beaches are returned to their natural habitats after medical treatment if necessary.
  • Sensible seafood lab, which provides fishermen with guides to what fish are in season to help prevent overfishing and to preserve rapidly disappearing species of fish.
  • A water quality lab that monitors ocean water.

#2: SeaQuest Lynchburg

Address: 3405 Candlers Mountain Rd, Lynchburg, VA 24502
Admission cost: Under 12: $11.99, 12+: $16.99, Military/College/Senior: $14.99
What makes it special:
SeaQuest Lynchburg
is another great option for kids. This aquarium is packed with fun and plenty of options to keep kids of all ages occupied for hours. The aquarium offers guided field trips to children enrolled in schools as well as children who are home-schooled, who often lack opportunities for field trips. 
Check out the following when you’re visiting SeaQuest Lynchburg:
  • Interaction with a baby sloth
  • Go snorkeling with stingrays
  • Have fun at an enrichment session with an otter
  • The Ultimate Adventure bundle includes several animal encounters like the ones listed at a price break
If you’re looking for fun outside of an educational setting, SeaQuest Lynchburg is available to host a multitude of events. Check them out for your next birthday party or after-dark event, and be sure to ask about their most special encounter: the sleep with the sharks overnight event! 

Conservation efforts at SeaQuest Lynchburg

SeaQuest has partnered with local nonprofits to support children’s programs in their area. To help protect the environment, SeaQuest is involved in animal rehabilitation efforts, which are focused on returning animals to the wild when possible. They’re also active in exotic pet rescue to liberate wild animals from private owners who may not have the resources for proper care.
SeaQuest is also home to endangered species such as:
  • A two-toed sloth (threatened species)
  • 400 axolotls (critically endangered species)
  • 4 Asian small-clawed otters (vulnerable species)
MORE: How to choose an eco-friendly car

What is the best aquarium in Virginia?

Now that you’ve got more information on Virginia’s aquariums, perhaps you can decide which aquarium is right for you. Here’s the breakdown:
  • If you’re looking for biodiversity and the chance to participate in the collection of ocean specimens, the best choice is the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. 
  • For animal encounters and awesome overnight experiences, SeaQuest Lynchburg should top your list. 
MORE: 8 pro tips for long car rides with kids

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There are only two aquariums in Virginia, and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is the bigger of the two.
You should plan to stay two to three hours at each of Virginia’s aquariums. This leaves you enough time to explore most of the exhibits and do a deep dive into your favorite experiences and encounters.
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