Greater Cleveland Aquarium

cleveland-aquariumAdmission to the Cleveland Aquarium: adult $19.95 / ages 2-12 $13.95 / under 2 years Free. Parking $3-$6.

  • Open: Everyday 10:00am-5:00pm
  • Location: (Map It) 2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland, OH 44113
  • Phone: 216-862-8803
  • Web: Click here

Greater Cleveland Aquarium in downtown Cleveland, Ohio: It’s fitting that to enter the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, you have to go down a flight of stairs.* It suggests that you’re about to dive in to something new and a little bit unusual.

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is in The Powerhouse, which was built in 1892 to generate electricity to run streetcars. The iconic brick building has hosted several high-energy outlets since then, including comedy clubs, restaurants, and retailers. As most architects will tell you, there’s not much you can do with the building except let it shine – and renown design firm Marinescape NZ Limited lets it do just that.

The first exhibits visitors see are dedicated to Ohio’s freshwater fish – and let’s give the brook trout its due; it is a splendid creature – but admittedly, most visitors don’t go to see the trout. That said, it’s hard to pick a single species that qualifies as the star of the show.

As guests make their way from room to room through the exposed-brick hallways, they encounter alligators, eels, lobsters (look up!) octopi, clownfish, cuttlefish and wonderpus (the latter two recently introduced in the ‘Weird and Wonderful’ exhibit) before reaching the expansive touch pool.

While most of the aquarium is most aptly described as an “underwater walk-through experience,” the touch pool is just that. Clad in wetsuits, members of the education staff patiently answer questions about the bonnethead shark that’s circling their legs while they help guests get to know animals, from starfish and stingrays to lobsters and horseshoe crabs.

Certainly, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium is an educational bonus for area students. Field trips are a huge draw, and educational programs are designed to reinforce Ohio’s science standards. And even when a couple of buses are parked outside, there’s room inside for plenty of other guests to gather around the touch pool and enjoy all the exhibits.

Speaking of all the exhibits, of course there are sharks here, some of which are more than seven feet long. As fascinating as they are, you’ll probably agree they’re just about as close as you really want them to be, swimming alongside the walkway behind the acrylic “sea tube” that’s three or four inches thick. Want to watch them eat? You’ll find the feeding schedule on the website.

But on my recent visit I realized the aquarium isn’t just for kids. Architecture buffs point out innovative design features with at least as much enthusiasm as kids have for some of the more exotic sea creatures. Marketing Assistant Joe Prada pointed out they’ve had a few proposals at the aquarium since it opened. I won’t spill the beans about just a hopeful groom can pop the question, but let’s just say most of the proposals include some, er, deep thinking. And events such as the Fourth of July Red, White & Brew celebration, which featured both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on the patio (two drink tickets were included with each adult admission) indicate that the staff is savvy enough to realize that when it comes to attendance, kids are a driving influence, but it’s mom and dad who are driving. If the trip’s fun for everyone, they’ll go back.

*an elevator is available for those unable to manage stairs

Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler by Diane Stresing