After a year of not doing any public indoor activities, we decided we needed a change. Being outdoors had been difficult in February in Chicago, so we wondered whether it’d be safe to visit Shedd Aquarium. On the website, the listed precautions include limited capacity, timed entry and mandatory masks. Traffic is also directed in one way in most areas. Reading this made me feel somewhat more reassured, so we decided to buy tickets. We told ourselves that if we felt it was unsafe we’d leave. This is our experience visiting Shedd Aquarium in 2021.
We chose to buy tickets for opening at 9 a.m. In our experience attractions are less crowded if you show up close to opening. We had no trouble finding street parking for $10 for about 4-5 hours. This is much cheaper than the Soldier Field parking. (You can also use Spothero to find parking nearby if you don’t mind a farther walk.) The first thing we noticed is that entry is limited to the accessible entrance, not the main entrance (the main stairs). Visitors formed a line that was at times distanced and at times not. Once you enter your belongings are checked and you are asked to sanitize your hands.
It was easy to stayed distanced in most cases except the Amazon exhibit. This section tends to be crowded even before COVID-19, because people spend more time watching the tanks. It’s clear that some people don’t know how to keep their distance, which can be frustrating. My biggest tip is to be patient and give the people in front of you time to look. Stay at least 6 feet away from them until they continue to walk. The good news is that in some sections we had plenty of room. The special exhibit also was too crowded for our liking, so we skipped it.
We didn’t encounter anyone not wearing a mask, thankfully. I found that the most challenging part of the visit was keeping our kids from touching surfaces. Frequent hand sanitizing is key.
The Bubble Cafe was open for lunch and tables were spread out. Please enter at the right entrance. Limiting traffic is important to help distancing. Tables had signs that they had been sanitized and there was a worker who was in charge of cleaning after each family left the table. It was our first time eating in public in a year, so it felt wrong. We quickly ate and then put our masks back on.
We had fun as a family and the girls took home stuffies. It was a nice change of pace after our mental health had suffered from doing the same thing every day last year. If everyone follows the rules visitors can stay safe and enjoy their time at the Shedd Aquarium in 2021.