The 2 Best Aquariums in Alabama

Written by Jude Speegle
Published: June 20, 2022
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Alabama is well known for its adherence to southern hospitality and southern tastes. It’s not known as the “Heart of Dixie” for no reason, after all. Hard work and hospitality are the lifeblood of Alabama workers, and we learned that when the very first rocket to the moon was built in this state.

All kinds of animals make their home in the beautiful state of Alabama. With 17 major river systems and more than 20 lakes in the state, it should come as no surprise that there are two excellent aquariums within the state.

These two aquariums are:

  • McWane Science Center
  • Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Now that they’ve been introduced, let’s take a deep dive into what Alabama has to offer in the ways of water.

McWane Science Center

Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis)

The McWane Science Center has sharks you can name.


McWane Science Center
Location200 19th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Animal to SeeSharks
Known ForTouch Tanks

Found in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, the McWane Science Center has three levels in the building that make up all the science and fun it has to deliver. It takes around four to five hours to explore the whole building, so be sure to have an entire day set aside for this adventure.

First opened in 1998, the McWane Science center has been thriving and serving its community for the last twenty-plus years. 

Their many exhibits include: 

  • Shark & Ray Tank- Get up close and personal with the deep sea by reaching in to touch the backs of stingrays or sharks. You can know firsthand whether sharks are rough or smooth. There’s even a chance to name a baby shark!
  • World of Water Aquariums- Begin your oceanic journey with the World of Water Aquariums. These tanks all hold creatures of the salty deep and are thrilling to witness. From jellyfish to moray eels, there is so much to see.
    • Cahaba River Tank- This is a recreation of the Alabama Cahaba River so that you can explore the local ecosystem of Alabama’s free-flowing river. It showcases both underwater and above-the-water habitats to really give you insight into the life you can find there.
    • Lake Tank- This shows the life you can find in an Alabama reservoir. You may not know this, but many Alabama lakes are really reservoirs. A reservoir is a dammed river that causes a flood lake. 
    • Coral Tank- Get to see the endangered coral reefs in this tank and the tropical fish and other species living among them.

Even after you’ve seen all the level one aquarium has to offer, the Science Center is just getting started. Their other exhibits include:

  • Rushton Theater- Presentations and performances are seen in this 108-seating theater. There are also Tesla coils to see and observe on display.
  • ScienceQuest- This holds interactive exhibits to see science at its finest.
  • Bubble Room- Bubbles don’t have to be round. Check out all the ways bubbles can be blown in the bubble room. 
  • VR Transporter– Use state-of-the-art VR equipment to explore galaxies, visit dinosaurs, or dive deep into the oceans.
  • Itty Bitty Magic City- For the little ones, this part of the center is dedicated to teaching kids aged five and under the magic of science.
  • NatureScope- There are live animal shows and nature programs in this excellent environment. Learn about bugs, birds, and more.
  • Sea Monsters- Giant displays of large sea creatures long gone, including a 15-foot sea turtle.
  • Alabama Dinosaurs- Alabama is one of the better places to go “dinosaur hunting,” so there are fossils and skeletons abound.
  • Explore! Collections- Get your hands dirty learning about facets of science that are more hands-on.
  • Science on a Sphere- A six-foot projected sphere to showcase weather on our planet. The technology is out of this world. 

No matter what you’re looking to do, the McWane Science Center has some variations on it, so get ready to explore.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Skate Fish Vs Stingray- Stingray

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab focuses on local Alabama waterways and species.

©Richard Whitcombe/

Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Location101 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528
Animal to SeeStingrays
Known ForOpening in 1971

Make your way down to the east end of Dauphin Island to enter the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, which holds a public aquarium in addition to its conservation, rescue, and research efforts.

Some of the exhibits include:

  • Mobile-Tensaw River Delta- This holds an exhibit on the wetlands of Alabama. The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is the largest wetland in Alabama. Learn about turtles, alligators, and gar.
  • Mobile Bay- Check out the replica of the Mobile Bay Lighthouse amidst stone crabs, blue oysters, flounder, and horseshoe crabs. Mobile Bay has brackish water, which is when freshwater and saltwater mix.
  • Barrier Islands- Alabama’s Barrier Islands hold all sorts of saltwater species of fish and animals, including blue crabs and hermit crabs.
  • Northern Gulf of Mexico- Alabama borders the Northern Gulf of Mexico, so it should be no surprise that a display is targeted at this area. There are octopuses, lobsters, sharks, jellyfish, and red snappers available to be seen.
  • Rays of the Bay- Touch tanks are available for visitors to caress the backs of stingrays that are indigenous to the Alabama area.

Thanks to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, learning about the state of Alabama and its water habitats has never been easier. They are well-known for focusing on local efforts, coastal research, and education.

This aquarium opened in 1971 and has been working hard ever since. There are frequent seminars and boardwalk talks where you can come listen to a presentation about the local waterways and fisheries. 

No matter what you’re doing, these aquariums are worth a visit if you’re an Alabama native or just an intrepid visitor. They provide hours of educational fun, and you wouldn’t want to miss out.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sharjil Khan/

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About the Author

Jude is a writer both by trade and by heart. They have been writing since a very young age and have eight years of professional writing experience. Passionate about animals, Jude has three birds and three cats.

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