The 3 Best Aquariums in (and Near) Iowa

Written by Jude Speegle
Published: June 14, 2022
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Iowa is the birthplace of sliced bread, so nothing is more remarkable, hands down. The state is also known for its fields of corn. In 2019, Iowa produced around 2.58 billion bushels of corn. Iowa has its series of Great Lakes, so it’s no wonder this state would have magnificent aquariums to visit.

The Great Lakes, also known as Okoboji, is a top vacation place. Big Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji Lake are the three biggest lakes. Many rivers also make their way through Iowa.

The Mississippi River itself crosses through Iowa, so Iowa holds the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. There are no other aquariums in Iowa, so we will look through some aquariums from neighboring states, Missouri and Nebraska.

Now that we know what to expect, let’s learn about the aquariums!

1. National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium


©Pavaphon Supanantananont/

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Location350 E 3rd St, Dubuque, IA 52001
Animal to SeeGiant Catfish
Known ForExtensive exhibits on rivers.

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is known for its extensive detail on the rivers of the United States. River ecosystems are essential to understand because they provide an integral service to any habitat.

Rivers provide drinking water to both people and animals. They also help with irrigation so that lands do not flood after heavy rains. Within them are whole ecosystems for various fish and aquatic plants and animals.

There are two buildings at this museum; one focuses on the Mississippi River, and the other centers on the rest of the rivers and how they affect the country.

The many exhibits of this aquarium include:

  • Aviaries
  • Backwater Marsh
  • Barge Theater
  • Bayou
  • Blacksmith Shop
  • Boat Launch
  • Boat Shop
  • Cave Stories
  • Conservation Lab
  • Down in the Delta
  • Dubuque County Historical Society Case
  • Erosion Table
  • First River People
  • Flood Table
  • Flooded Forest
  • Greenhouse
  • Gulf of Mexico Aquarium
  • Ice Harbor
  • Iowa Marine Engine and Launch Works
  • Journey Theater
  • Log Cabin
  • Logsdon Sand & Gravel Barge
  • Main Channel
  • MakerSpace
  • Mississippi River Floor Map
  • Mississippi River Watershed Map
  • National Rivers Hall of Fame
  • Otter Habitat
  • Project Piaba
  • Raptor Roost
  • Revealing the Real Julien Dubuque
  • River Alterations
  • River Map
  • Rivers are Roads
  • Rivers to the Sea
  • RiverWorks Splash Zone
  • Space Wall
  • Wetlab
  • Wetlands
  • William M. Black Dredge Boat

This aquarium has a vast amount of activities to do and plenty of exhibits to help educate you on river systems.

2. Sea Life Kansas City

Animals That Dance

Sea Life Kansas City breeds seahorses.

©Bernard S Tjandra/

Sea Life Kansas City
Location2475 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
Animal to SeeSeahorses
Known For360-degree tunnel

The main attraction of Sea Life Kansas City is a 360-degree tunnel that lets you walk while the sealife swims around you. Explore what this aquarium has to offer and interact with all the activities they have within their exhibits.

Their exhibits include:

  • Sea Turtle Rescue Center
  • Interactive Touchpool
  • Stingray Bay Exhibit
  • Tropical Ocean Exhibit
  • Doodle Reef

At Sea Life Kansas City, they make sure to give back to the community and are involved in multiple conservation efforts. They breed seahorses, rescue injured seals, provide homes for injured wildlife, and have had fundraising efforts to assist with sea turtle conservation.

There is also an extensive display of jellyfish, so you can watch them floating in their habitat, see all the styles and colors, and learn what makes them tick. 

3. Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium

Sea Lion Island - Falklands

There are sea lions at the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium.

©Vladislav T. Jirousek/

Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium
LocationOmaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, NE 68108
Animal to SeeSea Lions
Known For70-Foot Shark Tunnel

The Suzanne and Walker Scott Aquarium makes its home nestled in the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. It is one of the largest aquariums within a zoo in the world.

There are about 1,200,000 gallons of water within this aquarium and so many different species to explore. Many displays take over the aquarium, including the home of the giant pacific octopus.

Watch trained sea lions perform tricks or observe them in their natural habitats. There are penguins to be amused by and sharks to watch. A shark tunnel is also available where you can experience sharks swimming all the way around you in glorious reality.

Some sections showcase different regions, from temperate to polar and beyond. Jellyfish can be spotted swirling in beautiful colonies, and there are touch tanks, too, so you can get the chance to see what a stingray feels like.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Arunee Rodloy/

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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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