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Shedd Aquarium Ranked First as Best Attended in the US


Nearly 2.17 million visitors discovered the wonders of the water world at Shedd Aquarium in 2012, earning  Shedd the highest spot in attendance among all aquariums in the United States. The World’s Aquarium welcomed exactly  2, 169, 333 guests, which also helped the iconic Chicago institution hold its ranking as most-attended cultural attraction for the  sixth year in a row. 

“The entire Shedd Aquarium organization is grateful to our supporters who made us the top-attended aquarium in the country last year, which in turn, allows Shedd to provide world-class care for our 32, 500 animals, educate the millions of guests who enter our doors and contribute to conservation research globally, ” said Ted A. Beattie, president and CEO. “Each one of our members, guests, donors, partners and other friends of the aquarium enable us to share our passion for animals and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.”

pacific white sided dolphin shedd aquariumLast year, more than 29 percent – or 634, 238 guests – entered the aquarium’s Original Galleries with free admission. In an effort to be one of Chicago’s most accessible cultural institutions, Shedd offers 52  Illinois Resident Discount Days throughout the year, daily discounts  for Chicago residents, students and senior citizens as well as free  admission for teachers, police and fire personnel, and active-duty  military. 

Related: Interview with Ted A. Beattie, CEO, Shedd Aquarium / Aquariums: Rob Hicks, Director of Displays Development SEA LIFE, Merlin Entertainments

Shedd subsidized nearly $1.45 million for school children throughout Illinois, helping 52, 961 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students learn through free field trips and both on-site and off-site educational classes. In addition, 114, 370 schoolchildren throughout Illinois visited Shedd with free admission.  For economically disadvantaged Chicago Public Schools, Shedd’s bus fund program  sponsored by Target provided 289 buses last year. 

“Swiping a finger across a screen can lead to endless information in the classroom, but zoos and aquariums like Shedd provide hands-on learningexperiences and meaningful connections with the animals in their care to create moments for guests that cannot be replicated, ” said Jim Maddy, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – the national accreditation organization establishing excellence in the community. “Accredited institutions across the country contribute to world-class public education, local economies, entertainment that inspires, field conservation, and supportive research to ensure survival for many of our planet’s threatened and endangered species.”

Shedd celebrated incredible growth throughout the institution in 2012. The aquarium grew its global footprint, expanding its conservation research portfolio from Guyana to the Great Lakes, responded to rescue and rehabilitation needs across the nation, and celebrated the birth of Shedd’s first Pacificwhite-sided dolphin calf and sixth beluga whale calf, among other highlighted achievements. 

“Shedd is a smart institution with a rich history in the City of Chicago. The aquarium will continue to further its mission through innovation and excellence, evolving to enhance every visitor’s experience, ” said Tyrone C. Fahner, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Shedd. “I’m so proud to work alongside this organization’s strong leadership and committed staff, and congratulate them on another year of remarkable achievements.”

Home to more than 1, 500 species making it the most diverse collection in the world, Shedd directly engages guests through animals, education programs and conservation initiatives. In its 83rd year, Shedd continued popular programs, extending the chance for guests to experience enchanting sea jellies in the Jellies exhibit, and opportunities to get funky with the fishes at the after-hours Jazzin’ at the Shedd summer concert series. 

Shedd Aquarium is proud to be one of the 11 museums that comprise Museums In the Park (MIP), a coalition of Chicago museums located on Chicago Park District property. Visitors to Shedd Aquarium accounted for one-third of the coalition’s overall attendance in 2012.

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