A Visit to the Oceans of the World

Hallie Witwer

This spring has certainly been a busy one for the city of Cleveland. Besides the normal hustle and bustle of ball games, East 4th street drinking outings, and street fairs, Cleveland also welcomed a new casino and aquarium to the mix. On May 20, I visited the latter and (being a newly developed aquarium enthusiast…yes, I know-nerd alert) I was thrilled to see what they had to offer. Located in the flats, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium occupies the First Energy Powerhouse, which used to power Cleveland’s electric streetcar system. The aquarium took us from an exhibit of local fish straight out of Lake Erie and Ohio rivers all the way to coastal waters worldwide. While not the biggest aquarium I’ve been to, it had 35 wonderful tanks to view and if you have kids, or are just a kid at heart, it is certainly a worthwhile trip.
One of the many fish on display at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium (Witwer 2012)
The first exhibit you see when you walk in is the local section. Filled with all sorts of fish right from our backyard, the exhibit really helped me to appreciate the wide variety of wildlife our lovely lake takes care of. Aside from the fish, there are informative plaques on the wall describing things like invasive species and weather patterns in the area. Seeing a refresher on lake-effect snow made me all the more grateful for the mild winter the gods bestowed upon us this past year. I couldn’t help but notice that in one tank there were seemingly haphazardly placed beer bottles on the bottom. Recreating what the fish are used to in the wild gave me a reality check that we need to watch our littering and makes changes to ensure a more eco-friendly environment for our scaled friends.
New meaning to the phrase “Drinks like a fish.” (Witwer 2012)
After the local exhibit we came to some gorgeous fresh and salt-water fish that, at times, seemed as interested in me as I was in them. Alligators and snakes also made an appearance, bringing a little above-water action into the mix. There was also a tank that held a human inhabitant in a wet suit carrying a tray of creatures around the edge so that all the kids (and myself, of course) could touch a sea creature with their own hands. It’s a fun little addition to really get everyone in on the action. As I gently touched the lobster and starfish before me I was transported back to my childhood for a brief moment, and definitely felt childish disappointment when she moved on to the four-year-old standing next to me. That was most likely my favorite part of the experience.
Alligator on exhibit at Great Cleveland Aquarium (Witwer 2012)
As we continued on past tanks of clownfish and puffers full of personality we arrived at the shark tank. Coming from primarily the Florida coast, the sharks ranged in size, markings, and terror-inducing level. My favorites were the two Nurse sharks that stayed huddled together like life mates enjoying retirement. The 7-foot Sand Tiger sharks were a little less heartwarming and much more menacing, though still completely impressive to observe up close. There were open-mouthed jaws of a shark mounted on the wall next to the tank for observation and the perfect photo-op. The journey ends with a walk through a tunnel that gives you the sensation of being underwater and completely surrounded by the fish and sharks.

Overall, the new Greater Cleveland Aquarium is certainly worth a visit, especially if you have young’uns in the family. Though smaller than some of our neighboring cities’ aquariums, it is off to a great start in only the first year of its creation and I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow and develop!

Greater Cleveland Aquarium
2000 Sycamore St.
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 862-8803

Open Daily: 10:00am – 6:00pm