Aquarium of the Americas

New Orleans

The immense Aquarium of the Americas is loosely regional, with exhibits delving beneath the surface of the Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and far-off Amazon rain forest. The impressive Great Maya Reef lures visitors into a 30ft-long clear tunnel running through a 'submerged' Mayan city, now home to exotic fish. Upstairs, the penguin colony, the sea-horse gallery, a bird jungle and a tank for otters are perennially popular. In the Mississippi River Gallery, look for the white alligator.

On the way out, you'll pass by the the 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico tank – home to sharks swimming placidly around a replica of oil-rig pilings. To that end, it may not surprise you that this exhibit was paid for by several major oil companies. 'Reef Rescue,' ($6) a virtual-reality undersea-exploration activity, is the latest addition to the aquarium's slate of activities.

The adjacent IMAX theater screens educational and commercial movies throughout the day. There are a few pay parking lots around; we prefer the garage at the nearby Shops at Canal Place – the Aquarium will validate your parking ticket, which provides a decent discount.

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