If Shedd Aquarium's 2012 attendance figures are any indication, baby belugas, sea otters, jellies, penguins are other sea life are quite the draw.
According to a Thursday release, the Shedd welcomed 2.17 million visitors in 2012, making it not only the most popular cultural attraction in Chicago, but the top-attended aquarium in the entire country.
“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,” Shedd President and CEO Ted A. Beattie said in a statement.
The Sun-Times cites the aquarium's mega-popular "Jellies" exhibit as the bump that pushed Shedd's attendance numbers past former first-place holder, the Georgia Aquarium. Georgia had previously been the most-visited U.S. aquarium for the past five years.
Shedd eked past Georgia by about 57,000 visitors, according to the Tribune. Museum and zoo attendance to Chicago-area institutions was up overall by about 4 percent, with the Tribune breaking down all the numbers in its report.
Earlier in January, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago were granted approval to raise their admission prices. Shedd's general admission of $8 for adults on non-resident discount days is significantly lower than other museums, though the common "Shedd Pass" that permits access to more of the aquarium is higher than most, at $28.95.