Having visited the Chattanooga Aquarium, we decided to compare. Chattanooga has the world's largest freshwater aquarium. Could Charleston surpass it? Yes. It gave me a wonderful understanding of the flora and fauna of S.C.'s five regions. I appreciated the explanation of the Piedmont, French for foot of the mountain. We were astonished by the beautiful and the not so beautiful fish, alligators, snakes, and other amazing features of nature.
What makes this aquarium most special is its location right on the harbor. With all that there is to see inside, I was constantly drawn to the outside and the amazing closeness to the activities in the harbor: tug boats and huge cargo ships, pleasure boats, Fort Sumter, and playful dolphins which broke the surface of the water. There are balconies and areas around the aquarium where visitors drink in the fresh air and the sights. We couldn't believe how close we were to the tug boats as they connected to a loaded container ship that needed safe passage through the channels. There is an interactive touch tank inside where visitors can touch horseshoe crabs and sea urchins. This aquarium is a treasure.
Look up the S.C. Aquarium at www.scaquarium.org for information about hours, prices, new arrivals, and special activities that are changing throughout the year. There is also a link there to many other aquariums, and I have discovered that seeing one does not make me say, "Been there, done that." I would love to see more for myself. Cost is a factor, however. The Charleston Aquarium is $14 for adults, $7 (4-12), and free (under 3). I think it is worth the money. There is an IMAX theater beside the aquarium and apparently a Fort Sumter museum under construction. There is a park and there are other sights of interest in the historic district closeby.
There is a very nice parking garage across the street from the aquarium. It charges by the hour and provides a convenient place to safely park your car out of the sun. There is no parking along the street by the aquarium complex.