Wild Reef - Shedd Aquarium

The Wild Reef is the best place at Shedd, and surprisingly easy to miss even though it’s well marked. It's directly next to the entrance to the Amazon. You’ll see a large Wild Reef sign which leads you to a small corridor with two elevators that will take you down to it—totally separate from any other part of Shedd.

The Wild Reef is modeled after the area around Apo Island in the Phillipines, one of the most diverse areas for sea life in the world. The best room has a floor to ceiling glass wall with outstanding views of sharks, rays, and other fish, plus a transparent floor that you can watch stingrays through.

The Wild Reef starts with a small pool with waves that are often on. The waves can be somewhat loud, so kids with sensory issues may have trouble getting through, but the rest of the exhibit should be fine (until the end, where you go past the waves area back to the elevator).

As you continue on, don’t miss the large window on your right, with the only large real coral display in the Wild Reef (Coral are actually animals and most fish will eat them—only vegetarian fish are allowed in this area. The rest of the coral in large exhibits are artificial, made of a material that won’t harm fish when they eat it.)

Next is a delightful room with fish on both sides, and overhead. The walls of the tanks are designed to look like a coral reef in the Phillipines—closely based on hundreds of photos taken by a diver who scoured the Philipines for the perfect reef to model at Shedd.

The next main room is the highlight of all of Shedd—the tank with sharks, rays, and a guitar fish. Floor to ceiling walls immerse you in the tank. There are four types of sharks (sandbar, black-tipped reef, zebra, and wobbegong). You should be able to easily find the guitar fish (named Lucy after B.B. King’s guitar), which is the largest animal you’ll see in the tank. She is more closely related to the rays than the sharks (notice the mouth on the bottom as she swims, which is similar to the large ray). In the same room is a transparent floor with rays going underneath that kids will also enjoy. If you've been before, you may remember Ginsu, the 14-foot saw fish; she has moved to the George Aquarium.

Following the largest room is a smaller area with bamboo sharks and catsharks, jellies, and a large play turtle that my kids have spent countless hours climbing on.

Lastly, you’ll see a small area with growing coral and potentially a small fish or two, before returning to the area with elevators (and back to the loud wave pool).