The sounds and exclamations of wonder that you hear as you walk through Seattle’s waterfront aquarium are not all from kids, although there are plenty of children squealing, “Look! Look! Look!” as they excitedly point to an octopus, a sea otter, or a tiny seahorse shyly fluttering in its tank. The Seattle Aquarium is a superb introduction to the sea life of the Northwest. You’ll get your first glimpse at the giant “Window on Washington Waters” tank, just inside the entrance, where salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and wolf eels swim among gently swaying kelp beds; and sea anemone, sea urchins, sea stars, and corals cling to large rock formations. Three times a day (10am, 11:30am, and 12:15pm) divers wearing special masks enter the tanks and answer questions from the audience. In “Life on the Edge,” you can reach in to gently stroke the sea urchins and sea cucumbers that are typically found in Pacific tide pools. The male and female Giant Pacific Octopus are kept in separate tanks with a watery corridor between them until it’s time for them to mate, at which point the doors are removed and the two quickly find one another; they are fed at 2 and 4pm daily.

In addition to the many other tanks filled with rare and beautiful fish, the aquarium has outdoor marine mammal pools where adorable (but mean) sea otters float on their backs while eating, and harbor seals dive and bark. You can watch them from the underwater dome or out on the deck. The staff here goes out of its way to answer any questions you or your kids may have.