While we can all agree a “Sharknado” won’t be hitting your town anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you have to squash your dreams of seeing these aquatic hunters in the flesh. Here are five places where you can actually see sharks in the U.S.

National Aquarium, Maryland

This month, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is introducing its state-of-the-art Blacktip Reef, a 260,000-gallon look at the Indo-Pacific reefs and all that inhabit it. Permanent residents of the new exhibit include sea turtles, corals, hundreds of fish, rays and, of course, blacktip reef sharks. Floor-to-ceiling glass panes let you experience the reef — and see the sharks — up close and personal.

Shark Reef Aquarium, Nevada

Las Vegas is the City of Sin — and fins. Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium celebrates the ocean’s resident predator with 14 exhibits dedicated to 15 different species of sharks, including nurse, sandbar and whitetip reef sharks. The 1.3 million-gallon Shipwreck exhibit is the must-see, or perhaps we should say must-walk: A glass tunnel lets you feel as though you’re walking through the ocean as sharks and stingrays swim all around you. At the touch pool, you can even pet the sharks.

Maui Ocean Center, Hawaii

If you’re not getting enough shark love with exhibits and touch pools, then why not dive with a shark? The Maui Ocean Center in Hawaii offers a “Shark Dive” experience in the 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit. You’ll descend into the water and get up close and personal with 20 sharks and thousands of fish. While you’re there, you can dig through the sand to find a souvenir shark tooth to commemorate your experience. You might see a tiger shark or hammerhead, and you’ll also get a chance to feed a spotted eagle ray.

SEALIFE Minnesota Aquarium, Minnesota

SEALIFE Minnesota Aquarium at the Mall of America doesn’t just have an impressive shark exhibit: it’s also been named one of the nation’s best by Animal Planet and What makes it so remarkable? The Tunnel, a 300-foot acrylic underwater walkway, includes a walk through the themed Atlantis tank, which includes sand tiger, nurse, whitetip reef, blacktip reef and zebra sharks. You can swim with sharks in this 500,000-gallon tank, and themed events like “Sharks After Dark” help celebrate these aquatic creatures.

Aquarium of the Pacific, California

The 10,000-square-foot Shark Lagoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific is home to more than 150 sharks, including sand tiger and zebra sharks. A touch pool offers a chance to feel epaulette and bamboo sharks, while the two-hour shark encounter shows you just what it takes to care for the aquarium’s shark species with a behind-the-scenes tour and a feeding experience.

(Main image: Digital Sextant used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

About the author

Marissa WillmanMarissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.

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