Only six US aquariums with beluga whales are around.
Each aquarium takes care of two or more of these glorious Arctic water creatures known for their massive size, pale-white color, and globular heads.
Find out which aquariums in the country have beluga whales, where you can interact with them, and places you can find these white whales in the wild.
6 Aquariums with Beluga Whales
Pick from these six US aquariums, depending on whether you’d want to swim with a Beluga whale, or just marvel at their beauty from the other side of the glass.
1. Beluga Whales in Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta
- Location: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313
- Tickets: Starts at $39/person, offers student/senior/group discounts
- Why Visit: This aquarium has a “Beluga Encounter” program that brings you up close to the Beluga whale.
The Georgia Aquarium opened in 2005, thanks to a $250 million gift from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. At the time, it was the largest aquarium in the world with an aquarium that holds 10 million gallons of water. (In 2012, S.E.A. Aquarium Singapore surpassed the Georgia Aquarium’s size).
The facility has whale sharks, California sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, and the centerpiece whale dark exhibit with 6.3 million US gallons of water.
As for the resident beluga whales, you have the option of watching the whales from the other side of the aquarium or paying extra for a more personal visit.
The Beluga Encounter gives visitors a one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes experience. Located at the aquarium’s Cold Water Quest gallery, you’ll get to meet one of the in-house beluga whales face to face.
I’ve never done the Beluga Encounter, but I have done the Behind-the-Scenes tour twice and with that tour you do get a different angle where you can view the belugas from on top of their tank.
As of 2021, there were 5 Beluga whales who call Georgia Aquarium home. Beluga whale pods change and grow over time at zoological facilities.
Georgia Aquarium’s pod currently has four females and one male: Whisper, Qinu, Maple, Shila (SHY-la), Imaq (EE-mack), and the youngest (gender not disclosed) when born in the facility in 2021.
Can’t visit Georgia Aquarium?
You can check their Beluga Whales from the aquarium’s live webcam. It’s free to access 24/7, regardless of where you’re coming from. You just need to wait for the whales to be in front of the cam.
2. Beluga Whales in Mystic Aquarium, Connecticut
- Location: 55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355
- Tickets: Starts at $31 for general admission
- Why Visit: The beluga whales from Mystic Aquarium are known to be skilled in painting
You can admire the beauty of beluga whales from above and below the water in Mystic Aquarium’s large outdoor exhibit.
Mystic offers a unique virtual “Paint with a Whale” encounter to anyone interested for $150, wherein you’ll be able to watch one of the whales paint live.
During the 15-minute virtual session, you’ll learn about beluga whale biology, animal care, conversation, research, and be able to ask questions.
When done, Mystic Aquarium will ship the whale’s masterpiece to your home.
The beluga whales at Mystic Aquarium have been quite controversial since it began requesting more whales to be transferred from Canada to Connecticut as part of its non-invasive beluga research.
Mystic Aquarium successfully imported 5 beluga whales in May 2021, two of which have since died due to gastrointestinal issues. The facility has defended its care of two beluga whales that died less than a year apart, saying nobody could’ve prevented the deaths.
3. Beluga Whales at SeaWorld San Diego, California
- Location: 500 Sea World Dr., San Diego, California 92109
- Tickets: Starts at $54, offers group, military, senior discounts. Kids 3 years old and below enter free.
- Why Visit: Opportunity to hand-feed a beluga whale
There are 3 Beluga Whales in Sea World San Diego. They are:
- Ferdinand (the oldest beluga whale at SeaWorld): Born in 1969, Ferdinand was imported from Germany in 2004. If you look close enough, you can see gray spots at the top of his head.
- Allua (the largest female beluga whale at SeaWorld): She was imported from Vancouver Aquarium in July 2005. Allua is famous for spitting water up in the air and trying to catch it in her mouth.
- Klondike (heaviest beluga whale at SeaWorld weighing over 1 ton): He was born in 2002 in Marineland, Canada, and was imported to San Diego in June 2014.
This Sea World location also has an Encounter program where you can play with resident beluga whales for a couple of minutes.
4. Beluga Whales at SeaWorld Orlando, Florida
- Location: 7007 Sea World Dr, Orlando, Florida 32821
- Tickets: Starts at $90, but the second guest can be discounted 50% off
- Why Visit: Nice day trip attraction if you’re visiting Florida
SeaWorld Orlando has a walk-through Wild Arctic exhibit, where you can access the Beluga whales, colossal walruses, and shy harbor seals.
If you have extra funds, you can also experience visit these white whales for an extra $80 per person.
As of February 2019, SeaWorld Orlando announced they had two new adorable residents, a pair of 11-year-old beluga whale males. They joined SeaWorld’s Wild Arctic pod.
5. Beluga Whales at SeaWorld San Antonio, Texas
- Location: 10500 SeaWorld Drive, San Antonio, TX 78251
- Tickets: Starts at $50/person
- Why Visit: 3 ways to visit the beluga whales
SeaWorld San Antonio has the most beluga whales.
Because of this, the aquarium can afford to offer guests 3 kinds of experiences: view the white wales from across the glass, a learning experience with the in-depth tour (where you can join educators and animal trainers backstage to meet a beluga whale up-close for only $45/person), and a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can swim with the beluga whales.
6. Beluga Whales at John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
- Location: 1200 S DuSable Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60605
- Tickets: Tickets for Chicago residents range from $15 to $20, while general admissions are $30 (for kids) and $40 for adults).
- Why Visit: 9 friendly white whales ready to greet you.
Aside from stingrays, saltwater fish, dolphins, and sea lions that make up the reptile, amphibian and crustacean exhibits, one of the most visited areas in Chicago’s famed Shedd Aquarium is home to the beluga whales.
Only around 20 Beluga whales are born in the country and half of them are born at Shedd Aquarium.
As of mid-2022, the Beluga whale residents include Beethoven, Bella, Kayavak, Kimalu, Aurek, Naya, Mauyak, Annik, and Atlas.
If you wish to get up-close and personal with one white whale, the aquarium has an encounter program that costs $200 per person.
It’s the most expensive on this list, but it is also the longest (the program lasts for 75 minutes).
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Where Can I Play with Beluga Whales in Person?
Not all aquariums with Beluga whales allow guests to get close to these white whales. If you want to cuddle, feed or just play with beluga whales, here are direct links to the aquariums’ “beluga encounter” pages:
- Georgia Aquarium’s Beluga Encounter ($75-$80/person, depending if you’re a member or non-member)
- Sea World San Diego’s Beluga Up-Close Encounter ($89/person, ages 4+)
- Sea World Orlando’s Beluga Whales Up-Close Tour ($80/person)
- Sea World San Antonio’s In-Water Beluga Interaction ($125/person)
- Shedd Aquarium’s Beluga Experience ($200/person)
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Where to See Beluga Whales in the Wild
Belugas are frequently spotted throughout the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters of North America, Greenland, Europe, and Asia.
In the United States, you can find several kinds of white belugas in Alaska, including Bristol Bay, Bering Sea, Eastern Chukchi, and the Beaufort Sea stocks.
If you wish to see the Beluga whales in the wild in Alaska, visit from mid-July through August in southern Anchorage (along Turnagain Arm) where these whales catch salmon. They are also seen from shore near Nome on the Seward Peninsula throughout the fall.
If you can’t get enough of other water creatures, check out the best aquariums in the US and best zoos in the country (here’s a list of zoos with adorable koalas, as well).
For those planning a trip with kids, make sure to pick and grab attractions from the best US children’s museums, best dinosaur museums in the US, and best art museums in the country.