What happens when you flood a 19th-century power plant with a million gallons of water? You get the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, located in the landmark Powerhouse building on the west bank of the Flats. The Powerhouse's National Historic Site status makes it an unusual setting; designers had to insert 40 exhibits into 45,000 square feet of centuries-old industrial cavities and tunnels without making any significant structural modifications. The result: a dark, winding maze of narrow brick halls outfitted with floor-to-ceiling fish tanks.
Highlights include two touch tanks for hands-on encounters with horseshoe crabs, sea cucumbers and starfish; an overhead smokestack-turned-lobster-tank; and the sea tube, a walk-through tunnel beneath a 4,738-square-foot tank housing 15 sharks, a fleet of rays and rusty shipwreck remnants. Be forewarned, the thick acrylic windows and swishing water can make those prone to motion sickness feel a little dizzy.
Aquarium staffers recommend allotting at least 90 minutes, but it’s possible to swim through the exhibits in an hour. There's plenty for kids to like—prickly sea creatures in the touch tanks, baby alligators in the Everglades hall and three costumed characters roaming the aquarium, but unaccompanied adults may find the smallish size and steep entrance fees slightly disappointing. Admission runs $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for kids; parking is $3 weekdays and $5 on weekends.