In 2003, audiences around the world watching the Oscar-winning "Finding Nemo" fell in love with a clownfish named Nemo; his dad, Marlin; and a blue tang fish, Dory.
Thankfully, after 13 years, the gang returned in "Finding Dory," in which Dory’s fish friends help reunite the hilariously forgetful fish with her long-lost family. Though you might not meet Nemo, Dory and the “Tank Gang,” it's possible to have real-life experiences with similar sea creatures across the USA. Here are six places to go to see amazing fish and, if you want, to swim with them, too.
Monterey Bay Aquarium – Monterey, California
When a memory of her family and "the jewel of Monterey" comes back to her, Dory sets off with her pals toward the fictional Monterey Marine Life Institute. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California served as inspiration for the film's institute. Perched beside the Pacific Ocean, about 190 kilometers south of San Francisco, the aquarium features hundreds of species of marine life. Young adventurers can join the Underwater Explorers program. Divers-to-be get basic scuba instructions, along with a regulator, air tank and mask. They swim at the water's surface while being introduced to the wonders of the aquarium’s Great Tide Pool, including starfish, eels and sea cucumbers.
Great vantage point to observe creatures at Monterey Bay Aquarium
National Aquarium – Baltimore, Maryland
You can sleep with the fishes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Located about 65 kilometers northeast of Washington, D.C., the aquarium hosts dolphin and shark sleepovers, where guests spend the night in underwater viewing areas. The Guest Diver Program allows certified adult divers to swim with sharks and other sea life in the Atlantic coral reef exhibit. Wander through other exhibits like the tropical rainforest and Blacktip Reef, an Indo-Pacific reef system with blacktip sharks and dozens of species of fish and other marine animals, including a 500-pound green sea turtle named Calypso.
The shimmering exterior of the National Aquarium in Baltimore
Florida Aquarium – Tampa, Florida
You don't have to visit the Florida Keys to experience the underwater bounty that surrounds the islands. The Florida Aquarium's Swim With the Fishes program takes visitors on a surface dive in its manmade Coral Reef Gallery, which simulates an actual reef in the Dry Tortugas. Swim past porcupine fish and other creatures as your family and friends watch from outside the glass enclosure at the Tampa aquarium.
Close-up underwater views at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa
Theater of the Sea – Islamorada, Florida
You'll feel like an unofficial member of Nemo's Tank Gang at the Theater of the Sea, about 130 kilometers southwest of Miami, in the Florida Keys. It hosts dolphin and sea lion shows, as well as boat and nature tours, but is primarily known for its interactive animal encounters. Visitors can swim, wade or paint – yes, paint – with dolphins and sea lions. Plus, you can feed, pet and hold nurse sharks during encounters in a saltwater lagoon.
Dolphin and trainer with guests at the Theater of the Sea in Islamorada
Georgia Aquarium – Atlanta, Georgia
When Dory and her pals arrive at the Marine Life Institute, they befriend Destiny, a friendly whale shark. Meet a gentle giant of your own at the Georgia Aquarium, which offers visitors a chance to swim with whale sharks in its Ocean Voyager exhibit. The exhibit also houses zebra sharks and thousands of fish and other creatures. If you'd rather not get so close to a shark, you'll have plenty to explore. The Atlanta aquarium contains more than 100,000 sea creatures.
Some of the 100,000 sea creatures living at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta
Shedd Aquarium – Chicago, Illinois
The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, impresses with re-creations of global habitats, including a glass-enclosed Wild Reef exhibit that simulates being underwater as sharks swim over your head. Visit the three-story Abbott Oceanarium for an aquatic show that could include dolphins, sea lions and beluga whales. Children can pet stingrays at the Stingray Touch exhibit from late May to October.
Gathering around the Caribbean Reef Exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago