The Oldest Aquarium in Michigan Turns 118 Years Old This Month
The Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit is not only the oldest aquarium in Michigan, it's also the oldest aquarium in the United States.
This historic building officially opened its doors on August 18, 1904. The aquarium turns 118 years old this month and is still operating today.
The Belle Isle Aquarium located in Belle Isle Park is a 10,000-square-foot staple of Detroit that features a single large gallery with an arched ceiling that's covered in green glass tile that gives off an underwater vibe.
When the Belle Isle Aquarium first opened its doors, it was the third-largest aquarium in the world with salt water being shipped directly in from the ocean
It was the oldest continually operating public aquarium in North America until it closed in 2005. However, it was only closed for seven years, they reopened it in 2012.
Belle Isle Aquarium also closed in 2020 but that was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's crazy to think that the aquarium survived the Great Depression (1929-1933) but couldn't make it through the pandemic.
Closing down for a while turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave them the opportunity to significantly renovate the facility. The Belle Isle Conservancy invested $1.2M in improvements to the aquarium.
Not only was the Belle Isle Aquarium the oldest operating aquarium in the United States until it closed in 2005, it was also the only aquarium in Michigan at the time. Of course, that's not the case now as we have a handful of aquariums in Michigan, including Sea Life Aquarium at great Lakes Crossing. The 35,000 square-foot aquarium is the biggest in the state.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Belle Isle Aquarium?
This will probably the surprise you, but the Belle Isle Aquarium is free. However, they do encourage donations.
The Belle Isle Aquarium is open Friday - Sunday from 10 am - 4 pm.