Cleveland’s New Powerhouse Attraction

After reading a Columbus Dispatch review of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, we decided to test the waters ourselves.

Located in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium has repurposed this national historic landmark in a way that takes architectural juxtaposition to a new height.

Designed by New Zealand based Marinescape, hard surfaces of exposed brick walls and steel girders contrast with flowing water and the constant movement of its inhabitants. A worm’s-eye view looking up through the massive overhead smokestacks provides a reminder of the building’s original purpose – generating electricity for the city’s 19th century streetcar system.

The main attraction, a walk-through shark tank, gives visitors a unique overhead view of sharks, rays and fish as you wind your way through a curved, acrylic tunnel surrounded by 500,000 gallons of saltwater.

The aforementioned review had sighted filtration problems, which had left the shark tank water cloudy. If you’ve ever set up a home aquarium, you know the adjustments involved to get it just right. Now imagine half a million gallons of water filled with sharks.

With the problem solved, divers like the one pictured above swim among the well fed sharks, constantly cleaning the tank’s surface to ensure a clear view.

Fresh water and salt water exhibits offer visitors an underwater view and education of various ecosystems. As you enter, you’re immersed in a history lesson of the Great Lakes region, which contains nearly one-fifth of the earth’s surface freshwater.

Additional exhibits explore the watery worlds of the Amazon, the Florida Everglades and Coral Reefs.  From brook trout to clownfish (Finding Nemo), the aquarium is a lure for anglers and children alike.

A Touch Tank encourages those of all ages to get an up close and personal view of stingrays, sandpaper-skinned sharks and horseshoe crabs, as employees in wet suits wade through the water displaying smaller ocean creatures on trays.

The Discovery Zone teaches the importance of protecting our environment – a part of  Marinescape’s philosophy of Environmental Education through Entertainment.

Nestled in the Cleveland Flats, the aquarium could be viewed as a phoenix risen from the ashes of Cleveland’s industrial past – a positive image for the crooked river that lays to rest Cuyahoga River’s former reputation of the river that once burned.

As a Cleveland native, who’s recently returned to the north shore, I can recall past ups and downs of a city now once again undergoing major revitalization. I’m hopeful that the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, coupled with the adjacent Jacobs Pavilion, a 5,000 seat amphitheater, will help breath new life into the Flats, an area that has experienced its own ebb and flow over the years.

Please visit the Greater Cleveland Aquarium website for information on tickets, hours and school tours.  The facility also houses a catering venue on the second floor, with views of the water and downtown skyline.

Written by Pamela J. Willits

Photography by Larry Hamill

11 responses to “Cleveland’s New Powerhouse Attraction

  1. Great pictures. Present other ways of looking at things.

  2. …..your photos make me want to take a trip to Cleveland to visit the aquarium……

  3. Great stuff, Larry!!

  4. Thanks for sharing your awesome photos. Looks like a road trip!
    Ditto Sevell on Pink Floyd playing in the jellyfish room. Maybe if we call ahead…

  5. Jennifer Davis

    Thanks for the sneak preview, Larry! I already have a visit there planned with friends for next month.

  6. Excellent photos!! A must see on my next trip to Cleveland.

  7. Wow! Larry, You have that gift of capturing the moment beautifully. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Very cool, Larry. I didn’t even realize Cleveland had a new aquarium. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Nice pics. Planning on a trip there now that I see these photos. Hope they have a black light jellyfish room. Been to one with Enya’s music playing in the background. Since it’s Cleveland, home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hopefully they’ll have Pink Floyd playing in the jellyfish room…

    • Hi Steve,

      We’ve had one other comment referencing Pink Floyd playing in the jellyfish room – while I remember the band, I’m lost on the reference. There are jellyfish at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, but there’s no black light room. But certainly worth the trip north anyway.

      Safe travels,


  10. you couldnt pay me enough money to clean the shark tanks

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