Sightseeing at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium begins before you exit your car. The building's location on the west bank of the Flats - Cleveland's historic shipping hub turned entertainment district - means visitors get a peek at some of the area's historic bridges, train trestles and buildings.

Sightseeing at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium begins before you exit your car. The building's location on the west bank of the Flats - Cleveland's historic shipping hub turned entertainment district - means visitors get a peek at some of the area's historic bridges, train trestles and buildings. The drive to the aquarium is a great warm-up for the building's unique architectural features. The aquarium is housed in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse - a National Historic Landmark - and takes full advantage of the awesome space. The tanks are nestled among exposed brick walls - many are circular in shape, mimicking the building's iconic smokestacks. One smokestack is home to a display of spiny lobsters that peer down at visitors as they pass underneath. Other tanks are tucked under brick archways along old coal tunnels. The aquarium dedicates a fair amount of space to the freshwater fish that are found in Lake Erie and its feeder rivers. The displays offer insights about native fish, how wildlife experts are re-introducing the Ohio brook trout into the state's waterways, and about the dangers of invasive species and pollution. We also discovered that Ohio means "good river" in the Iroquois language. Other exhibits focus on some of the unique fish from the different oceans of the world and the Florida Keys. The Coastal Zone features a large pool where divers help kids touch sharks, starfish and rays. Unfortunately, the day we visited was extremely crowded and the boys were never able to make it to the front of the line to touch any creatures. We visited on a Monday - President's Day - and were disappointed to learn that only weekend visitors have the opportunity to watch staff feed the fish. Despite the crowds, the kids enjoyed the large alligator exhibit, the seahorse display and the moray eels. They were excited to check out the Shark Tank, which features a long walkway where guests can stroll surrounded by water on three sides. We immediately noticed that the water in the tank was murky. The employee stationed in the tunnel assured us that the water was safe for the fish. She also said that the aquarium has tried a number of short-term fixes, which have not yet corrected the problem. [By press time at the end of March, the problem was reported to be fixed.] For us, the crowds were more of an issue than the cloudy water. The website recommends allowing 90 minutes for a visit. We spent about an hour going through the building as we often were hurried along by the throngs of people. The boys said they would like to visit again on a less busy day. I'd be willing to try again if we were headed to Cleveland for another reason. But if we were planning a trip around an aquarium visit, for now I would probably head to the Newport Aquarium in Covington, Ky. The facility is bigger, has an indoor children's play area and has similar admission costs.