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Visitors to Shedd Aquarium had up to 3 hour wait Tuesday

Long lines Shedd Aquarium Chicago Ill. Tuesday March 26 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

Long lines at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Ill., on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 26, 2013 11:29PM

Erika Ortiz thought it would be great for her and her little brothers to spend part of their spring break visiting the Shedd Aquarium Tuesday — especially since it was a free day.

But a lot of other people had the same idea. The wait to get into the Shedd Tuesday was at times more than three hours.

Ortiz, 21, from Palos Hills, was near the rear of a line that stretched nearly three blocks across the chilly lakefront Museum Campus Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ll probably stick it out,” Ortiz said, “We had to pay 19 bucks for parking. I hope it’s worth the wait.”

Sarah Ram’s heart sank when she saw the line. “I thought we would go back home or to the Field Museum,” said the Naperville mom, “but my two daughters wanted to see the Aquarium.”

After an hour-and-a-half, her 6-year-old was having second thoughts, but her 8-year-old was determined to stay in line.

Shedd officials said a combination of a shorter-than-usual spring break season and the last Shedd free admission day until June contributed to the crowd.

Such lines are “not unusual for spring break or some of the peak season holidays,” said Shedd spokesman Roger German.

Because of an early Easter, local area school spring breaks are not as spread out, German said. “More people are trying to get in during a two-and-a-half-week window rather than a normal three-to-four-week window.”

One way to skip the line is to buy a membership. “We definitely see a little increase in membership sales on busy days like today,” German said.

Another way is to buy tickets online the day before, or get one of the museum discount cards, like the Citypass or the Go Chicago Card. However all these methods require money. If you want free, the only thing to do is get there as early as possible.

The Aquarium can hold about 5,000 people, and once it reaches capacity, visitors are admitted as other visitors leave.

Michael Deverman, 17, of Park Ridge, did not get there early, but was making the most the time spent waiting in line with his mother and two friends. “We’ve been talking, we got hot dogs, we’ve been taking pictures, we’re having a good time.”

But after a couple of hours, his mother gave up and went to the car.

“We’re being persistent, we want to see the fish,” said Deverman. “But next time, I’ll bring a tent and some warmer clothes.”

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