National Aquarium

My annual trip is coming up, so I’m not sure if I will get another post in this month, but I really hope to, so that I can finish my Baltimore adventures. However, I have so many last minute preparations to complete and I still need to pack. Anyways, continuing on in Baltimore…

National Aquarium, located in Baltimore, Maryland

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The National Aquarium is open on Monday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm, on Friday from 9am to 8pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm. (The aquarium has different hours for the different seasons and hours may vary for holidays, so check their website to get the most accurate information.) Admission to the aquarium is $39.95 (which is kind of hefty, so definitely check out the Baltimore Harbor Pass, if the aquarium is on the must see list). The aquarium is easy to reach by walking, driving or public transportation. As the aquarium is located within the Inner Harbor, it is easy to walk to if you are already near the area. Driving to the aquarium is an option if one lives further away, but note that the aquarium doesn’t have free parking, however there are two parking garages nearby that will offer aquarium visitors a discount. All the different forms of public transportation will lead to the National Aquarium. (Check the aquarium website for all options.) The cheapest option is the free Charm City Circulator via the orange route to the National Aquarium(Stop 223). Since the National Aquarium is located in the Inner Harbor, there are many options to explore within walking distance, such as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not-Baltimore.

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The National Aquarium is comprised of three interconnecting buildings that house a variety of animals. The aquarium doesn’t have a set route for visitors to take, but because of the way the buildings are set up, and where the entrances and exits are, most visitors will be going in the same direction, so expect a crowd always (or go during a weekday or non-holiday). The first building where the entrance is located is the Glass Pavilion. The building is 3 floors, but there is only one exhibit on the third floor, “Australia: Wild Extremes”.  The exhibit features a northern Australia river gorge habitat, where visitors can see a variety of native Australian species.

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The next building is Blue Wonders: Reefs to Rainforests, which is 5 floors and contains 7 different sections. This building only contains one path to see the exhibits, so we started on the first level and worked our way up. On the first floor is “Blacktip Reef”, which is a big open space filled with corals to replicate the Indo-Pacific reefs, and is teeming with many aquatic species including sharks, sea turtles and stingrays. Next, on the second floor is “Maryland: Mountains to the Sea”, which is actually comprised of four smaller exhibits that depict Maryland’s various habitats: Allegheny stream, tidal marsh, coastal beach and Altantic shelf. Visitors can see a variety of Maryland’s aquatic life, including bullfrogs and striped bass. The third floor is comprised of two exhibits, “Living Seashore” and “Surviving Through Adaptation”. “Living Seashore” is an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to explore the Mid-Atlantic seashore and contains two touch pools that feature stingrays and moon jellies. “Surviving Through Adaptation” focuses on how aquatic animals adapt to help them survive in nature; for example, the Giant Pacific octopus can change the color and texture of its skin to match the background to avoid predators. The fourth floor also contains two exhibits, “North Atlantic to the Pacific”, where visitors can explore the Atlantic sea cliffs to an undersea kelp forest to a Pacific reef, and “Amazon River Forest”, which features animals from the Amazon.  Last, but not least on the fifth floor is “Upland Tropical Rain Forest”. The exhibit contains a vast collection of animals and plants, with highlights including Linne’s two-toed sloth, a scarlet ibis and a variety of colorful frogs.

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There are two more exhibits in the Blue Wonders building, “Atlantic Coral Reef” and “Shark Alley”. Both these exhibits aren’t sectioned to a specific floor, but rather surround the visitors as they descend from the top to the bottom of the building.  (It’s similar to a water tunnel, but instead of being a tunnel, it’s more of a wall. It’s actually a really awesome experience.) The “Atlantic Coral Reef” exhibit contains a variety of tropical fishes, whereas “Shark Alley” surrounds visitors with sharks of varying sizes and species.

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The last building is the Pier 4 building, which is 2 stories tall and contains 2 exhibits. The first is “Jellies Invasion”, an exhibit on sea jellies. Visitors can see nine different species of jellies. (Jellies are very graceful somehow, and they tend to photograph well, besides frogs.) The other exhibit is “Dolphin Discovery” where visitors can see and learn about Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Visitors can almost always see the dolphins in the underwater viewing area, but definitely check on the digital screens near the entrances for talk times to see the colony of dolphins together. (This is the only aquarium I’ve been to that I can actually recall seeing dolphins, so don’t miss the talks, they’re informative and the dolphins perform a few tricks.) There’s also a 4-d immersion theater, however it costs an extra $5, so we skipped it (also the line to see the films looked long).

My usual travel buddy and I spent nearly 4 hours at the aquarium, but as always, others may take more or less time depending on their interest level, and what they want to do at the aquarium. The National Aquarium does offer a lot to see and is really well done, and I can see that it needs the costly admission prices for upkeep, but the price is really high in my opinion. (Look into discounts or maybe a membership if you plan to go often and with family.) The aquarium is a good family day idea as there is plenty for the kids to see and do. As it is an aquarium, the general population will enjoy a visit. Look for a discount, and bring your friends and family to enjoy the many aquatic animals, especially the dolphins, at the National Aquarium.

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