Maryland – National Aquarium
Located in the heart of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on the Chesapeake Bay, the National Aquarium is home to more than 16,000 animals in over 2 million gallons of water. The National Aquarium actually has two different locations: the larger one in Baltimore and a smaller location in Washington, D.C. Although we had visited Washington, D.C. on this same trip, there were so many other places to see in D.C. that we decides to skip the aquarium there, knowing that the Baltimore site was on our itinerary.
The National Aquarium is the Inner Harbor’s most popular attraction and can get quite crowded. To avoid the crowds, the aquarium recommends visiting before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. You can bypass the ticket line by purchasing your tickets in advance online, but this convenience will cost you an extra $1.95 per ticket. All tickets have a timed entry. Since we were driving into town that day and unsure of our arrival time, and to avoid the extra charge, we took our chances and purchased our tickets when we arrived. When you arrive, pick up the daily schedule of feedings and presentations and plan your day around the ones you want to see.
The National Aquarium is divided into three major sections. The Pier 3 Pavilion is the original main building and has five levels of exhibits along with two very large ring-shaped display tanks. The Pier 4 Pavilion is connected to the rest of the aquarium via an enclosed footbridge and contains the Dolphin Discovery Amphitheater and a jellyfish exhibit. The Glass Pavilion was the most recent addition in 2005 and transports you to Australia to see a variety of Aussie animals, both in and out of the water.
We started in the Glass Pavilion with the Animal Planet Australia exhibit. While this exhibit contains animals you normally associate with Australia like crocodiles and Kookaburras, our favorite animals were the turtles, especially the snake neck varieties.
Next we toured the Pier 3 Pavilion, which has a fascinating award-winning design. The lower level has a tank with sharks, stingrays, and a giant sea turtle. Divers give presentations in this area. Moving sidewalks transport you to upper levels of exhibits while also giving you a different view of the rays and sharks in the tank below.
Levels 1-4 of the Pier 3 Pavilion have a variety of sea life that come from fresh water and salt water all over the world. We saw big fish, little fish, colorful fish, boring fish, polka-dotted stingrays, sea anemones, octopuses, and more.
The top level has a tropical rainforest with birds, monkeys, tarantulas, and poisonous dart frogs.
Once you reach the top of the Pier 3 Pavilion, you descend back to Level 1 via a different route: through the inside of a ring-shaped tanks where you see the Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit and Shark Alley. My daughter got to try out the snout of a sawfish.
Many of the fish weren’t very cooperative when it came time to pose for a picture. I love watching rays flap their wings and fly through the water, but wasn’t able to get any good pictures. Fortunately, another slow-moving turtle was happy to pose for me.
Probably our favorite part of the National Aquarium was the Dolphin Discovery amphitheater. Who wouldn’t love cute fun-loving dolphins?
The last exhibit for us was the Jellies Invasion. There is something so soothing and calming about watching jellyfish pulse through the water.
The National Aquarium also has a 4-D Immersion Theater that has special effects that include mist and wind. The 15-minute movie presentation costs an extra $5 per person. We preferred spending our time with the animals and skipped this attraction.
On July 10, 2013, the National Aquarium will be opening a new Blacktip Reef Exhibit. It will be filled with coral that replicates Indo-Pacific coral reefs. New species, including Blacktip Reef Sharks, will join current aquarium residents in this exhibit.
One thing for parents to note is that strollers are not allowed in the aquarium. You can store your stroller at the main entrance. Free child backpack carriers are available to borrow.
Are you ready to visit?
501 E. Pratt St. Pier 3
Baltimore, MD 21205
This attraction appears in my e-book, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.