One of our very favorite day trips is to head down to Baltimore, MD and spend the day at the National Aquarium. We’ve taken the kids several times and always enjoy it. We recently had the chance to visit again and had another memorable day!
The Aquarium is located in the heart of Inner Harbor which is so fun to explore. One thing I really like about Baltimore is that there’s plenty to do year-round. In the summertime you can enjoy the waterfront a little more. We went in September one year and had a good time paddling boats! When the weather is too cold to be outside there’s plenty to do inside. We love the restaurants and shops. And of course the Aquarium is a perfect place to enjoy a day away from the elements. The view from outside is beautiful, isn’t it? It’s just a lively place to be!
The Aquarium is laid out really well. It’s spread out into three different pavilions on multiple floors which dilutes any crowds for the most part. Check out the map to see what I mean. We went in the afternoon on a Friday and it wasn’t crowded at all. Of course going during the week in the middle of the day is a better time to go than on a weekend, and we’ve found that if you are able to hit it after about 1-2pm that’s best because any school field trips are gone for the day, too.
There are tons of awesome exhibits throughout the Aquarium and on every single visit we’ve noticed how friendly and helpful the staff is. I mean it REALLY stands out! Not only is there someone usually nearby to give you directions to an exhibit or help answer a question, but there are trained staff throughout the buildings that help you get a more close up experience with the animals. Several times on this visit a staff person engaged our kids by showing them where tropical birds are hiding, having them help count the pirannahs in the water(none were missing..whew!), showing them how fish eat crickets, and telling them about their star octopus (he likes dog toys!). I love how this adds to the experience for our whole family but especially for our kids who I know are really learning something while being entertained at the same time. Whoever is in charge of staff development and customer services, hats off to you and all of your employees!
There are more than fish here, too. The Tropical Rain Forest and Australia exhibits feature birds, bats, alligators, and even a two-toed sloth! In other parts of the aquarium we found these colorful frogs and snakes. Yikes! Reptiles are not my cup of tea but they are cool to look at when they’re behind glass!
Something new about the Aquarium this time is that the Dolphin Discovery is now FREE! You used to have to pay an extra fee for tickets to a show and now you can just walk in at any time and hang out with the dolphins and enjoy the shows put on by the trainers at any time. We were able to stay for a show and loved it! We’ve seen these shows several times and this was definitely the best one. It was the perfect mix of educational information about the animals and entertainment and interaction for the crowd.
You make your way back down to the ground floor by walking down a long spiral ramp that’s surrounded with Atlantic Coral Reef creatures and Shark Alley, whose name speaks for itself! Watching the sharks is a favorite part of the visit! Now I have to throw out a disclaimer on these shark photos. First of all the sharks are behind glass (of course!) so it’s tricky to get a good photo without the glare that comes with flash. And this particular part of the Aquarium is pretty much in the dark with just the water lit up. So while I was saying ‘Smile!’ to my kids I couldn’t see their faces. So you get what you get with that little boy of mine, which is about what you’d get even if I could see his face. 😉 Besides, I took the photo because they got to hold the snout (is that the right word?) of a real sawtooth shark! Here’s another time that an employee engaged my kids in the exhibit and taught them something new! Awesome, right?!
The Aquarium was undergoing some renovations while we were there so things were a bit out of the norm but there were plenty of staff to keep you headed on the right path. And actually I’m VERY excited about these changes because they are preparing for an awesome new exhibit. Coming this Summer in 2013 is the Blacktip Reef exhibit! This is going to be an awesome, huge exhibit that replaces their former centerpiece Wings in the Water. If you’ve been there before you might remember all the huge sting rays in the pool at on the ground floor. This will be replacing that with tons of new animals and colorful coral! It’s going to be amazing! Read all about it here including what sea life you will find and some of the guest features (underwater seating area sounds so cool!).
We will definitely be heading back this summer to check out this new exhibit and visit all of our other favorite swimmers! Next time you plan a trip to Baltimore make sure you add the National Aquarium to the top of your must-do list. They have tons of helpful resources to help you plan the best visit for your family on their website. You can even buy tickets online and save yourself the wait at the door. And be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with all their latest news and exhibits!
I was provided with complimentary admission to the National Aquarium in exchange for this review. The opinions in this post are 100% mine. You can read my full disclosure policy here.