By Christian Kendzierski
National Aquariurm Baltimore
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Adult: $24.95 Senior: $23.95 Children: $19.95
The National Aquarium, located in Baltimore’s downtown Inner Harbor area, fittingly sits just above the harbor’s edge. It’s a great destination for any family — large or small — looking to see some spectacular marine-life, swimming mammals, tropical forests and wild extreme animals. The aquarium, the nation’s first National Aquarium, was built in the early 80s, but with extensive expansions and renovations, this gem of the harbor has kept its charm and amazing exhibits. Make sure to check the website for various admission discounts.
Get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s fiercest and most beautiful fish. The Wings in the Water exhibit, located on the main level of the Aquarium, will knock your socks off…or flip-flops if you are visiting during the summer. The exhibit allows you to look above and below the water line where you can catch Southern and roughtail stingrays, sea turtles, zebra sharks and bonehead sharks. They all interact under the watchful eyes of the true rulers of the tank — the sand and tiger sharks. Check the schedule for feeding times. It’s always interesting to watch sharks in action!
The newly produced dolphin show, Our Ocean Planet, uses video, audience participation and most importantly… DOLPHINS! Our Ocean Planet takes place in the aquarium’s dolphin arena. It is expansive and has great views from every seat in the house. Expect to see traditional dolphin exhibition with flips and twirls and lots of humor, but Baltimore’s National Aquarium has switched things up a bit by giving visitors a real feel for what a dolphin’s life is like – underwater too. If you sit too close, bring your rain gear because you will get splashed! Shows are scheduled daily and last roughly 20 to 30 minutes.
Push yourself to the extreme! Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extreme journeys the visitor through our planet’s largest and — some may say the wildest– island of Australia. The exhibit, with more than 65,000 square feet and a 35 foot waterfall, brings you into contact with Aussie’s wild and endemic animals, fish and reptiles, including the Australian freshwater crocodile, the laughing kookaburra, death adder, grey-headed flying fox, black-headed python, a pig-nosed turtle and much more. Get a feel for the real untouched Outback.
The amazing minds at the National Aquarium magically bring the world’s second largest river, the Amazon, to Baltimore. This slice-of-life exhibit introduces the visitor to what about a 60-foot river bank would be like on the Amazon. Plan to meet dwarf caimans, pygmy marmosets, rare turtles, killer fish, deadly snakes and amazing birds. The tropical forest area is designed accurately to portray the forest’s dry and wet season so expect some heat and little rainfall or at least some misting. Don’t plan to walk through fast. It is best to take your time and look through the trees and along the ground, you never know what’s watching you, too!
The National Aquarium offers countless programs for children and adults including day-long programs where you and your kid can go behind-the-scenes and below the water level to see how the aquarium works and how the fish live. They have camps, overnights, breakfast with the dolphins and even a guest diver program. Also, there’s no need to leave the aquarium when you get hungry. The newly opened Harbor Market Kitchen prides itself on buying eco-friendly, locally-grown foods. The chefs prepare low-sugar, low-salt and low-fat meals for you and your family.
Christian Kendzierski spends most of his time as a media specialist at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. He also works as a freelance writer and lives in Baltimore. See what’s going in Christian’s world by following him on Twitter @ck1media.