BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s animal-centric attractions, the Maryland Zoo and the National Aquarium, have both received top honors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore’s Penguin Coast exhibit and the National Aquarium’s Living Seashore exhibit were both awarded for their innovative designs.

The aquarium’s Living Seashore exhibit was unveiled in 2015, and allows visitors to get hands-on experience with nearly 20 marine species. The exhibit’s touchpools contain more than 5,000 gallons of salt water and are teeming with aquatic life, including Atlantic stingrays, horseshoe crabs and moon jellies.

The exhibit has welcomed more than 1 million guests since then.

“Living Seashore creates connections between guests and the hidden, abundant sealife of the Mid-Atlantic seashore,” said John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium. “Through fun and engaging experiences, they come away excited about becoming beach heroes themselves.”

At the zoo, Penguin Coast provides a richer and more diverse living environment for its colony of over 70 African black-footed penguins, including a 185,000-gallon pool surrounding the indoor Conservation Center which houses the birds’ nest boxes, a hospital room, kitchen and keeper work space.

“One of the most thrilling experiences at Penguin Coast is the opportunity to see the penguins swimming in front of the underwater viewing area. For as ungainly as they seem on land, they are amazingly graceful swimmers,” continued Hutchinson “The overall design allows visitors to see the penguins closer than ever from many distinct vantage points around the exhibit.”

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