Visiting The National Aquarium in Balitmore with Toddlers

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My 2 year olds love the National Aquarium!  It's a great place to visit. Especially when it's too cold or rainy to do much outside.   However, be prepared for huge crowds on cold, rainy weekends and on holidays.  In order to beat the crowds, I've found it best to get there right when it opens.

Parking and Strollers

There are quite a few parking garages in the inner harbor.  The closest garages to the aquarium are probably Lockwood Place or Harbor East.  As a member you get a discount on parking at the Lockwood Place Garage on Market Place. Sometimes, they will even offer members free parking on special days if you arrive by a certain time.  You will have to walk outside and cross Pratt St. (about a 5 minute walk), so be prepared for the weather. With young twins, a stroller is helpful.  However, the aquarium has a strict NO STROLLER policy.

When you arrive you can easily check your stroller for free.  The stroller checker will let you keep your coats on it, so you don't have to pay for a locker.  They offer free use of a baby carrier, but obviously if you have multiples, that won't work unless you bring someone along with you. I never used one of their carriers.   We first started going to the aquarium when the girls were about 14 months old, so they would walk until they got tired and then my husband and I would carry them.  Now that they are older, they can walk for longer, but the aquarium requires ALOT of walking.  They still haven't made the entire trip without wanting to be carried for at least a little bit.

I haven't ventured to take the girls on a weekday by myself, I'm no longer strong enough to carry both of them and a diaper bag for longer than 2 minutes. But as a former teacher, I know that it is a very popular field trip destination.  Lots of kids with few adults. You may want to visit towards the end of the school day, after 2:00, when most school groups would be returning back to school for bus dismissal.

Toddler Favorites and Must Sees

The aquarium recently underwent some major renovations.  The new Blacktip Reef exhibit is huge and allows for both above and underwater viewing.  My girls like looking for Calypso, the huge green sea turtle who is missing a flipper.  She had to have it amputated when she was very young because of an infection. There are a lot of sharks, fish, and rays to check out.  It's a very colorful display and the glass walls making viewing easy for little ones.

In the photo above, you can see my girls captivated by the bubble towers.  They are part of the entrance into the Blacktip Reef.  They aren't really interactive, but my girls seem to think they can control the bubbles by touching the glass.

The girls love the people movers/escalators that take you from one floor to the next.  I know these aren't intended to be part of the exhibits, but they are very entertaining to a toddler.

The puffins are a lot of fun to watch.  You can view them diving below water and going for a swim. They are located just outside of the tropical rainforest. The rainforest is also a really cool exhibit. There's a three toed sloth, birds, and a tamarin moving above and beside you as you walk in the open exhibit.  But, be prepared it is humid! Not so good for my hair:)

The dolphins are always fun to view.  You can sit and watch a show, or just pop in to see them at anytime.  The stands make an excellent stopping point to eat a snack while watching the dolphins play with their toys and leap and flip.  You can also view the dolphins from an underwater viewing area.

Just outside of the dolphin arena there is a kids area.  I'm not sure many people know it's there.  It's sort of tucked away.  There is an area to read books, a puppet theater with puppets, a please touch water exhibit, a Velcro wall to hang removable underwater creatures, and some blocks for sitting or climbing. It's not the best play area, but it's a nice place to take a break.

Another popular area for my girls is the long ramp that winds down through the sharks.  On our last visit, we saw scuba divers cleaning the tanks and playing with the animals.  The girls love this ramp.  I'm not completely sure why, but I think it's because it's dark and they can sort of run (at toddler speed) down the ramp.

The jellyfish exhibit is usually our final stop.  There is something so peaceful and serene watching the jellies glide through the water. The girls especially liked the moon jellyfish.  I think it has something to do with their fascination with the moon.

Helpful Tips

The aquarium lets you carry a backpack with snacks and drinks.  There is a full cafeteria style restaurant, and a small cafe that serves drinks and light fare.

Restrooms are few and far between, so you're best bet is to use the restrooms when you first enter.

I hope you get a chance to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore sometime. If you have any questions, I would be glad to try and answer them.

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