National Aquarium in Baltimore: Tips, Tours, and Deals

The Centerpiece of Baltimore's Inner Harbor

National Aquarium at Baltimore's Inner Harbor
Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is the city's most popular tourist attraction and one of the biggest aquariums in the United States. The centerpiece of Baltimore's immensely popular Inner Harbor, needless to say, it can get a bit crowded (and expensive). Negotiating the aquarium can be challenging, but less so if you consult these tips on visiting the aquarium, taking a tour, or best yet - getting a great deal.

Tips

  • The best advice is this: if possible, visit the aquarium on a weekday. Weekends are much more crowded. If you can't, try and get the aquarium early (before 11 am) or late (after 3 pm).
  • No strollers are permitted inside the National Aquarium. Check your stroller at the entrance, and the aquarium will provide a carrier. Once inside the main building, it's obvious why strollers aren't permitted. Crowds, escalators and people movers would make it very difficult to navigate.
  • When you purchase admission tickets, you must also decide whether you want tickets to the 4D Immersion Theater. You will be given specific show times for each.
  • Plan your parking strategy in advance.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before your dolphin show time.
  • Lockers are provided near the entrance. Keep in mind, however, that if you follow the natural path through the aquarium, your visit will end a block away from this building.
  • If you want to leave the aquarium and return later, attendants at the information booth near the entry or at the exit in the Marine Mammal Pavilion will stamp your hand for re-entry.
  • While there are several options for dining inside the aquarium, all of them are cafes and snack shops with (expensive) fast food. The Inner Harbor's (and Harbor East) dining options or the restaurants of nearby Little Italy are much better and more diverse. Just be sure to get a re-entry stamp.
  • While it makes sense to buy souvenirs at the end of a visit, the first gift shop you encounter (near the Australia exhibit) is the best by far. So either lug your treasures along or make plans to come back.
  • Small children will frequently need a boost to see some of the exhibits.
  • The aquarium is open on most holidays (except Christmas and Thanksgiving). Keep in mind, however, that these usually are very crowded days.

National Aquarium Discounts

  • Several area hotels offer package deals that include aquarium tickets, VIP passes, and discounts, especially the Hotel Monaco Baltimore.
  • Active duty, reserves and retired members of the United States military are eligible to receive the best rates on Aquarium tickets at local MWR or ITT offices. Please check with your local base for details.
  • Half-Price Friday Nights. Friday is your night! Get access to our award-winning exhibits for half the price of general admission on Friday evenings after 5 pm.
  • Become a member. Depending on the level, a membership usually pays for itself in two visits.

Guests With Special Needs

A variety of services are available for individuals with disabilities. There's a drop-off circle in front of the aquarium on Pratt Street, an accessible entrance just past the main entrance, and elevators throughout. Visitors with special needs and their parties may purchase tickets at the Members Entrance and gain immediate entry.

Guests may obtain free wheelchairs with the deposit of a driver's license at the stroller check. Wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Strollers for children with disabilities are the only strollers allowed in the buildings. An aquarium tag, picked up from the stroller check, must be displayed while touring.

An Accessibility Guide maps out a wheelchair/stroller route that avoids the escalators. Pick it up at the Accessibility/Members Entrance, the stroller check, and information desks. Reserved seating for the dolphin show is available.

Visitors with special needs and their guests may enter the aquarium 30 minutes prior to opening during the First Saturdays and First Sundays program.

With advance notice, blind or deaf visitors may use audio tours or scripts of public presentations. Service animals are permitted in all public areas of the aquarium. Contact the special customer liaison at 410-659-4291 or leave a message on the TTY at 410-727-3022.

Aquarium Tours

If you'd like to get a closer look at what goes on behind the scenes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, these tours are the way to go. They offer everything from a plunge into the tanks to an in-depth walking tour.

  • Families with children over age 8, Teens, Adults, Scouts
  • $50 ($40 for Members)
  • Starting at 8:30 a.m. before the official aquarium's opening time, this is a 2-hour tour. Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at the Aquarium? Here’s your chance to step into our stories and see the Aquarium in a brand new way. In this incredible experience, an expert will lead you through our exhibits.
  • All participants must be at least 8 years of age to participate.
  • 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • $20 ($15 for Members)
  • Join us for a quick and exciting look behind the scenes! Led by an expert guide, you’ll learn about some of your favorite animals and exhibits around the Aquarium. With different tours offered throughout the year, be sure to come back and experience them all!
  • Ages 8 and up; children under 16 must be accompanied by a paying adult.
  • $190 ($150 for Members)
  • Touch a dolphin during this 2-hour meeting with the mammals (starts at 9 a.m.). The encounter begins with an interactive orientation session. Then the sit back and enjoy the dolphin show, following which you'll go up on deck for the real fun—playtime with the dolphins. Participants may not be pregnant.
  • Ages 8 and up
  • $45 ($35 for Members)
  • 1.5 hours, starting at 1:30 p.m.
  • Explore behind-the-scenes shark areas with an expert guide and discover the truth about these incredible ocean predators. Dare to walk the catwalk, where sharks swim silently just inches beneath you. Learn how aquarium staff cares for a variety of sharks and rays. Visit our food-prep area to learn how diets are carefully planned and monitored.
  • 18+; Guest must be PADI Open Water Diver certified or equivalent
  • 1 hour orientation/prep; 30-45 minute dive
  • $195 
  • Experience a once-in-a-lifetime dive that takes you to an exotic coral reef full of incredible animals, right here in Maryland.
  • Ages 8 and up; children under 16 must be accompanied by a paying adult
  • 1.5 to 2 hours; offered on weekends
  • $45 ($35 for members)
  • Explore the aquarium's state of the art Animal Care and Rescue Center as you feed the animals, talk to staff and perform water quality activities.
  • Ages 8 and up; children under 16 must be accompanied by a paying adult
  • 2 hours
  • $45 ($35 for members)
  • Have up close and personal interactions with reptiles and have a hands-on encounter as you go behind the scenes of the "Australia: Wild Extremes" exhibit.
  • Ages 8 and up; children under 16 must be accompanied by a paying adult
  • Overnight: 6:30 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • $125 ($95 for Members, $105 for groups)
  • Spend the night at the aquarium and explore behind-the-scenes areas, have animal encounters, watch a dolphin presentation, enjoy a show and more. Be sure to bring a sleeping bag, closed-toe shoes, sleepwear, and toiletries.
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