Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you allow strollers?

Because of the escalators and moving walkways inside the National Aquarium, Baltimore, strollers cannot be used. Consider leaving your stroller at home or in the trunk of your car. If you do bring a stroller, Aquarium staff will store it for you and provide a backpack or frontpack child-carrier. The higher vantage point will also provide your children with a better view of many exhibits.

We take pride in knowing that the National Aquarium is a family venue, and we really do understand that strollers are an important part of family travel. So why would we ban strollers from our buildings? Simply, the design of our buildings does not allow for strollers, and allowing them would cause major safety concerns.

If you’ve been to the Aquarium, you know that our buildings are filled with moving walkways (movers) and escalators. The layout of the main Aquarium building is a walking tour with movers at the end of each level to take people to the next floor. Most strollers are too large to even fit on the movers and escalators. And even if they did fit, having strollers and people in the galleries would cause major traffic flow and safety concerns.

Our top priority is visitor safety, and we also want to make sure visitors enjoy their experience at the Aquarium. Our solution? If you do bring a stroller, Aquarium staff will store it for you and provide a backpack or frontpack child-carrier. The higher vantage point will also provide your children with a better view of many exhibits.
This may not be an ideal solution for all of the parents out there, but it is the only way for us to create a safe and enjoyable experience for all who visit the National Aquarium.

How much time should I allow for my visit?

We recommend you allow at least 3.5 hours for your visit.

Where can I find the photos taken of me during my visit?

Visit mynationalaquariumphotos.com and enter the number on the back of your PhotoCard to see your photos, order prints, and share online!

Related Questions:

What if I lost my PhotoCard number?

Fill out this form and SharpShooter will do everything possible to locate your photos.

How do I share my photo online?

Visit mynationalaquariumphotos.com and enter the number on the back of your PhotoCard. Supply your e-mail address and a password to register or log in.

To e-mail your photo, look for the orange box that reads "Share Your Experience," and click on "Send Selected Photo." Fill out the form to e-mail your photo.

To share on Facebook, click on the Facebook logo under the preview of your photo. Log in to your Facebook account, and click "Post your photo!"

What kind of photo products can I order?

In addition to prints of various sizes and greeting cards, SharpShooter offers many great keepsake and gift items, like mugs, keychains, mousepads, coasters, T-shirts, playing cards, photo puzzles, and much more!

Does the Aquarium have parking?

Parking is available at numerous downtown garages within walking distance. Although the Aquarium does not operate its own parking facility, you can receive a parking discount at the Lockwood Place Garage, just across the street from the Aquarium. Get directions and discount instructions for parking here.

Does the Aquarium offer a military discount?

So that we can offer a deeper discount, the National Aquarium provides discounted tickets to military bases in the region through our consignment ticket program. If you are in the service, we encourage you to check with the MWR at your base to see if discounted Aquarium tickets are available for you and your family. We occasionally offer a special military promotion, so sign up to receive Aquamail, the Aquarium's e-newsletter, and be one of the first to know about new discounts and promotions. And thank you for all you do!

Do you offer a discount for AAA members?

Most of the Mid-Atlantic AAA offices sell the National Aquarium’s consignment tickets at a discount.

Do you have wheelchairs to rent?

Guests may obtain wheelchairs, free of charge, with the deposit of a driver's license at the stroller check located on the ground level and across the hall after entering through the Members'/Accessible Entrance. These manual wheelchairs are available in limited numbers, on a first-come, first-served basis for use inside the Aquarium only. Learn More 

Can I bring food into the Aquarium?

For the health and safety of our animals, food, beverages, and gum are not allowed outside of the Aquarium's designated dining areas. Food and beverages obtained outside the Aquarium are not allowed inside Aquarium buildings; however, there are picnic tables and benches outside the Aquarium if you choose to bring your own food.

Can I visit if I don't have my membership card?

Adults on the membership must have a valid photo ID to enter. Membership cards are requested to speed entry, but are not required.

Can I apply my Aquarium ticket purchase toward a membership?

Yes! You must mail in the original receipt along with the application for membership within 30 days of your visit. Only those on the receipt who are also eligible to be listed on the membership may be deducted. For online purchases, the $1.95 per-ticket fee cannot be applied toward a membership. Membership must be purchased within 30 days of the date on the receipt. Download the membership application form, fill it out, and send it in along with your ticket receipt to the National Aquarium, c/o Membership, 501 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. Please enclose your check or write in a credit card number at the bottom of the attached form for the balance due.

Can I bring guests with me through the Members' Entrance?

Yes, you can pay for two guests per member entering at the Members’ Entrance. An additional benefit of membership is the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance (please allow two weeks) for your guests to enjoy the Aquarium without waiting in the general admission line, whether you accompany them or not. These tickets will be mailed to your home and expire one year from date of purchase. Call 410-659-4230, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. ET, to order.

Can I list my nieces, nephews, sister, brother, children's friends, or others on my membership?

No, you can list only immediate family members who are living in your household. Children must be your own children who are 21 and younger.

Can my baby-sitter bring my children to the Aquarium?

Yes, if neither adult on the membership is present. The sitter must have the membership card and a signed, dated note from the parent listing the sitter's name, your membership number, and signature. The sitter will be required to show photo ID and the children must be listed by name and birth date on the membership. This applies only to memberships with named children. Family memberships with grandchildren may use the sitter policy ONLY if grandchildren are named on the membership.

Can I change the second adult on my membership to another person?

Changes can be made at time of purchase or renewal. No changes can be made during the membership and the membership is not transferable to others.

Can I combine my children and grandchildren on a membership?

No, a membership can include children OR grandchildren, but not a combination of both.

Can I exchange my guest tickets that came with my Donor-level membership for a new year if I don't use them?

Those tickets are valid for one full year only.

Can my child who is listed on the membership visit without one of the adults?

Yes, if the child is at least 16 years old and shows valid photo ID and the membership card.

How do I get the lowest possible price for a membership?

By renewing your membership prior to the expiration date on the card, you receive the lowest possible price.

Who do I call for questions about my membership?

Please call 410-659-4230 for questions about membership. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Where does the Aquarium get its dolphins?

The National Aquarium opened its marine mammal pavilion in 1990. Seven of our eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins were born in American aquariums, six of which were born right here at the National Aquarium. One was collected in the late '70s or early '80s from U.S. waters by other aquariums, when the practice was still approved by the U.S. government agencies.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the inhumane killing of dolphins that occurs during the Japanese drive fisheries, and it has created some confusion: none of our animals were acquired this way—we do not support, fund, or acquire animals from these drives, and neither do any other zoos or aquariums in the U.S. that are accredited, like we are, by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.

We are opposed to the inhumane slaughter of dolphins and applaud the creators of "The Cove" for raising public awareness of this terrible practice.

Can we touch the dolphins?

If you’d like to have this special opportunity, you can book a Dolphin Encounter Immersion Tour here.

Where do the dolphins sleep?

Right here in the pools! Dolphins don’t sleep the same way humans do. Researchers think dolphins rest only one half of their brain at a time, so they’re always partially awake and aware of their surroundings, and can continue to come to the surface to breathe. Sometimes a dolphin will continue to swim slowly around the pool, or sometimes the sleeping dolphin will float at the surface of the water.

How long do dolphins live?

On average, a bottlenose dolphin is expected to live about 25 years, but they can live much longer. One of our dolphins is 40!

How do you train the dolphins?

We use positive reinforcement, rewarding the dolphin for performing the behavior. Depending on the behavior, it can take anywhere from a week to a year. Typically, it takes two to three years to fully train a dolphin. Read more about how we train our dolphins here.

What happened to the dolphin shows?

Our dolphins are guest favorites and we wanted everyone to have the opportunity to see them. So now all of our guests will be able to enjoy the dolphins and spend as long as they like with these fascinating animals!

The traditional scheduled show format created capacity limitations and the perception that our general admission did not afford guests a complete Aquarium experience. It also created overcrowding and traffic patterns that were disruptive to the remainder of the guest experience.

Dolphin Discovery, which replaces our previous dolphin shows, is an exciting new experience that allows our guests to set the pace of their visits and interact with our dolphin experts, observing our dolphins throughout the day.

Now, you can spend as much time with the dolphins as you’d like, and watch and possibly even participate in dolphin enrichment activities, like behavior training, feeding, and other exciting activities led by marine mammal specialists and our other animal experts. There will still be jumps, tail walks, haul-outs, play activities with balls, and a lot more. You’ll also get to watch feeding, enrichment, and play sessions! Every hour of every day is different.

Dolphin Discovery is now open all of the time and there are always experts there to talk with you about the dolphins. So any time is a great time to see the dolphins!

How many animals make up the Aquarium's collection?

We have more than 17,000 animals representing more than 750 species.

Can I donate an animal or pet to the Aquarium?

In general, the National Aquarium does not accept animal donations. We appreciate your thinking of us in finding your pet a new home. However, we simply do not have enough suitable exhibit or quarantine space for the number of animals we are offered.

Please contact an animal rescue organization to help you find a new home for your animal. Never release a pet into the wild. Many exotic animals are not adapted to local climates and will not survive. Even native species should not be released after they have been captive for a period of time. The animal's survival is unlikely and any released animals could spread diseases to local populations.

What jobs are available at the Aquarium?

Aquarium operations require a wide range of jobs, from front-line staff to animal care, to building maintenance, to finance, to fundraising, and more.

To see current job openings and submit an application, visit the National Aquarium's career center.

Can I job shadow or interview Aquarium staff?

The Aquarium receives a tremendous number of requests for job shadowing and interviews. Unfortunately, we are unable to meet the demand.

We do offer programs, such as Immersion Tours, for people to interact with our husbandry staff. Immersion Tours present a unique opportunity for personal time with certain staff, animals, and behind-the-scenes access at the Aquarium. Learn More

We also have an internship program for college students who can work 120 hours in a semester and receive college credit. Learn more about internships.

How can I prepare for a marine science career?

For information on marine science education programs, check out BRIDGE at marine-ed.org/bridge.

More information on careers in marine science can be found at marinecareers.net.

The National Aquarium offers a number of ways for people to gain experience and lay the foundation for a fascinating and rewarding career in marine science.

Student Summer Program

Maryland high school students who have completed ninth grade and at least one biology course are invited to spend a summer learning, teaching, and having fun with other students. Community service hours are awarded. Applications are accepted in the fall, and this program fills up quickly!  Learn More

Internships

Internships are a great way to get on-the-job training. The Aquarium offers unpaid internships to college students. Interns must receive college credit for their internship and complete a minimum of 120 hours of work. Learn More

Volunteering

Volunteering at the Aquarium requires a one-year commitment and the equivalent of four hours of work per week. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and high school graduates. Volunteers not only learn a lot, they have a lot of fun. Learn More

Veterinary Preceptorship/Externship

This opportunity is specifically designed for students with an interest in aquatic and zoo animal medicine, laboratory medicine, and environmental medicine. Students spend six to eight weeks working in the Animal Health Department and are exposed to the multifaceted nature of veterinary practice in a major aquarium. Students applying for the Veterinary Preceptorship Program must be a student in good standing enrolled in an AVMA-accredited school of veterinary medicine and must have completed the first two years of basic courses. Positions are unpaid. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are considered as received. Inquiries may be directed to Dr. Ben Rossi

How can I become a marine mammal specialist?

To become a marine mammal specialist, we recommend you get a degree in biology, psychology, or zoology. Additionally, most of our specialists got involved first through internships or volunteer programs, either at the National Aquarium or at other facilities. You will also need SCUBA certification! Learn more about dolphin training

How and when did the National Aquarium get its start?

Originally established in 1873 in Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts, National Aquarium, Washington, DC, was considered the nation’s first public aquarium. In 1878, the National Aquarium moved to the site of the Washington Monument, and in 1932, the Aquarium was incorporated into the lower level of the Commerce Building. On September 30, 2013, National Aquarium, Washington, DC, closed its doors to the public, due to necessary renovations in the Department of Commerce.

In Baltimore during the 1970s, then-Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer conceived and championed the idea of an aquarium as a vital component of Baltimore's overall Inner Harbor redevelopment scheme. In 1976, Baltimore City residents supported the National Aquarium, Baltimore, by voting for it on a bond referendum. Groundbreaking for the facility took place on August 8, 1978. In 1979, the new aquarium was recognized by the United States Congress, which granted the facility "national" status. The National Aquarium, Baltimore, opened to the public on August 8, 1981.

For more information about the history of the National Aquarium, please visit here.  

Who was the architect for the National Aquarium, Baltimore?

The Aquarium’s original building, Blue Wonders: Reefs to Rainforests, was designed by Peter Chermayeff of Cambridge Seven Associates in Boston, MA. It measures 115,000 square feet and holds more than 1 million gallons of water.

The Pier 4 Pavilion is a 94,000-square-foot building designed by Grieves Associates of Baltimore, which opened to the public in December 1990. This building houses a 1.3-million-gallon pool for the Aquarium’s Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, a traveling exhibit area, and a cafe, and is linked to the main building on Blue Wonders by an enclosed footbridge.

The 65,400-square-foot Glass Pavilion, which opened in December 2005, was also designed by Peter Chermayeff. It features the award-winning Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit, a 6,650-square-foot cafe, a 5,000-square-foot gift shop, and a remarkable 35-foot waterfall. 

What is the Aquarium's economic impact on the region?

The National Aquarium, Baltimore, is Maryland’s largest paid tourist attraction, and the economic impact of Aquarium visitors on the State of Maryland has been tremendous. A study by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development determined that the Aquarium annually generates nearly $220 million in revenues, 2,000 jobs, and $6.8 million in State and local taxes. The Aquarium's success has contributed to the development of more than 3,000 new hotel rooms in Baltimore. 

What is the annual attendance?

More than 1.4 million visitors pass through the National Aquarium, Baltimore's doors every year.

Is the National Aquarium a government entity?

No. National Aquarium is neither managed or funded by the federal government. The National Aquarium Institute, which oversees both Aquarium venues, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We rely on the generosity of our donors, members, and volunteers to operate this world-class aquarium enterprise with conservation-based programs, education, and research. 

What types of private events can I have at the Aquarium?

Holiday parties, corporate events, wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions, private dinners, proms, reunions, lectures, presentations, social gatherings, bar/bat mitzvahs, picnics and more.

How do I check availability and/or reserve rental space to host an event at the National Aquarium?

Your direct contact for all event inquiries is Stephanie Chall, manager of meetings and events. Please fill out a request for information form. Due to the large amount of incoming requests, please allow 3-5 business days for response.

How much does it cost to "hold" a date for my event at the National Aquarium?

Once you select a date and confirm availability with our manager of meetings and events, we will guarantee a hold on your date and rates for a two-week period at no cost. A scheduled site visit is highly recommended, and a quote for space rental fees will be provided to you in writing.

Once confirmed, a space rental contract will be issued and 50% of the base rental fee due. The remaining 50% is due five days prior to the event date.

We ask that you wait to send out any invitations for the event until all parties have signed the contract.

What does my National Aquarium space rental include?

Space rental fees include a four-hour private rental, access to the aquarium exhibits, aquarium staff (on-site day-of manager, security and hosts, as needed), plus use of our existing tables and chairs, podium with mic, and small screen.

For weddings, your one-hour rehearsal is also included during normal business hours (9 am to 4:30 pm) the week prior to your event. If your rehearsal needs to take place after 4:30 pm or on a Saturday, there may be an additional fee.

Who are the approved caterers at the National Aquarium?

The Aquarium provides a choice of two exclusive caterers: Harbor Market Catering and The Classic Catering People. Our caterers handle food and beverage, linen rentals and any other special table or chairs. The National Aquarium holds a liquor license—all alcohol for private events must be supplied and served by one of our exclusive caterers. Exceptions can be made for kosher or Halal food items (additional fee applies).

Can I bring my own cake to an event at the National Aquarium?

Our caterers are happy to get a cake for you; however, you are able to bring your own as long as it’s from a licensed commercial baker (proof required). Our team will arrange the drop-off times directly with the bakery prior to the event. Unfortunately, due to limited storage, cakes cannot be dropped off early the day of your event.

When can I tell my vendors to arrive for setup and breakdown for an event at the National Aquarium?

Because the Aquarium and catering staff have a very short two-hour time period to turn the building from day to evening, our staff will arrange all vendor deliveries, setup and pickup directly.

We will need the names/contact information to coordinate load-in, as we have no on-premise parking available.

Breakdown at the end of the evening is allotted one hour after the conclusion of the event.

Additional set up time is not guaranteed, and additional fees may apply.

Can the National Aquarium accommodate early drop-offs or deliveries the day of my event?

Because the Aquarium is a working museum, open to the public, we are not able to accept early vendor deliveries and have limited storage space for event décor.

Is there parking available for my guests at a National Aquarium private rental?

The National Aquarium works exclusively with the Lockwood Garage (link to map) and will validate your guests’ parking for a discounted rate.

Are there any restrictions for decorations for a scheduled private event at the National Aquarium?

The Aquarium’s mission is to inspire the conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Because of this, we cannot allow any live animals or balloons as decorations for private events.

Does the National Aquarium host daytime birthday parties?

Unfortunately, there are no official birthday party packages available at this time. We welcome space rentals for all occasions. The National Aquarium also hosts Immersion Tours that can be booked through our central reservations department. You are also welcome to contact our group sales manager for groups of 15 or more for a discounted ticket rate and box lunch/cake.

Can I have music during my private event at the National Aquarium?

There are no limitations on types of music in the Blue Wonders building. In Pier 4 Pavilion, the limitations concern the sensitivity of the dolphins to certain types and decibel levels of music. No steel drums are allowed in the dolphin building, and no amplified music is permitted in the underwater viewing area of Pier 4.

Can I have candles at the National Aquarium private rental?

Yes. Candles are permitted as long as they are surrounded by glass (e.g., votive, hurricanes, etc.).

Do you have any special add-ons or extras available for my private event at the National Aquarium?

Added value programming is available and contingent upon your space rental agreement. Additional fees will apply:

  • Dolphin Discovery
  • Puffin
  • ACR
  • Sharp Shooters Green Screen Photography
  • Aqua Store/Event Network

Do you provide any special rates for active members of the Aquarium?

Some membership levels receive special private rental rates. Please consult our membership department to see if you qualify.

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