The Deal Mommy

Baltimore Aquarium: the perfect 2 hour tour

The Deal Kids get an impromptu tour from the head Marine Biologist, April 2013

The Deal Kids get an impromptu tour of the shark tanks from an insider, April 2013

As a ten year member of the Baltimore Aquarium, I’m shocked at how most visitors get the place exactly wrong. With that in mind, I put together this two hour tour that I’ve been using with the Deal Kids since they were toddlers and tested just yesterday with 3 kids ages 3, 6, and 9. Please share your tips as well!

1. Buy your tickets in advance! Know you’re coming more than once in a year? The family membership is a total no-brainer as it’s cheaper than 2 visits for a family of 3 or more.

2. Get there 5 minutes before opening. THIS IS IMPORTANT and will make whether you come on a weekday or a weekend irrelevant. In some ways weekends are better as you aren’t competing with school trips, but you MUST come at open.

3. Hightail it to the 4th floor Atlantic Coral Reef. The reef exhibit is an amazement to kids: 4 stories of ramps surrounded by tanks in every direction, and when you’re there at open you’re guaranteed at least 20 minutes to yourself while the throngs meander the other floors! Bonus: if you’re really lucky, you’ll meet up with one of the biologists feeding the fish and she’ll let your kids follow her around asking questions and pointing out her favorites. (Trivia: the stingrays are named Spot and…wait for it…Not.)

4. At the bottom of the Atlantic Coral Reef is Shark Alley. Spend a few minutes in there. You’ll probably about 30-40 past open now.

5. When you get out, head up the escalator to Animal Planet Australia. Spend until 55 past open here.

6. At 55 past open, walk across the bridge to Jellies: Invasion as soon as it opens. In an hour it will be so packed you won’t be able to see a thing.

7. Spend a few minutes in the play area or grab a snack until the first dolphin presentation at 1:30 past open. Sit in the front row so you get good and wet…it will make your kids’ day!

You should finish up with the Dolphins about 2 hours past open. There are some days (since we’re members) that I cut the day here and head out to the harbor because you’ve gotten the best of the aquarium and by now it’s starting to fill up. But there are a few more “to dos” if you’re a one time visitor (order here is not as important since the crowds are equal):

    • Visit the puffins and “Nemo” on the 4th floor
    • The 5th floor rainforest is worth a visit and is almost never crowded. Amazing views of the harbor.
    • If you visit on the weekends, there’s a small cafe on the 4th floor that also has great views (and no lines).  Also a great place to have a snack or sack lunch you bring during the week as they usually keep the room unlocked.
    • The main gift shop has a “sale” section hidden in the back left corner.  I usually find $5 T-shirts for the kids, and you get a 10% discount on food and merch with membership!
    • Getting hungry?  Be sure to get your hand stamped (you can come back and re-visit your faves).  Turn AWAY from the Inner Harbor and there’s a McCormicks & Schmicks hidden behind the Pier 5 hotel. We found it to be both uncrowded and surprisingly kid-friendly…and you’re probably craving a nice seafood meal!

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