Baltimore vs Camden*
The National Aquarium
Upon entering the National Aquarium, a massive Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit awaits. The best part? As you work your way up the five levels you maintain a view of the reef. If only we realized that when we first walked in, we wouldn't have bothered to try and squeeze our way into the crowd to get a glimpse of the reef.
The reef contained dozens of different sea creatures from sharks and sting rays, to turtles and Dory fish*.
*Note: Dory fish is not their given name. Hopefully you already knew that.
This was my favorite:
Like the Dory Fish, this guy is clearly misnamed. He is a "Honeycomb Stingray" but obviously he should be named a "Leopard Stingray" for his spotted body.
There were artsy photo displays throughout the halls as we walked towards the different enclosures.
I learned after my most recent aquarium trip that I do not like bullfrogs. They are disturbing. However, I was okay with this little guy. I think his turtle friend had something to do with it.
Speaking of turtles, I know I mentioned it in my Baltimore post, but I have to again:
The National Aquarium has to earn some props for adopting 'Calypso', a green sea turtle who had one of his flippers amputated, to their staff. You can read about Calypso's story here.
The sea creatures at the National Aquarium were lively...
(Ummm....helloooo Mr. Stingray! We are watching you!)
and also lazily secretive...
Do you see them? Because it took Hubby pointing at the glass a half dozen times before I realized this wasn't an empty tank.
Both aquariums had frog exhibits. However, the below picture has no glass separating me from this little guy.
No bigger than the top joint of my thumb, these little froggies were everywhere in an open air rain forest exhibit.
These, however, were in glass enclosures:
Is it weird that I'm a little jealous of this frog's blue skin? I mean, seriously, how cool would it be to be the color of this frog?
I suppose it would be a lot like living in the movie "Avatar".
The Dolphin Discovery Amphitheater is amazing. Visitors can come and go as they please. There is more than enough seating to sneak in unnoticed during a dolphin show or to come in to sit and watch the dolphins swim and play together. Staff is standing by to answer any questions guests might have about the dolphins.
Such as this, why oh why does a dolphin find the need to flop out of the water and onto the landing?
Is he trying to escape?
Nope, he's simply grabbing another toy to play with and then going back into the water.*
*You can't see it, but he tossed a ball that had been sitting out of the water back into the water, I swear.
In name alone, Adventure Aquarium already sounds kid friendly. However, it doesn't end there. From the layout to the entire zone dedicated to children, the Adventure Aquarium clearly had children in mind when they renovated the museum.
These frogs, painted by local schools, decorate the area visitors are met with upon stepping off the escalators.
I love projects like this because they show just how different and unique each person (or classroom) is.
Adventure Aquarium has several please touch areas. The first we encountered was the 'Touch-a-Shark' tank. I said, "No, thank you," to the experience, but certainly could understand the thrill each student experienced as they waited with their hands over top of the water, ready to reach in and touch an actual live shark as it swam by.
This one in particular disturbed me. He seemed to be more of a snake of the sea than a shark. I wanted nothing to do with him or his friends.
On our way towards the 'Kid Zone' (had we grabbed a map and realized that's where we were headed we would have turned our heels and ran away screaming) we found these little guys:
There were actually fish in this tank too, but I was more in awe of these snails no larger than my pinkie nail.
I love snails. I love snails, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I could watch them slide around all day.
There was a unique piece of coral, at least I'm assuming it falls under coral, there was no sign for it:
It felt like it was something that belonged in a science fiction world.
The next please touch was 'Creature Feature' where the students could touch a starfish. Thanks to Spongebob Squarepants, this area was even more crowded than the shark tank.
The 'Ocean Realm Dive Theater' was amazing because of the glory that is technology. Today, unlike when I was a child, the scuba divers can talk to the crowd while an employee is giving a discussion on the ocean realm. Amazing.
Like snails, I have a weird love for turtles. They are so sad looking, yet, adorable at the same time.
Sharks. Any aquarium would be majorly lacking without them, so Adventure Aquarium makes sure you don't miss them by including a shark tunnel for visitors to walk through. It's incredible, and sadly, I have no picture of it.
I do, however, have a picture of this:
This shark is not bothered by this cleaner fish who stayed hooked to his back the entire time we watched him.
While the jelly fish were breathtakingly beautiful, there were only three different tanks of jellyfish.
The biggest let down was that the 'Hippo Haven' was closed. However, the outdoor exhibit of 'Penguin Island' was open. One of my students and his father even saw a penguin lay an egg.
After visiting the National Aquarium, I was almost certain I was going to favor the Adventure Aquarium. The last time I had been to the Adventure Aquarium was our first anniversary, six years ago. I remember loving it, but perhaps it was because I was so clouded by romance. Shame on me. After comparing the two my vote goes to the National Aquarium with the mention that Adventure Aquarium is still an impressive facility with many features that the National Aquarium surprisingly does not have.
The National Aquarium has a fantastic layout. Whether it actually is or isn't it larger than Adventure Aquarium, it still has a much larger feel without any confusion. The areas of the museum are leveled rather than spread out so it makes accessing everything easier. What really wins me over to the National Aquarium is that I felt they had more different and unusual animals to offer than Adventure Aquarium. Although the dolphins are a major perk, they aren't the only one. The National Aquarium had puffins, an incredible Animal Planet Australia exhibit, and I didn't even show pictures of the beautiful jelly fish or sharks.
As said, Adventure Aquarium still isn't the loser here. Adventure Aquarium was much more kid-friendly than the National Aquarium. Being that I do not have children, that could be the reason for my sway in vote. However, I could certainly understand how the mothers would vote Adventure Aquarium over the National Aquarium. The opportunity for your child to be able to pet a shark, stingray, or starfish is irreplaceable. I know this by the look of disappointment one of my students gave me after he told me he didn't get to pet the shark as compared to the look of delight that my assistant teacher's daughter and classmate had as they awaited the shark to swim by so they could reach out and touch danger by the fin. Speaking of sharks, the shark tunnel that Adventure Aquarium put in during their most recent renovation is incredible. It is also packed on a field trip day, hence why I do not have it pictured here.
A major negative, however, is the layout of the museum. There seemed to be so much space, yet it was easy to miss part of an exhibit simply because of the way the area was arranged. Rather than levels, most of the Adventure Aquarium is on one level.*
*Note: If you don't have children, stay completely away from Level 2, also known as, Zone C.
Adventure Aquarium offers outdoor exhibits of penguins and, in the summer, butterfly gardens. This is one area I think that The National Aquarium is lacking, however, the National Aquarium is surrounded by other attractions of the inner harbor such as restored ships that visitors can purchase passes to board.
Either visit, you can't go wrong. You'll see beautiful and interesting sea creatures. Considering that they are both so close to each other, my final recommendation would be that if you have children, go to Adventure Aquarium, if you don't, visit the National Aquarium.