Standing seven stories high and capped by a glass pyramid, this is widely considered to be America's best aquarium, with almost 20,000 creatures from more than 700 species, a rooftop rainforest, a multistory shark tank and a vast re-creation of an Indo-Pacific reef that is home to blacktip reef sharks, a green sea turtle and stingrays. There's also a reconstruction of the Umbrawarra Gorge in Australia's Northern Territory, complete with 35ft waterfall, rocky cliffs and free-roaming birds and lizards.
The largest exhibit does see seven bottlenose dolphins kept in captivity. However, the aquarium is planning to retire them to an oceanside sanctuary as soon as it is safe to do so (freeing them to the wild is not an option, since they lack survival skills). Pollution and climate change challenges need to be worked through before the move. You'll be glad to read that the dolphins no longer perform in shows here.
Inner Harbor is where many Baltimore tourists start and, unfortunately, end their sightseeing. This waterfront-renewal project of shiny glass, air-conditioned malls and flashy bars has managed to capture the maritime heart of this city. There are also several impressive historic ships moored here.
There are two private parking garages near the National Aquarium, with around 2000 spots all told. You can pre-book your spot online. For more information including how to get a discount on parking at the National Aquarium go to their website. The nearest free parking is about half a mile away.
As well as general admission tickets, there are add-ons tours available to learn more or get behind-the-scenes at various exhibits be that with the reptiles, sharks of dolphins.
Kids will love the 4-D Immersion Theater (admission costs extra) as well as aquarium sleepovers. Go on weekdays (right at opening time) to beat the crowds.
Located in downtown Baltimore there is plenty of accommodation nearby. Our top picks include