Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 26: All Around the Aquarium

Fish Fossil!

Giant fish fossil suspended from the ceiling and hanging down several stories welcomes you!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

The next stop on our scenic tour of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has already popped up as an Easter egg in previous chapters. The National Aquarium is an institution so large, it needs two piers and at least three buildings to contain it all. Over two million gallons of water house 17,000+ specimens from several hundred species, some of which were transferred over when the National Aquarium in Washington DC closed its doors in 2013. As you’re walking around the Inner Harbor, the aquarium is impossible to miss.

Aquarium First Shot!

Our first sighting of the Aquarium’s east end on Monday morning, day 3.

Aquarium water taxi view!

The view from one of our water taxi rides.

Aquarium sign!

The official sign on the west side. When your structures are this massive, who needs a showy sign?

Aquarium WTC view!

Piers 3 and 4, the totality of the National Aquarium and a few neighbors (including the Chesapeake and the Torsk), as seen from the 28th-floor observation deck of the World Trade Center.

The main building on Pier 3 was opened to the public in 1981. The Pier 4 Pavilion houses the mandatory dolphin tank, along with a temporary exhibit that merits its own chapter later. Towering over the entrance is the Glass Pavilion, a twelve-story expansion built in 2005. We saw nearly every inch of its aggregated exteriors well before we finally got around to going inside on the afternoon of Day 4. We arrived in the middle of rush hour and a couple of hours before closing, but thankfully had time to see virtually everything we’d hoped and then some.

Aquarium glass!

Our view of the Glass Pavilion from the deck of the Chesapeake on Day 3.

Aquarium Waterfall!

First stop after entering is a refreshing indoor waterfall. Sadly, only the aquatic life can play in the pool below.

Waterfall level!

The walkways and ramps carry you onward and upward until you eventually reach eye level with the source.

Escalator screens!

Your tour through the Aquarium is a fixed path, but I wouldn’t call it linear. It’s long and winding and can feel confusing as you walk around the exhibits and the wonders, but it really is designed so you’re seeing exactly what everyone else is, and in the same order. In a way it’s like Final Fantasy XIII minus combat.

water cylinders!

Numerous odd constructs decorate the interiors along the way, including these floor-to-ceiling water cylinders whose purpose I totally missed.

shark friezes!

The multi-story Shark Alley is a ring of ramps that lets you walk around and around the predators while they swim their laps.

Jaws and Chesapeake!

Other fossils include shark jaws., a beloved staple of every aquarium we’ve visited. Wave hi to the Chesapeake outside!

After our long day of travel through the neighborhoods surrounding the Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium was a cool respite from the summertime heat. The experience meant several more blocks of walking and no time for resting, but somehow we didn’t feel the pain as we enjoyed the fancy architecture and lighting, and gallivanted up and through the halls and bridges and escalators. If your idea of a good time is power walking and spooky interiors, the National Aquarium might be your kind of playground.

…oh, wait! Almost forgot: also, there are fish. To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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