Tis true! Many moons ago, Washington, D.C. had its own quirky aquarium. It was housed in the basement of the Department of Commerce Building, where it had been since the height of the Great Depression. It was fairly small but boasted some pretty cool fish including piranhas, puffer fish, an octopus, stingrays, and even sharks. While expansion plans were in the works for 2014, the proposals were discarded, and the aquarium closed in 2013. Fret not fish lovers! There are still a bunch of options for aquariums your whole family will enjoy. Check out our close faves.
Glen Echo Aquarium
The Glen Echo Park Aquarium in historic Glen Echo Park is the perfect place for fun, adventure and learning. Discover Chesapeake Bay aquatic wildlife through hands on fun and learning. The Aquarium features live animal exhibits, static and interactive displays, activities, a live touch tank, a giant sand pit, and a submarine. If that’s not enough for your little marine biologists, they can even pretend to be pirates at the cool pirate ship in a tree on the aquarium grounds! Meet turtles, whelks, and Maryland’s famed Blue Crab. While you’re at Glen Echo, take a spin on the historic Dentzel Carousel…just because.
7300 MacArthur Blvd. (Glen Echo, Md)
Smithsonian National Zoo
One doesn’t necessarily think aquarium when they think about the National Zoo but, it turns out, they have quite the display of fascinating fish! The Zoo’s Amazonia exhibit allows visitors to get up close to the animals that thrive along the Amazon River—the largest river basin in the world. Explore the flooded forest, rich with turtles, sting rays and arapaima (one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world). View some really unusual critters like aquatic caecilians, also known as rubber eels, found in Colombia and Venezuela. Or catch the black pacu, a large, fruit-eating fish found in the upper Amazon River basin. Flagtail characins with their silver bodies and colorful fins are sure to be a big hit as well. They even have red-bellied piranhas which are, of course, are red from chin and cheeks to belly. After checking out the fish, stop by the Coral Lab exhibit. Learn how corals support life in the ocean and on land. Watch the tentacles of the stylish coral sway in the current and spot clownfish hiding among the anemones.
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW (Woodley Park)
No trek up to Baltimore is complete without paying a visit to the National Aquarium. One million guests annually go to the National Aquarium which is nearly forty years old and loved by many. Its mission is to encourage conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, and it is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top aquariums. The aquarium is home to more than 20,000 fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals living in first-rate habitats. This hot (er, cool) spot has rehabilitated and released hundreds of marine mammals and endangered sea turtles throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and they pride themselves in being active participants in some key research efforts.
501 E. Pratt St. (Baltimore, Md)
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
A bit of a hike from D.C. but worth a visit or weekend getaway, is the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center located in Virginia Beach, Va. This aquarium does a great job of educating visitors on the wonders of the Chesapeake Bay. The two main exhibit buildings of the aquarium are the Bay and Ocean Pavilion and the Marsh Pavilion. The pavilions are connected by an outdoor nature trail running alongside Owls Creek Salt Marsh. The Bay and Ocean Pavilion displays show the journey of water from the rivers of Virginia, through the Chesapeake Bay, and out into the ocean. The Chesapeake Bay Aquarium has a touch pool where little ones can even touch horseshoe crabs, sea stars, and whelk. The Chesapeake Light Tower Aquarium is home to sea turtles, spadefish, grouper and many more. Check out Komodo dragons and spotted eagle rays at the Restless Planet exhibit which showcases the forces that shaped the Virginia landscape into what it is today. The Marsh Pavilion features North American marsh creatures such as river otters, seahorses and snakes. The aquarium is home to more than 12,000 animals representing over 700 species.
717 General Booth Blvd. (Virginia Beach, Va)
Do you have a favorite aquarium? Tell us about it in the comments below.