The Washington DC National Aquarium provides a splash of color in this town known for its white marble architecture. This interesting place, tucked in the lower level of the Commerce Building, is a popular stop on many trolley tours. However you arrive, you'll find a rainbow of marine life swimming through thousands of gallons of water. The Washington DC Aquarium exhibits are home to some amazing animals, including fish, reptiles, and other sea creatures.
This aquarium in DC traces its roots back to 1873, making it one of the oldest in the world. It all began with the Federal Fish Commission, which established the National Aquarium. Before the Washington Monument was built, the fish commission managed several holding ponds on those grounds, as well as managing a small aquarium in the heart of town. For generations, DC visitors enjoyed looking at the fish swimming around, but the aquarium or the ponds never attracted a lot attention. Everything changed in 2008 with the complete renovation that refreshed the Washington DC aquarium exhibits and expanded visitor amenities.
One of the fun things to do for people of all ages, the Washington DC National Aquarium takes most people between 45 minutes and an hour to explore. During your tours, you'll have the chance to see more than 250 different species of underwater creatures in naturalistic habitats. Besides providing a home to the animals, the Washington DC Aquarium exhibits provide information about the National Marine Sanctuaries as well as wildlife preserves and national parks throughout America. You'll feel like you're on a tour around the world as you make your way through the exhibits.
Every afternoon, the caretakers give talks and answer questions about the various animals, everything from the familiar frogs and alligators to exotic piranhas and the red lionfish. While Washington DC has long been known for its figurative sharks, actual sharks swim among the exhibits at the aquarium. Chain catsharks swim through the National Marine Sanctuary exhibit, while the spotted leopard sharks are found in the Channel Island exhibit. You'll also find that feeding time is one of the more interesting things to do at the aquarium in DC—the keepers turn it into a learning experience and a chance for fun.
After you've had a chance to see the poison dart frogs, the truly amazing Pacific octopus, and the others, you'll have a chance to do a little shopping. The gift shop is well-stocked with books, toys, and other items that will make great gifts and keep your memories long after your vacation has wrapped up.
Easy to find just two blocks from the White House, the aquarium in DC is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for closings on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The last tours begin a half hour before closing time. Tickets are required to visit this nonprofit museum, and proceeds go towards the upkeep and care of the animals. Seniors, children, and military personnel all are charged reduced admission rates, while visitors under the age of 3 are free.
If you find yourself fascinated by the Washington DC National Aquarium, you might want to plan a visit to the sister aquarium not far away in Baltimore. A perfect place for a Washington DC day trip, the National Aquarium, Baltimore offers even more exhibits and animals (16,500 creatures large and small in total). You'll also have the chance to watch a charming dolphin show and thrill to a show in the 4-D immersion theater. Behind-the-scenes tours provide an even closer look at the underwater world.