FOUR IN BALTIMORE

clockwise: dolphin show, emerald tree boa and sea horses

Cousin Och and I still had several hours before I my night flight back to California so Baltimore was the destination. Worrying was superfluous, apparently, as the drive from Maryland to Baltimore was smooth. Saying driving in the Philippines is a test of skills and endurance is an understatement. Traffic is indeed a major killer, and unless your vehicle is an automatic, which most cars are in America, your legs are in for an intense work-out.

“The driving in the Philippines prepared me for the long drives here,” Cousin Och said of his little driving secret. “It’s not tiring here because I’m just on cruise mode all the time.”

The bugbear to my cousin’s driving dream is finding a parking space, which isn’t as half bad as in Manila, but nothing fazes Cousin Och who is a tower of patience and positivity even in the midst of hurricane Irene. The universe, fortunately, was conspiring with us to make the four hours in Baltimore a day of great fun.

Cousin Och negotiates the traffic in Baltimore

Welcome to Baltimore Aquarium!

Aquatic exploration

Parking was easy and the distance from the largest tourist attraction of the US’s largest independent city and cultural centre was doable. Opened in 1981, Baltimore Aquarium houses an impressive collection of marine animals in three areas. The Glass Pavilion, on level 1, is the new exhibit Animal Planet Australia Extremes, which is an interpretation of a red rock river gorge in Northern Australia highlighting exotic snakes, rainbow lorikeets, fresh water crocodiles, frilled lizards and flying foxes.

The main exhibit is in the five-tiered Pier 3 Pavilion, which is a one-way, self-guided journey that beings at the bubble tubes. Level 1 is Wings in the Water and houses the nation’s most beautiful stingrays. Level 2, or Maryland: Mountains to the Sea, showcases the crystal clear fresh water of the Allegheny Stream to the salty Atlantic Shelf. Level 3, Surviving Through Adaptation, has underwater creatures with the most interesting adaptations helping them to survive and thrive. Level 4, Sea Cliffs, Kelp Forest, Pacific Corral Reef, Amazon River Forest, feature the four distinct and fascinating habitats of the world from the frigid cold of the north Atlantic to the humid air of the Amazon. The final level is Upland Tropical Rain Forest, Hidden Life where one can vicariously experience the shallows of the Atlantic Coral Reef to the depths of the Open Ocean where the sharks reside.

clockwise: jelly fish, smooth-fronted dwarf caiman and more jellies

Pier 4 Pavilion is the last area of Baltimore Aquarium where the Atlantic bottle nose dolphins reign. There’s a 25-minute dolphin show after which you can come face-to-fin with the dolphins at the dolphin underwater viewing area on the ground level. Sharing the spotlight with the intelligent creatures – the only one to respond to their images on a mirror – are the jellies in the exhibition called Jellies Invasion: Oceans out of Balance although only for a short time.

The Inner Harbour

It was a little bit overcast when Cousin Och and I ventured deeper into the Inner Harbour. Before us loomed the gigantic Power Plant, its major tenant Barnes & Noble standing regal before us. Walking to the side of the building revealed a row of restaurants catering to the various peckish moods of its visitors –Hard Rock Café, Blu Bamboo, Chipotle, Dick’s Last Resort and Houlihan’s Restaurant & Bar. Further down were Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant mixed in with a historical monument or two.

Baltimore's Inner Harbour on a Friday morning

Walking parallel to the entertainment pavilion and past the water taxi berth opened up to one of Baltimore’s crowned historical monuments, the seven-foot Knoll Lighthouse. It was written on the sign board that it was the second screw pile structure to be built by the US Lighthouse Service, and was completed by the city’s Iron Founders firm of Murray & Hazelhurst in 1856 at more than $30,000. Its light marked the outer entrance to Baltimore’s busy harbour and was manned from 1856 until 1948 and retired in 1988. Using a base and 400-ton crane, it was moved to the Inner Harbour.

Books and eats at The Power Plant, Baltimore

Ship-turned-museum near the aquarium

Another turn in one of the little streets led to a berthed ship, the Tancy, which is the last surviving warship from the attack on Pearl Harbour. It was built in 1936 and was in service until 1986. It underwent major restoration in 2003.

The beacon of light in Baltimore

The four hours were up and it was back on the road to the Washington Dulles International Airport for my flight back to California. Four hours in Baltimore was fantastic; my next goal is to spend a day or two during my next trip.

Baltimore Aquarium

501 East Pratt Street

Baltimore, MD 21202

410-576-3800

http://www.aqua.org

Tickets

Aquarium 4D Theatre Package (aquarium + 4D Immersion Theatre) Dolphin Show Package (aquarium + dolphin show) Total Experience Package (aquarium + 4D film + dolphin show)
$24.95 (adult) $27.95 (adult) $27.95 (adult) $29.95 (adult)
$23.95 (senior) $26.95 (senior) $26.95 (senior) $28.95 (senior)
$19.95 (child) $22.95 (child) $22.95 (child) $24.95  (child)

Hours

MONTH MON-THURS FRI SAT SUN
September 9am – 5pm 9am – 8pm 9am- 5pm 9am – 5pm
October 9am – 4pm 9am – 8pm 9am – 5pm 9am – 5pm
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