My family was a big fan of the Living Classrooms Children’s Museum at Glen Echo Park. While we were sad to see it go, it is now home to the Glen Echo Park Aquarium. Hearing that it had a few similarities to the old museum, it was on our to-do list.
What to Expect
Passing by the aquarium, you may think it isn’t much, but wait until you go inside. The website doesn’t do the aquarium justice. Do not go expecting the Glen Echo Park Aquarium to be anything like the Baltimore Aquarium because it’s not for several, good reasons.
This aquarium is smaller, affordable and is a perfect introduction for younger children (up to early elementary ages) to learn about the Chesapeake Bay through touch tanks and displays. The Glen Echo Park Aquarium is spearheaded by the Northern Virginia company, Under the Sea.
So what is there to do you ask? Begin your journey outside where you can check out the small fish ponds, play in the oversized sandbox or practice your best “ahoy” aboard a pirate ship. Inside, step inside a submarine, try your hand at aquatic science games, feel seashells and search for fossils under the sand.
Aquatic Animals at Glen Echo Park
There are a variety of animals on displays to admire and interact with, including an unattractive Oyster Toadfish, Common Grass Shrimp, a school of Mummichog fish, Horseshoe Crab, White Perch, Mahogany Snapper, Smallmouth Bass and an American Toad. Peek inside the tubes where the nocturnal American Eel hides, watch the dancing moves of the Blue Crab and greet the friendly Yellow Bellied Slider turtle. Throughout the day, there is an Atlantic Stingray feeding. This creature is pretty fun to watch.
Feel a Knobbed Whelk, Common Spider Crab, Blue Mussel and more in the touch tank. Remember when growing up, you brought back a hermit crab from your beach vacation? Well, this was the first time my 8 year old felt a hermit crab. The tiny little guy walked along, tickling her hand.
There’s a neat table containing fossilized whale vertebrae, Humpback Whale Baleen, Mermaid’s Purse (skate egg case) and Angel shark skin. See a stuffed, endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle and learn about the German U-Boat found in the Potomac River. Other activities include making a rubbing, aquatic felt boards, looking at a fossilized seahorse under a microscope and seeing a diver’s underwater camera.
Learning is Fun!
One thing I really liked about the Glen Echo Park Aquarium is that there were plenty of staff on hand to talk about the animals, answer questions and cleaning the tanks. Andrew Wilson, one of the operators of the aquarium, is very passionate about marine biology. He encouraged the children to touch the animals in the touch table and informed us about how the animals defend themselves against their prey.
The aquarium is currently open by appointmentonly. The cost is $8 with a $1 discount for military and free for the under 2 aged set. Once you get your admission bracelet, you are free to re-enter the aquarium throughout the day. Be aware that the terrain is uneven with slab rock so it will be challenging for strollers and little ones may need to hold an adult’s hand. A unisex bathroom is adorned with ocean décor and aquatic touches, however, there is no baby changing table.
If you are like me, your family are regular visitors to Glen Echo Park. A great way to add to your adventure is to become a member of the aquarium. The yearly membership cost $100 and includes free aquarium admissions along with other perks such as discounts on birthday parties. Another fun way to get the family involved is by becoming an aqua parent where you can adopt a sea creature. How cool is that!
Celebrating Special Events
In addition to regular programs, the aquarium also offers a mini camps and birthday parties. A private room is available for parties and even when celebrations are held, the facility is open to the public.
So while the Glen Echo Park Aquarium is small in stature, it packs a lot of punch in appreciating aquatic life in our ecosystem. Avoid the crowds of the big box aquariums and discover the under the sea offerings at Glen Echo.
Photos courtesy of Glen Echo Park Aquarium website.