The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach features over 800,000 gallons of aquarium exhibitions and habitats and is considered one of the best aquariums in the United States. Visitors can experience the interactive exhibits, and outdoor opportunities as well.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center operates as a partnership with the City of Virginia Beach and a nonprofit organization—The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center Foundation, which maintains the aquarium animals, exhibits, and is responsible for fundraising, the Stranding Response Program, research efforts lead by the Science Center and the educational department.
The aquarium and science center hosts more than 600,000 visitors annually, 50,000 of which are students. This has led to Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center being named the number one cultural attraction in the area.
There are two buildings that comprise the aquarium that are connected by the Owls Creek Path. Each building has its own entrance and ticket counter. Tickets and hand stamps are good for the entire day and will include admittance to both buildings. Both buildings are handicapped accessible with two accessible parking lots available.
Animals and Exhibits
There are over 300 species represented in the collection at Virginia Aquarium with thousands of animals to be seen in exhibits ranging from coastal environments to the depths of the Atlantic Oceans. Some of the most popular animals for visitors to encounter include the Cownose Rays, Harbor Seals, Loggerhead Turtles, North American River Otter, and Sand Tiger Sharks. In addition to the permanent exhibits described below, the aquarium also has a gallery for temporary exhibits.
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Blue Crab Corner- This exhibit explores the history and ecology of the Blue Crab and the impact this marine animal has had on the economy and culture of the Chesapeake Bay. The Blue Crab Corner is located in the Marsh Pavilion and is a 12 foot high dock and 750 gallon aquarium habitat with below water viewing areas.
Chesapeake Bay Touch Pool- Closed for renovations in early 2017, the Touch Pool provides docents that help visitors explore the anatomy of marine creatures such as hermit crabs, whelk, and other sea creatures.
Chesapeake Bay Light Tower Aquarium- This massive structure features three species of sea turtles living together in a 70,000 gallon aquarium. Included is the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and Loggerhead and green turtles. There are also fish that are local to Virginia Beach that share the habitat.
Indonesian Volcanic Island- This exhibit is modeled after Mount Rogers ,the tallest mountain in Virginia that resulted from volcanic activity. The habitat is home to the Komodo Dragons and includes a viewing area that children can crawl under with space to pop up in the middle of the exhibit for a special viewing experience.
Malaysian Peat Swamp- Guests to the Peat Swamp encounter a humid environment that resembles the way Virginia would have appeared during the Carboniferous Period when coal was being formed in the state. Alligators are seen in this exhibit.
Mediterranean Sea- Visitors can look back on the ecology of Virginia during the Silurian period in this exhibit that blends the Costal Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea habitats.
Red Rea- The Triassic Period is represented in this exhibit that showcases what Virginia would have been like when the land was rifting and the Atlantic Ocean was created.
Whales: Voices in the Sea- The Pacific Life Foundation sponsored this exhibit that was developed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Visitors can plug into kiosks and listen to the songs of many different species of whales, create their own personal whale calls, and watch educational videos on whales. There are also opportunities to lean about conservation and watch interviews with marine biologists.
There are attractions at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center outside of the aquarium building.
The Adventure Park- This outdoor adventure park includes a zip line and adventure up high through the trees about the Owls Creek. Children as young as 5 may participate in a variety of challenging courses with many experiences levels. There is also a Labyrinth jungle gym that is great for large groups of children to play on.
Boat Trips- Boat trips from the Virginia Aquarium began in 1989 and are staged with marine educators offering an educational experience with a focus on responsible ocean practices, and conservation. During the warmer months, a Dolphin Discoveries Sea Adventure is offered which includes a 90-minute exploration of the bottle nose dolphin habitats. There is also a 75-minute Ocean Collections Sea Adventure Boat Trip during the summer that explores the coastal waters. Winter months are when the Whale watching tours are offered, these excursions are 2.5 hours in length.
National Geographic 3D Theatre- This 6 story Theatre is located within the Aquarium and is recently renovated. Visitors can view many different films from box office hits to documentaries.
717 General Booth Blvd., Virginia Beach, Virginia, 23451, website, Phone: 757-385-3474