21 June 2021 (updated)

Guide to Explore The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

From viewing harbor seals to ziplining through trees, the Virginia Aquarium is an ideal destination for animal lovers! Here's how to plan the perfect visit.

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center might be in the heart of Virginia Beach, but this sea-centric site is a destination all on its own! Whether you’re taking your children on an East Coast road trip or planning a special day for the whole family, everyone who loves animals will love this popular spot.

Virginia Aquarium Tips for 2021

The Virginia Aquarium is back and busy after having to temporarily close during the peak of the COVID pandemic, but a few things might be a little different. So be sure to adjust your expectations before you go.

For starters, since they're only operating at limited capacity, you must have a reservation time in order to tour the museum. You can't just show up and tour the facilities.

Many of the exhibits, which are usually hands-on like the stingrays, are no longer that way. While you can still see the stingrays, you can't touch them. The smaller South Building is currently closed but should reopen during the summer of 2021. The IMax theater and visiting exhibits are also not currently open.

But with all of the amazing exhibits and options available to explore, you'll have a tremendous time experiencing everything the aquarium has to offer.

Dive Into the Aquarium Experience

Who doesn't love getting in the car for a road trip, or hopping on a plane for vacation? If the Virginia Aquarium is your destination, you're in luck! From animals and documentaries to treetop adventures, this will be an experience you and your loved ones won’t soon forget.

With thousands of animals and interactive exhibits, the Virginia Aquarium remains one of the top destinations for locals and tourists alike. It has more than 800,000 gallons of water, full of unique species, and many interactive exhibits to learn from.

Starting Your Day

Get an early start, and be the first to walk in when the doors open at 9:00 a.m. Arriving early will help miss the after-breakfast crowds of tourists and locals.

Start your under the sea adventure at the main building. Weave your way through every corner to make some new animal friends from the other over 300 species featured here. Highlights include the sea turtle, Big Momma, Ranger the shark, and harbor seals Peter and Piper.

Take a photo in the open shark mouth and tag #vaaquarium to share the fun! Or you can send them securely to friends and family on the FamilyApp.

In the final stretch you'll have the chance to see a stingray, but try to avoid a splash from their fin!

Don't miss the room with changing exhibits, tucked in before you hit the cafe.

Don't Forget the Popcorn!

Those who need a break from watching all the animals can head to the National Geographic 3D Theater for a unique viewing experience, once it opens back up! At six stories high, it's the largest screen in Virginia and always showing new movies, featuring everything from the Galápagos Islands to the undersea life of turtles. If you choose to catch a movie, don't forget to get a bag of their famous popcorn from the Theater Snack Stand!

Forgot to pack food and snacks? Not to worry, the Aquarium features three dining options. Either sit for a fast-casual meal at the Aquarium Cafe or check out the Otter Snack Bar for a "grab-and-go" option as you hit the connecting trail to head to the second Aquarium building.

Marsh Pavilion

If you love otters, visit the Marsh Pavilion to see many North American River Otters. It also has a variety of birds among the vegetation. This smaller pavilion is perfect for preschoolers, and be on the lookout for special storytimes for the littlest visitors. This year they are starting a major renovation of this pavilion, so be sure to visit again after the addition of more hands-on exhibits.

While it's currently closed, it will be back and running summer 2021.

Adventure Park & Fun for Everyone!

For those who are looking for a different kind of excitement, the Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium is the place to go when it comes to heart-pounding activity! Visitors five and older can traverse the trees by zipline or climb up along the treetops on 15 trails stretching across the park.

Aquarium Excursions

Last, but certainly not least, is perhaps the most fantastic adventure that the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center offers. Slather sunscreen on your face, grab a hat that won't blow away - and head to their dock. There, you will board one of the floating classrooms.

The aquarium’s location on the Rudee Inlet is an ideal departure point for Sea Adventures’ boat trips. Staffed by knowledgeable marine educators, you'll find the perfect boat trip adventure for you and your family. They have so many exciting adventures: Dolphin Discoveries, Ocean Collections, Whales & Wildlife, Craft Brews Cruise, and even a Mermaid Seafari.

You'll be breathing in the salty ocean air in no time! But there's a catch- you have to purchase tickets ahead of time.  A portion of all ticket sales supports the VA Aquarium's education, research & conservation initiatives.

Plan the Perfect Visit

The summer months are a busy time at the aquarium, so visiting in the spring or fall can be ideal for a truly enjoyable experience. Admission is $24.95 for adults, $19.95 for children aged 3-11, and $22.95 for those 62 and older. Children two and under get in for free.

Special Events at the Virginia Aquarium

If you love The Virginia Aquarium & the Marine Science Center just as much as we do, you'll be happy to hear that there is a wide selection of rooms for all types of events. From big groups of 1,200 guests to smaller birthday parties,  the Aquarium employees will help to add a bit of under the sea magic to your private event. This marine center is also the perfect destination for school classes, private events, and Scout programs.

Make Lasting Memories

No matter which marine animal is nearest and dearest to your heart, the Virginia Aquarium is sure to provide a memorable experience. Locals, frequent visitors, and first-timers will all agree that after a family trip to the Virginia Aquarium, you will be back for another under the sea adventure!



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