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Presidents Day brings out the customers

Greg Mosley was the excited one of his family at the National Aquarium in Baltimore on Presidents Day.

Mosley, who had trekked to Baltimore for the day from Manassas, Va., brought his wife and 22-month-old son to see sharks and reptiles.

“I’ve always wanted to come here and never got the opportunity to do it,” Mosley said. “It’s just something different to do.”

Mosley, who works for the recreation and parks department in Falls Church, Va., said he was grateful for the holiday to explore a city he’d never seen.

Downtown Baltimore’s attractions kept their doors open on Presidents Day, and the extra hours paid off for a time of year that’s typically sluggish for the city’s tourism industry. Most of the museums and attractions close on Mondays.

Watch video from the National Aquarium on Presidents Day

“It’s the best weekend we’ve had all month,” said Van R. Reiner, CEO of the Maryland Science Center. The science and technology museum attracted more than 7,700 visitors Friday through Monday, which was better than last year, Reiner said.

Last year was the first year the Science Center opened on Presidents Day for the extra business. But the holiday weekend came after snowstorms in early February last year forced many museums to cancel or reschedule events and programs.

“After last year, we couldn’t go anywhere but up,” Reiner said.

Other area attractions also saw higher numbers. Last year’s Presidents Day weekend brought out visitors and families that were feeling cabin fever, but this year’s milder weather lured even more visitors, museum officials said.

The aquarium was packed at 3 p.m. on Monday. Lines were long for the famous dolphin show, its 4D Immersion Theater, and even for the gift shop.

Kurt and Heather Colburn said they planned their Presidents Day outing last week. The Perry Hall residents took their children, Meghan and Tyler, to Hard Rock Café at the Inner Harbor and then spent the afternoon at the aquarium.

The family saw the holiday as a good opportunity to use a family membership they bought last year, Kurt Colburn said.

Kathy A. Sher, deputy executive director of external affairs for the aquarium, said the museum so far counted a 9,000-visitor increase over the corresponding weekend last year. While the aquarium hasn’t been able to count Monday’s attendance yet, Saturday and Sunday both saw more than 7,400 visitors each day.

“We’re optimistic, and of course every winter we’re continually humbled by the weather,” Sher said. “But February of 2011 is looking much stronger than 2010, and that’s just to date.”

On Monday Port Discovery Children’s Museum had almost 1,100 visitors — kids and parents — crawling all over its permanent exhibits and its new Tot Trails center.

A new exhibit for infants and toddlers opened last weekend, and Port Discovery officials have used the opening to help spur even more traffic during February. Last year the museum’s attendance spiked because the holiday weekend came after snowstorms, said spokeswoman Michelle Winner.

Visitors to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore took advantage of the 70-degree weather on Friday, said spokeswoman Jane Ballentine. The zoo has remained opened throughout the winter for the first time in five years, and had 3,284 visitors over the holiday weekend.

“People are just happy to be outside, even with it kind of overcast yesterday,” Ballentine said. “I enjoy knowing that we may have snow tonight, as long as it’s all done by Friday.”

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