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This Baltimore landmark is celebrating its 35th birthday

National Aquarium

File photo at National Aquarium (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

In 1981, then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer welcomed fish, dolphins and sharks to Baltimore.

Today, the National Aquarium is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The Baltimore landmark has hosted more than 50 million guests since it first opened and is home to almost 20,000 animals.

The aquarium has seen its fair share of changes over the years – most recently with the announcement to end the dolphin shows in the Marine Mammal Pavillion on Pier 4 and retire the dolphins to a seaside sanctuary by 2020.

“What began as an attraction for Baltimore’s bold vision to revitalize its Inner Harbor has become a national conservation leader with a mission to inspire conservation of our world’s aquatic treasures,” said National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli in a press release.

And the aquarium has helped revitalize the Inner Harbor. The attraction boasts an annual economic impact of more than $314 million, while visitors to the aquarium spend an additional $206 million on lodging, transportation, food, shopping, gas and recreation, according to a 2012 study.

Want to know more about Baltimore’s own mini ocean? Here are more facts about the 35-year-old aquarium:

  • The aquarium hosts 100,000 Maryland schoolchildren each year;
  • Inside, there are more than two million gallons of water;
  • In 2012, the Baltimore aquarium was named one of Travel Channel’s best aquariums in the United States;
  • In 2006, however, the aquarium was also named “Best Overpriced Destination for Families” by CityPaper – current ticket prices are $40 for adults;
  • Want to get a good deal on tickets? Come to the aquarium on their “Maryland Mornings” or come for half-price on Friday evenings;
  • The attraction has gotten a lot bigger since its humble one-building beginning. The National Aquarium has grown from one building to three, from 5,000 animals to close to 20,000, paid staff from 77 to over 400, and volunteers from 273 to more than 600 individuals;
  • The organization’s Animal Rescue team has saved more than 150 animals since its start in 1991;
  • The 2005 exhibit “Australia: Wild Extremes” won the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s “Best Exhibit” award;
  • In 1979, the Baltimore Aquarium was renamed the National Aquarium in Baltimore; then, in 2003, the National Aquarium in Baltimore merged with the National Aquarium in D.C. (the country’s first free and public aquarium) and became simply the National Aquarium; but in 2013, the National Aquarium in D.C. closed its doors;
  • The aquarium is renovating the area between Pier 3 and 4 to create a “model urban waterfront” that will showcase a mini-ecosystem and help passers-by learn about the Chesapeake Bay;
  • The aquarium is one of the largest public aquariums in the United States.