Aside from the ridiculously expensive parking close to the Inner Harbor, things actually turned out pretty well considering we didn't do much planning ahead. Our parking ramp was within reasonable walking distance, and we ran into a Chick-Fil-A pretty quickly. We also later figured out Chipotle was nearby, as was a Five Guys...and we didn't know yet that we'd have Chick-Fil-A the next day, so this seemed like a prime opportunity. And it was delicious as usual! Again, I can't wait until ours is done, because their customer service is so good and it is a little healthier than Jacob's standard fast food options.
It was a very cold, windy day, but when we finished eating and walked outside, you couldn't help but want to explore. There was a lot to see!
|Coast Guard ship|
|Large Barnes & Noble next to a Hard Rock Cafe and other restaurants, all in an old power plant|
|USS Constellation, a Civil War-era ship|
|Looking across an inlet at the aquarium...note the cool dragon paddle boats in the foreground.|
|If you looked closely at the picture above, you'll see this ship and the one below.|
|Looking back toward the USS Constellation as the sun sets|
|Part of the September 11th Memorial outside the World Trade Center|
So, with 45 minutes to kill, we kept walking and headed for the Barnes & Noble to keep warm.
|Cool foot bridge, and to the right you can see the pedestrian bridge from one wing of the aquarium to the other.|
|Another side of the aquarium|
|A view from the foot bridge|
|Looking up one of the smokestacks|
Finally it was time to head back over to the aquarium. It had already been a long day, and the last time we did an aquarium at the end of a long day, during our trip to Toronto, it was a disaster, but I was hopeful we'd make it through.
There was a cool waterfall just inside that I didn't have a chance to take a picture of (too much rushing, too many people), but after that, our first stop was this giant set of jaws!
The centerpiece of the main building was this giant tank that covered much of the bottom floor of main exhibit space, and it was visible from all the way up. There were lots of fish to watch, but we enjoyed the small sharks, the giant sting ray, and a sea turtle, which was SO much bigger than I ever expected it to be.
|The sting ray had to be close to four feet across. Huge!|
This video will give you a better idea of the size and the activity in the tank. You can see the sting ray, too.
We were fascinated by the giant sea turtle and checked the tank for him constantly when we'd go up another level and still be able to look down.
|Notice he only has one front fin. Hard to judge his size from this shot, though.|
I tried to zoom out in this video so you could get an idea of his size. I never imagined sea turtles were this big. I can barely guess, but I had to assume if I laid down next to him, I wouldn't have him by much.
The boys really enjoyed this game where you moved your magnifying glass over the screen and were given things to find in the "sand".
There was a touch tank for stingrays and horseshoe crabs nearby, and Jacob just grazed one. Then we got to touch a tank full of jellyfish. Jacob and I both did it! It felt odd, basically like jelly! The bummer about aquariums is that they don't photograph particularly well, so there was a bunch that we saw that isn't really worth sharing here. But these two came out well...
|Some sort of spiny sea creature and a tiny fish|
|Saltwater fish are so colorful!|
We had a blast watching some birds in a different exhibit. There was one bird that flipped through the water like crazy that totally cracked us up. This puffin was almost as silly...
And this cool but creepy snake...
While we were in the rainforest section, Jacob was up on a deck platform looking at something, when a good-sized bird sort of cornered him! It only took him about 10 seconds to find a way to get around it, but we couldn't help but laugh!
There was a huge multi-level shark tank that had a series of ramps to walk down, and when we got to the bottom we were under the main tank that we saw originally. We even got to see the sea turtle from below! By this point we were all starting to tire out, but we still had a couple more things to check out!
We walked pretty quickly through "Australia" and then headed over to the other building, across the pedestrian bridge we saw earlier. First stop there was the dolphins. The shows seemed to be done for the day, but the dolphins were still swimming. It's hard to get a good picture of them, but this was the best I got...
Maybe this will work better?
There were all sorts of jellyfish! My favorite!
|So pretty, from the dots on the top to the little blue bits on the bottom of the one on the bottom left|
And in case you need a (short) moment of zen, here you go...
These were so delicate!
This tank was amazing...I've never seen brown ones! The blue ones were cool, too!
Here's a another look...
This one was pretty impressive...
As was this one...
I just liked how this shot turned out...
These reminded me of the ones they had in Toronto that changed color with the lighting.
And with that, we were done. With sore feet and tired boys, we walked back to the car and started the hour-long journey to our next hotel. It was another very dark trip, particularly once we got past the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This tournament was really in the middle of nowhere and our hotel was even worse! It was funny going through there later in the trip during the day and seeing how many things we didn't even know were there! Both boys napped before we got there, and we had a bit of an earlier night than the previous one since Carter actually went to sleep quickly.
All in all, it was a great day. The boys had their moments but they were relatively well behaved compared to most "vacation" days we've had in the past couple years. We got a lot accomplished with minimal complaints, and everything went according to plan. I'd say the day was a success, and it made the very long trip totally worth it!
Getting back to reality was a bit rough after two very cold days of lacrosse and the long drive home, but we made it through the week and suddenly we're less than a week away from Thanksgiving! Three-day week, here we come!