Thursday, November 27, 2008

All Aboard a Magical Ride at the National Aquarium

With pocket watch in one hand and oil lantern in the other, the mid-twentieth century train conductor greets us with a drawn out baritone "alllll aboard." Not the usual greeting one would expect at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where people from around the world come to view the more than 16,000 animals, fish, birds and marine life that represent over 660 species.

This particular visit to the aquarium was unlike any other visit to see the many aquatic themed exhibits. This night was a magical night filled with the multi sensory film experience of the "Polar Express." This classic animated film is a fifteen-minute 4-D experience that will take you on a train ride in the aquarium's Immersion Theater. I have seen the full length "Polar Express" in 3-D IMAX that is quite a show, but nothing like this 15 minute, eye popping, in your face version.

I've been to several 3-D movies with varying reviews of quality and I wasn't sure that even with the 4th dimension this would be much different. While I anticipated a few scenes that would make the audience duck as something flew out of the screen, I had no way of knowing what was in store. I was blown away with the fourth dimension. From the opening scene, when the boy is awakened by the arrival of the Polar Express outside his bedroom, I was hooked. Not only was the sound realistic but the seat and entire theater seemed to rumble as if a train had just rolled in. You feel the wind of a passing train on your face and whoosh of the escaping steam cloud from the brakes on your legs. As the steel wheels grind to a stop, the snow that is gently falling in the film is also falling in the theater.

One of best features of this experience takes place in the dining car as dancing waiters break into song and acrobatics as they pass out hot chocolate to the wide-eyed passengers. As the drinks are poured on screen, you can smell the hot chocolate. There are more special effects in the movie and in the previews of coming attractions. While the "Polar Express" may not be what you would typically expect at the aquarium it is fast becoming a holiday tradition to get in the holiday spirit and a chance for audiences to experience the amazing 4-D Immersion Theater. This is a must see film for the family, whether you have kids or not. The "Polar Express 4-D" runs through January 4, 2009.

Remember this theater experience is only one facet of the hundreds of exhibits at the aquarium. Visitors can trek through the Australian outback in the Animal Planet Australian - Wild Extremes exhibit, experience the tropical rainforest, explore the undersea world of aquatic life and see a live dolphin show. This is an excellent adventure for the whole family.

Getting There:
Located at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland

Hours of Operation Mon-Thur: 9am-5pm Fri: 9am-8pm Sat: 9am-6pm Sun: 9am-5pm Throughout the year, visitors may tour the Aquarium for up to 1 and 1/2 hours after the ticket center closes.

Holiday Closures - Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Admission Rates: From $13 to $29 Total Experience Package includes Aquarium admission, 4-D Theater and the Dolphin Show! Purchase tickets online to ensure entry at your desired time.

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