Helpful Hints

The Aquarium’s expansive galleries can accommodate large crowds. But if you like things a little quieter, consider the following tips:

  • Summer is the busiest time of year.
  • Rainy days are usually busier than fair days any time of the year.
  • The first two hours in the morning and the last two in the afternoon are usually not as busy as mid-day.
  • Fall, winter and spring are great times to visit. Programs free with admission and activities available for a small fee continue year-round.
  • The Aquarium is a favorite field trip for North Carolina schools. Call to find out when school groups are expected if you want to time your visit accordingly. Teachers, these visits MUST be scheduled in advance – see Teachers and Students for details.


Tickets are sold from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Aquarium sets special hours for special events such as Trick or Treat Under the Sea in late October and Santa by the Sea in December. Check What’s New near the dates of these events for more details.

Visit any day except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, when the Aquarium is closed.

Allow plenty of time to enjoy the Aquarium’s five galleries, view the 40 exhibits, take in  the daily free programs, stroll the boardwalk or venture along the nature trails. A visit to the Gift Shop and the on-site Dairy Queen® also deserve a spot on your itinerary.

Free parking

Parking is free! If the lots are full, look for angled parking on the entrance road. PLEASE park only in marked spaces.  Bus and RV space is reserved in the far lot, to the left as you enter the grounds. Bicyclists — look for the bicycle rack near the entrance.


Firearms PROHIBITED: Visitors are prohibited from carrying firearms. This includes concealed and unconcealed weapons, regardless of whether the owners hold permits.

No pets: Yes, we know you love them. But for the health and safety of our animals, staff and visitors, pets are not allowed in the building.

Leaving pets in unattended vehicles in the Aquarium parking lots can endanger the animals, especially in hot weather. If you can’t leave your four-legged friends at home or the beach house, your group members can visit in shifts so that one person remains outdoors with the animal. Leashed pets are allowed in the parking area and on the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Trail.

Trained service animals are welcome in the Aquarium. Please inform Visitor Services or a Security staff member if a trained service animal will be assisting you during your visit.

Flashlights, video lights, tapping on exhibits, etc: Built-in flash devices on still cameras are permitted. However, flashlights, laser pointers and video lights are not. They can startle Aquarium animals, endangering them and the divers that might be in the exhibits. Please keep these and any other lighting devices off as you tour the Aquarium.  Please also avoid tapping on exhibit windows – it scares the residents and can damage the windows.

Smoking: Smoking must be confined to the designated smoking area, clearly marked near the entrance.

Getting around

Print out a floor plan, or pick one up at Visitor Services or the Information Desk when you arrive.

Accessibility: The parking lot, entrance, exhibits, restrooms and marsh boardwalk are accessible to wheelchairs. Parking for visitors with mobility disabilities is near the entrance.

Wheelchairs for loan: The Aquarium has five wheelchairs available for use at no charge. Check one out at Visitor Services by providing a photo ID such as a driver’s license.

Strollers: Strollers are permitted; umbrella strollers are recommended. Sorry, the Aquarium does not loan or rent strollers or provide a stroller checking service.

Service animals: Trained service animals are welcome in the building and on Aquarium grounds. Please inform Visitor Services or a Security staff member if a service animal will be assisting you during your visit.

Things to do

Programs - Every day at the Aquarium, visitors can talk to divers in the Living Shipwreck, watch a feeding program at one of the exhibits, meet an aquatic creature in a live animal program or enjoy other activities and presentations free with admission.  Special programs for World Oceans Day, Earth Day and other annual observances featuring conservation also are included in admission.

Those who want more can paddle a canoe, take part in a collection cruise, get a peek behind the scenes or experience many other adventures, indoors and out, for small additional fees. See Programs and Activities for the full selection of free programs and indoor and outdoor Special Activities.

Outdoors, enjoy two splendid nature trails that wind through the 300-acre Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area surrounding the Aquarium. The leaf-strewn paths provide an avenue into the hidden coastal world of a rare maritime forest and the surrounding estuarine waters. Bring your binoculars – the many species of birds  you might see has earned the Aquarium inclusion in the North Carolina Birding Trail.

Take a break

Food and Drink: Top off your visit with a Blizzard®, an Orange Julius® or other treat from the Dairy Queen® as you exit.

Dine al fresco: Please remember, ONLY our animals get to eat inside the Aquarium – no food or drink allowed indoors. Enjoy your refreshments on the snack bar’s adjacent deck, or relax on one of the picnic tables on the far side of the main parking lot. Tables are available first-come, first-served.

Smoking: Smoking must be confined to the designated smoking area, clearly marked near the entrance.

Picture this – Photo and video guidelines and tips

FotoFX souvenir photos: Focus on your family and having fun instead of your camera batteries, and let FotoFX take the pictures. Stop by the booth at the exit to see images of your visit, or pose for a special shot with an unforgettable backdrop. You can purchase photos on the spot, or go to and enter your ticket number to make your selections.

Still photography: Click away – photography is allowed. If you get a great shot, share it on your Facebook page and ours. Built-in flash or small flash attachments are fine, but free-standing auxiliary lighting or other equipment can’t be accommodated. When shooting an exhibit, try for an angle rather than a straight shot at the window to avoid a reflection of the flash. Do not tap or knock on the windows to get an animal’s attention.

Video photography: You are welcome to record your next YouTube video or other moving experience at the Aquarium using existing light. But video lights must be kept off – they pose a hazard to exhibit windows, startle the animals and can endanger divers in the exhibit.

Media: All media inquiries and requests for interviews and site visits should contact Public Relations in advance. Photo requests should go to Public Relations also.

Commercial photography and filming: The Aquarium’s Public Relationsdepartment must approve of videotaping or photographing on Aquarium grounds for commercial use or student projects. Auxiliary lighting, power cords, cumbersome equipment or other trip hazards are not permitted during operating hours. Contact Public Relations for complete guidelines and restrictions.  Wedding photographers should check with the Special Events Coordinator.

How can we help you?

See Visitor Services to:

- Find the best time to see the otters in action

- Register for a fee program

- Check out a wheelchair

- Find a missing item

- Join the North Carolina Aquarium Society for free admission and other benefits

Just go to the Visitor Services window, to the right just after you enter, or call ext. 225.

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