Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to many of the frequently asked questions.
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There will be limited capacity every 30 minutes. Guests must purchase tickets online, prior to arrival. Guests will choose a time to come to the Virginia Aquarium and must arrive within that time slot to gain entry. Virginia Aquarium members will also have to reserve a time slot online prior to arrival.
The Aquarium will be open every day from 9:00am-5:00pm. Online reservations are required.
Please bring your ticket, either on your phone or printed, and your membership card/ID, if applicable. Tickets will be scanned (touch-free process) in the lobby for entry. Aquarium staff and volunteers will be wearing face coverings for your protection. Guests are encouraged (but not required) to wear face coverings as well.
No early entry will be permitted. The Aquarium is limiting capacity to allow for social distancing in our exhibit areas. Guests will be admitted based on their designated 30-minute time slot and can arrive any time during their reserved time. Late arrivals must be considered on a case-by-case basis for safety.
Due to our limited capacity, re-entry throughout the day will not be permitted. Your timed ticket will be the only entry permitted per purchase.
At this time, all guests are encouraged to wear a face covering and those who are not fully vaccinated must wear a face covering. Face coverings will be available for purchase from the Aquarium store if you need one. Please note that per federal regulations, passengers on our boat trips age 2 and over will be required to wear a face covering.
Yes, we have made some alterations to the overall experience for the health and safety of our guests, staff, volunteers, and animals.
- There are one-way paths designated so for safe social distancing.
- All ticket purchases must be made online.
- High-contact areas will be sanitized frequently.
- Some interactive experiences are currently unavailable.
- The Aquarium Store and Nature Trail will be open.
The Aquarium is in compliance with all government regulations and mandates and we have implemented several procedures to ensure a safe and healthy experience for guests and our staff.
- Guest capacity in the Aquarium has been reduced and we implemented timed ticketing for our guests and Members.
- Sanitation procedures are practiced in high-traffic areas and on high-contact surfaces in the Aquarium.
- Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout the Aquarium.
- Access to some areas and experiences has been reduced to allow for social distancing.
- A one-way path throughout the Aquarium is currently in place.
Parking at the Virginia Aquarium is $5 per car through October 31. Members may park for free. See more about our parking rates and procedures HERE
Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow from Guest Services with a valid photo ID, which will be returned upon return of the wheelchair at the completion of your visit. Guests may also use their personal manual or motorized wheelchair in the buildings and on the Nature Trail. Please note that the boat dock and boats are only accessible to manual wheelchairs. We are happy to assist anyone needing to transfer from a motorized chair to a manual.
Located in the Main Building next to the Nature Trail entrance, the newly opened Osprey Café offers a wide variety of dining options for everyone. The Café is open daily at 9:30am for coffee, and begins lunch service at 11:00am. Visit our Dining and shopping page HERE to learn more!
The Aquarium only allows service animals, as defined in Title II of the ADA, trained to assist guests with disabilities. For more information, visit our Accessibility page HERE.
Originally built in 1998, this exhibit is due for system upgrades to the pool and surrounding area. The project is expected to begin in January 2022 and will take several months to complete. Rest assured, our rays will return as soon as the project is complete.
Safety Procedures and Policies
There will be limited capacity every 15 minutes. Guests must purchase tickets online, prior to arrival. Guests will choose a time to come to the Virginia Aquarium and must arrive within that time slot to gain entry. Virginia Aquarium members will also have to reserve a time slot online prior to arrival
Please bring your ticket, either on your phone or printed, and your membership card/ID if applicable. Tickets will be scanned (touch-free process) in the lobby for entry. Aquarium staff and volunteers will be wearing facial coverings for your protection. Facial coverings are encouraged for all guests for the protection of everyone.
No early entry will be permitted. The Aquarium is limiting capacity to allow for social distancing in our exhibit areas. Guests will be admitted based on their designated 15-minute time slot and can arrive any time during their reserved time. Late arrivals must be considered on a case-by-case basis for safety.
While your visit will not be limited, if you choose to leave the Aquarium, you will not be permitted to re-enter. Each timed-ticket will allow you to enter only one time.
Guests are encouraged to wear a facial covering. Please bring your own, or one may be purchased from the Aquarium store.
Yes, we have made some alterations to the overall experience for the health and safety of our guests, staff, volunteers, and animals. The number of guests allowed in the Aquarium will be limited. There are one-way paths designated so that proper social distancing (six feet of space between groups) can be maintained. All ticket purchases MUST be made online. High-contact areas will be sanitized frequently. Touch Pools are available for viewing only.
There is currently no changing exhibit. All scheduled animal feedings, behind-the-scenes tours, and presentations are temporarily unavailable. Some interactive experiences are unavailable.
The Aquarium implemented several procedures, including the following:
- Greatly reduced guest capacity in the Aquarium at one time by offering timed ticketing for our guests and Members.
- Increased sanitation procedures for high-traffic areas and high-contact surfaces in the Aquarium.
- Additional hand sanitizing stations available throughout the Aquarium.
- Restricted the use of some areas and experiences that do not allow for social distancing.
- Implemented a one-way path throughout the Aquarium.
Tours take place on the Atlantic Explorer, a spacious and stable catamaran that boasts one of the most comfortable rides in Virginia Beach, and has been outfitted especially for conducting dolphin watching, whale watching, and other educational boat tours. Experience spectacular views from outdoor covered decks, or from cushioned seats inside a climate-controlled cabin. Additional amenities to maximize your experience onboard include a snack bar, ship store, indoor educational activity space, flat-screen monitors, and modern restroom facilities.
The vessel is operated by experienced captains and crew employed by Rover Cruises. As safety is a priority on each trip, the Atlantic Explorer is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation and communications equipment and is licensed and inspected by the United States Coast Guard annually.
Your boat tour will be led by a knowledgeable educator who has been specially trained by Aquarium experts to conduct these programs. The educator will share up-to-date information about the marine mammals and other seasonal visitors seen in local waters, as well as elaborate on the most current findings and efforts of Aquarium researchers. Staff, along with Aquarium volunteers, will be available to answer your questions, as well as provide visual aids and opportunities to touch bottlenose dolphin teeth and other biofacts we are permitted to possess. Data related to whale and dolphin sightings is collected during each tour, which contributes to federal and regional management of marine mammal populations and environmental assessments. The licensed captain from Rover Cruises will ensure you have a safe and pleasant trip, while the crew is available to assist you with any customer service needs you may have during your time aboard.
The dock and the boat are accessible for guests in manual wheelchairs. The captain and crew will assist anyone needing to transfer from a motorized to a manual wheelchair for the tour.
Due to space considerations in the walkways and cabin, strollers may need to be stowed when on board.
As the temperatures & weather conditions are often different on the water, we suggest wearing layers for comfort, outerwear such as hats/gloves, and shoes with non-slip soles that provide traction. Sunglasses & sunscreen are also recommended for bright days. On particularly cold days, some guests bring blankets to remain comfortable sitting on the outer deck for the duration of the tour.
You are encouraged to bring along your camera. You're able to get closer to the water from our sea-level viewing decks to experience the marine wildlife up close & personal, which offers some of the best photo and video opportunities! Just keep in mind that will want to keep a firm grip on your equipment.
Dolphin Watching tours are approximately 1.5 hours long, while our Whale Watching tours are about 2.5 hours long. This allows time to venture up and down the coast in search of marine mammals and other wildlife.
Since the coastal population of bottlenose dolphins tends to stay closer to the beach, we generally cruise less than ½ mile offshore. The tour course may vary with each trip dependent upon the known location of the animals.
Our Whale Watching tours allow us time to travel up to 10 miles offshore, although we rarely go that far. We often tend to find animals much closer to shore.
Our extensive experience and knowledge of the area help us identify the most likely places to find our seasonal visitors. Plus, the captain receives reports of sightings from other vessels in the area and will head toward the location where whales have most recently been spotted.
Since all marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Act and some by the Endangered Species Act in U.S. waters, we follow federal and regional viewing guidelines that help protect the animals in their natural habitat. The responsible viewing program specifies how close vessels may approach whales and other marine mammals in our area, which is from 100 feet to 500 yards depending on the species. Occasionally, animals will suddenly come up much closer to the boat, in which case we hold our position until we can safely move away.
In addition to following recommended responsible viewing guidelines, the Virginia Aquarium is also an active Whale SENSE participant. Whale SENSE is a voluntary education and recognition program for whale watching companies committed to responsible practices and whale conservation.
Our tours conveniently depart from the Virginia Aquarium Dock, located adjacent to the Bay & Ocean Pavilion parking lot, at 717 General Booth Boulevard. Parking is available in the Main Lot as well as in the East Lot across the street from the Bay & Ocean Pavilion. Please allow additional time for parking and check-in at the dock 30 minutes before your departure time.
To ensure that space is available on the day and time you'd like to go, we do recommend purchasing your tickets in advance. You can do it online, in person at the Aquarium's Guest Services office, or by calling 757-385-FISH. Advanced sales may pick up their tickets at the Aquarium dock prior to the tour's departure.
We offer "day of" tickets up to 30 minutes before departure time as long as space is still available on the boat. "Day of" tickets can be purchased at the Admissions counter and the ticket kiosk by the dock.
Absolutely! As leaders in conservation and research in the area, we are passionate about the marine environment and feel our tours offer unparalleled opportunities for experiential learning. For all of our educational excursions, we incorporate appropriate standards of learning and adjust our onboard programming to complement classroom teaching. Each tour is tailored to the participants on board. Please visit our field trip page to learn more about how we can help you enhance your science curriculum.
Tours are canceled when rough seas from local winds or offshore storms would prevent us from providing a comfortable and safe excursion. Based on the forecast and experience in local waters, the captain determines the status of a tour. Sea conditions can change quickly, and occasionally it is necessary to cancel at the last minute. Please note that precipitation alone does not keep us from conducting tours, so come prepared if rain, sleet, or snow is predicted. To confirm tour status, please call Guest Services at (757) 385-FISH (3474).
Yes, all passengers need a ticket before boarding. Although children under age 3 are no charge, they must be included in your reservation as they are counted as passengers under U.S. Coast Guard regulations.
Yes! Throughout the year, we offer a variety of specialty tours. Stay tuned to our Boat Tours page and calendar of events on our website for our latest offerings.
In addition, we offer private boat tours for a variety of excursions, including photography trips, birthday parties, celebrations of life/memorials, corporate events, and educational tours. Contact us at (757) 385-FISH (3474) if you are interested in a private boat tour.
Yes. Member kits are sent via the U. S. Postal Service and can take up to four weeks to arrive. Your member kit will include your membership cards, a visitor's guide, and other information. It is important that you not lose your card. While a card is not required for Aquarium admission, many of the perks given to members by our partners do require that you show your card. We do not replace lost cards.
Your membership begins the day you purchase a membership. You do not have to wait for your membership cards to take advantage of your membership. Simply show your photo ID when you check-in at the Member Desk.
You do not have to wait until you get the membership card to visit us.
A member kit is mailed to the address in your membership record. It can take up to four weeks after purchase for your kit to arrive in the mail. If, after four weeks, you have not received this kit, please call (757) 385-FISH (3474) to confirm your purchase and mailing address. Each cardholder listed on the application may visit by showing a photo ID at the Member Desk.
No. We do not require a membership card when visiting, but we do require a photo ID every time. If you have questions, please call Membership Services at (757) 385-FISH (3474), option 2.
Only the listed cardholders can use your membership, and at least one must be present to use the membership. Membership cards may not be loaned, even to relatives, nannies, or other caregivers. At least one adult cardholder listed on the membership must be present. We do not accept notes from cardholders giving permission for non-cardholders to use their membership.
Yes, they can change more than once. Please call the Guest Services Office at (757) 385-FISH (3474), email membership@VirginiaAquarium.com, or come into the Aquarium to make the change.
No. Children age 17 and younger cannot be designated on membership by name and must be accompanied by at least one cardholder to access membership benefits, including admission. Children are considered guests of designated cardholders.
Yes. Children age 2 and younger are free and do not count toward member admission numbers. However, once your child turns 3, he or she will be required to use one of your admissions.
Yes, Members can purchase additional tickets at $18 an adult and $12 a child.
Yes! We offer a 10% military discount on our membership levels (excluding Conservation Society levels.) Memberships must be purchased in person. Purchaser must show valid United States Armed Forces identification card to receive discount.
Yes. Allotted admissions include all members of the group. If you have more than the allotted number of admissible people, the extra people will be required to purchase admission tickets.
No. Membership starts from the date of purchase and is valid for 366 calendar days.
No. Membership admission privileges are not applicable to group tours or class visits.
Yes. Memberships may be upgraded to higher levels anytime during your membership. The cost of upgrading a membership is the difference in price between the two membership levels. Your original expiration date stays the same. You may do so by visiting the Guest Services Office or calling (757) 385-FISH (3474).
No. Memberships are non-refundable and non-transferable. For questions, call (757) 385-FISH (3474).
No. Memberships are non-transferrable. For questions, call (757) 385-FISH (3474).
Contact information is associated with the primary cardholder and changes can be made by calling (757) 385-FISH (3474), emailing membership@VirginiaAquarium.com, or in person at any ticketing desk.
Member events are listed on our website, are sent via email, and printed in our quarterly member magazine, VAQ.
If you are not already a member, become one to receive these exclusive invitations for member events and activities!
If you are already a member, ensure that your contact information is correct and up to date. Contact information is associated with the primary cardholder. For questions or concerns about your contact information, call (757) 385-FISH (3474), email membership@VirginiaAquarium.com, or speak to an admissions staff member at any ticketing desk.
School Field Trips
Allow at least 1-2 hours for a self-guided tour of the exhibits. Add an extra hour for an on-site program and a half an hour for lunch breaks.
Teachers attending the field trip are admitted at no charge and must show proof of school ID. In addition, your group will receive a ratio of chaperones at no charge based on your total number of students.
- Pre-K and K: 1 adult for every 5 students recommended and admitted at no charge.
- 1st-12th: 1 adult for every 10 students recommended and admitted at no charge.
Any additional adults must pay for admission.
When visiting the Aquarium, payment is due upon arrival. To receive the group rate, we ask that you pay for the entire group, including additional adults, in one transaction – check, credit card, or cash.
Our Field Trip Guide has pre-trip and post-trip activities to use in your classroom. It also includes SOL-based "Find and Explore" questions to help guide your chaperones and make the most of your students' learning while at the Aquarium.
An uncovered picnic area can be reserved in advance. Be sure to ask about it while making your reservation. If the picnic area is not available, nearby Redwing Park has picnic shelters and playgrounds.
Pre-packaged goodie bags are available for $1 each. To order, call (757) 385-0321 two weeks prior to your visit. We also have an Aquarium store with a variety of souvenirs available for purchase.