Sensory friendly child guest with parent at the ray touch pool

The Virginia Aquarium is pleased to welcome all people of all ability levels to enjoy our exhibits and animals. We are proud to be certified as Sensory Inclusive by KultureCity®, an organization dedicated to helping locations become more inclusive of guests with sensory processing disorders. Additionally, we are proud to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Please see below for specific ADA information.

Accessibility at the Aquarium

Parking spaces are available for our guests with disabilities near the North Building. The Aquarium is fully accessible, and we are pleased to welcome everyone to enjoy our exhibits and animals. If you have an accommodation request related to a disability, please call us at (757) 385-3474 or email us at VAMSCGSO@virginiaaquarium.com. Please visit our Directions & Parking page for more information on parking.

Guests are invited to use their personal manual or motorized wheelchair inside both buildings and on the Nature Trail. Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow from Guest Services with a valid photo ID. For guests preparing to enjoy a Boat Tour, the boat dock and the Atlantic Explorer are accessible for manual wheelchairs only. The captain and crew are happy to assist anyone needing to transfer from a motorized to a manual wheelchair for the tour.​​

The Aquarium welcomes service animals as defined in Title II of the ADA that are trained to assist guests with disabilities. Per the ADA, "A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to work or perform task(s) for a person with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” Therapy, comfort, emotional support, and companion animals are not permitted in Aquarium buildings.

Service animals must remain under the control of the owner or handler at all times while in Aquarium buildings and on Aquarium grounds. If a service animal is out of control or poses a direct threat to the health or safety of staff, guests, or animals in the Aquarium, we may require the service animal to be removed from the premises. However, in this circumstance, we will work with all guests with disabilities to provide alternative accommodations. The Aquarium follows the Standards and Guidelines of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and other accrediting agencies, which restricts exposure to permanent resident animals from animals outside of our facility. Therefore, service animals are only allowed in public areas of the Aquarium. These quarantine policies help to prevent cross-contamination and possible disease transfer to our animal collection. 

Should you need alternate assistance to enjoy a Behind-the-Scenes tour which allows access to restricted, non-public areas of the Aquarium where service animals cannot enter, please contact Guest Services at (757) 385-3474, Option 3, and we will make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations to allow your participation.

Please note: Aquarium staff shall not be responsible for the care or maintenance of service animals while on Aquarium property.

The Aquarium complies with ADA regulations, which include a requirement to provide equal access to exhibits, programs, and services to individuals with disabilities. There are no special admission rates for guests with disabilities. Organizations that support people with disabilities may qualify for group rates if they arrange for a group visit in advance.

One medical attendant is admitted at no charge if they are working with a visiting Aquarium guest. This is defined as a required aide without whom the guest could not tour the Aquarium. An additional medical attendant may be requested and admitted at 50% of the regular admission.

The Virginia Aquarium is certified as Sensory Inclusive by KultureCity®. Guests with sensory processing disorders may prepare for their visit by reviewing the social story, available on the KultureCity app.

Once on-site, the Virginia Aquarium has quiet zones, designated headphone zones, and resources including a bag that guests may check out upon their arrival. The bags include noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys and feelings thermometers. To check out the bags, please visit our Guest Services Office, located to the right of the ticket counter. ​​​​​We also offer Sensory Friendly Mornings on the second Saturday of each month prior to the Aquarium opening to the general public.

Download the KultureCity App

Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, And Inclusion

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center recognizes that diverse communities are stronger, more resilient communities, both in nature and human society. Our organization has a critical responsibility to provide a welcoming, accessible, and educational space for all members of the diverse communities we serve. We are committed to cultivating an inclusive environment to conduct, share, and champion diversity and equity in marine science for all staff, visitors, and our global community. We are also deeply committed to do more to listen, learn from, and uplift the communities in our midst that suffer disproportionately from systemic racism, structural inequality, and environmental injustice.

AMMPA Logo
AZA Accredited Logo
WAZA Logo