Akai, Nalu, Nani & Co.


What choices Baltimore area parents have on this day after Christmas! Sleep late. Clean up the house. Buy more batteries for all those gift toys. Or take the kids to see Akai, Nalu, Nani, the bottlenose dolphins who are the star attractions of the new Marine Mammal Pavilion opening today at the National Aquarium.

Whether today or in the coming few weeks, thousands of Baltimoreans will mob the long-awaited aquarium addition. The new $35 million pavilion adds extra dimensions to the decade-old main complex. Airiness of architecture. A 1,300-seat amphitheater with frequent educational displays featuring dolphins and high-tech videos. Even a computer-assisted exhibit that allows a visitor to listen and imitate whale songs.

We welcome the three bottlenose dolphins, their younger kin -- Hailey and Shiloh -- and three beluga whales -- Kia, Anore and Sikku -- because of the beauty and mystery they represent. Even though science and technology have made spectacular progress in recent years, the vast world under the oceans is still largely a secret. That realm is one of our planet's great untapped resources but also a treasury that must be protected and cared for. The new mammal pavilion will surely promote interest in research and understanding of aquatic life.

The new pavilion's expanse of glass walls and windows provides an unequaled vantage point from which to view the beauty of the Inner Harbor and its Christmas lights. Yet it is only one of the many area museums offering captivating holiday exhibits to the young and old. Here are just two samplings: "Out of the Attic," at the Jewish Historical Society, 15 Lloyd Street, is exhibiting 30 years of collecting Jewish memorabilia. And the Peale Museum, near City Hall, has re-created a 19th century museum, where mummies, minerals, butterflies and stuffed birds keep company with wax figures and P.T. Barnum-type hoaxes.

'Tis the season to venture out and enjoy.

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