This past Friday, our family plus Grant’s mom Gerene, made the 2 hour trip to Mystic, CT to visit the Mystic Aquarium. The Aquarium offers the Winter Waterland holiday Saturdays and Sundays in December and Thursday, Dec. 27 – Tuesday, Jan. 1 This month-long series of events features visits from Santa, elves diving among fish, live music by local artists, seasonal crafts and scavenger hunts, all against a backdrop of fascinating marine animals and holiday décor.
This year’s holiday décor reflects the native habitats of aquarium animals. Here are two of the many beautifully decorated Christmas trees that we saw as we strolled around the aquarium.
Our first stop was The Polar Express 4-D Experience.
Our timing was perfect. Our wait wasn’t even five minutes. As part of Winter Waterland, the Polar Express 4-D Experience is included with Mystic Aquarium membership and the value ticket option, or tickets can be purchased inside the aquarium for $6 each.
We had seen this before and the kids love it. If you are not familiar with this movie, it’s a shortened version of the original movie in 3 D, with added effects in the theater like wind, snow, scents and rumbling seats. I love the part where the train is racing down the track and lands on a lake of ice. You really get the sensation that you are on a roller coaster as the train plummets down the track.
Once the movie ended, we exited through the Titanic exhibit. It’s called – Titanic – 12,450 Feet Below. This is a new exhibit at the aquarium created by Sea Research Foundation’s Dr. Robert Ballard, renowned oceanographer and explorer, and Tim Delaney, former Walt Disney Imagineer.
The history of the Titanic is brought to life with imagery, recreations, soundscapes, hands-on activities and entertainment. It was fascinating to see the photo exhibit of the passengers, young and old, and read their stories.
Here we are standing in front of one of the boiler’s furnaces. Over 600 tons of coal was shoveled by hand daily by 176 firemen working around the clock!!
Once we explored the the Titantic for a bit, we went inside to the main gallery to see the eels, jelly fish, sea turtles, lizards and many other great exhibits. It was so nice to be here this time of year, when it wasn’t too crowded. We had elbow room to explore the exhibits at our own pace.
There is a large tank with huge sting rays that we had fun watching for quite a while. James didn’t want to move on. We could see their gills on their white bellies. They were interesting to watch.
There are at least three different exhibits that offer hands-on experiences for the kids. They touched the white spotted bamboo sharks that are about 1 to 3 feet long and very docile.
There is a large pool outside of the main gallery that contains the small stingrays that the kids could touch. In the below photo, Ryan is posing with one of the crabs. The kids were asked to keep the crabs underwater while holding them and that water was frigid!
We also enjoyed the Sea Lion Show at 12:30. Who knew how smart these animals are? They waved, clapped their fins and bared their teeth like it was second nature.
The sea lions were able to identify shapes that the trainers hung up on the wall. (Even after they were shuffled, they could identify their same shape.) What an impressive trick!
They could also keep fish in their mouth and resist eating it until they received the signal “clap” from the trainers. The audience couldn’t even trick them into eating the fish by clapping. It was only the trainers they would respond to.
The Beluga whales are so amazing to watch. The aquarium has a one-acre outdoor habitat with three interconnected pools holding more than 750,000 gallons of water. It is one of the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibits in the United States.
They would swim right up to the glass!
We ended our tour with the Penguin encounters. They would zip by our faces as we watched them swimming and diving in their tank.
The boys posed with these cute penguins as we walked back to the main entrance.
Inside the main gallery, the aquarium staff were offering a scavenger hunt for the kids and crafts. This particular day, they were making pine cone bird feeders. There was also an underwater show featuring Santa and the elves that we unfortunately missed.
Whenever I asked any of the staff a question, they were most helpful and courteous. The Mystic Aquarium’s Winter Waterland was a festive, fun and memorable experience for us over the holiday break.
I received 5 tickets to the Mystic Aquarium for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are my own and not influenced by monetary compensation.