I received tickets to the Mystic Aquarium for the purpose of this feature/review. Opinions expressed are my own.
This past Friday we went back to the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT. This was our third trip to the aquarium. We went for the first time back in April of 2011 and then for a second trip in Dec. of 2012. This last trip was our favorite! The weather was beautiful and the hands-on experiences were amazing.
Food, Facilities and Parking
Even back in April, when the aquarium was very busy with families with kids that were on school vacation, we were able to find parking and there is no extra fee to park. On the way inside, there is a very nice picnic area for those who want to bring a lunch. The staff will stamp your hand and you can go out to your car and grab your lunch. Also, there is a restroom outside of the aquarium for people to use. After a long ride and having to stand in line, a restroom was much appreciated.
As far as eating inside the aquarium, The indoor Penguins Cafe serves up kid fare like hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza. They will accept credit cards. The vendors along the outdoor seating area offer things like smoothies and popcorn. Also, note there are machines that dispense “Dippin Dots” ice cream. Most of these machines are cash only. Don’t neglect to grab some cash if you want to indulge in the Dippin Dots. However, they do have cash machines if needed.
The Beluga Whale exhibit is the largest outdoor (1 acre) exhibit in the United States. It holds 750,000 gallons of water. There are 20 ft. long underwater windows to view the whales below the water and there are areas to view them from above the water as well. Watching the whales is very entertaining. We caught one whale blowing a water ring and then chomping on it. Check my short video clip.
Just past the whales, there is an exhibit of sea lions and harbor seals. The harbor seals have the short flippers like these guys. They weren’t doing much other than sunning themselves at that time.
All along these outdoor exhibits, staff members were sharing facts about the animals and answering questions.
Birds of the Outback
The Birds of the Outback was the boys’ favorite exhibit, which is kind of ironic, as we were at a aquarium after all. Here, two of the staff members are holding a baby kookaburra. These birds seemed very relaxed among the onlookers getting up close and personal.
The Birds of the Outback Exhibit costs $3.00 extra per person. Before entering, a staff member gives you a Popsicle stick with some seeds on it. Once inside, you are able to feed the birds. While I was reaching up to see if I could get one to eat the seed, Ryan found out pretty quickly that he could get them on the stick easily.
The birds included, parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, kookaburras and more. Ryan was having so much fun with this “hands on” exhibit that he didn’t want to leave. This was worth the $3.00. We could spend as much time as we wanted and got to feed a couple of birds each. As we were leaving the exhibit, the boys handed off their sticks with birds to some smaller kids who were thrilled that they shared. 🙂
Cow Nose Rays
This outdoor tank of sting rays is always a big hit with the kids – not just my kids, everyone’s kids. The tank holds dozens of these rays and everyone is able to put their hand in (sans jewelry) and touch one of these. They are pretty slimy, but it’s fun. Like I said, the kids LOVE IT! These are called Cow Nose because the shape of the front of their head looks like a cow’s nose.
These sting rays actually have some personality! I took the below picture of one of them jumping up and along the side of the tank splashing a few people. I meant to ask the staff member if they really become that tame and playful or if that was just a “fluke”! Pun intended! (A whale’s tail is composed of two lobes, each of which is called a fluke.)
The Shark Encounters exhibit is inside the main gallery at the aquarium. They just introduced two white spotted bamboo sharks to this exhibit. The kids can touch the shark along their backs. They both enjoyed petting the sharks. Don’t worry, this isn’t just pet the shark at free random – the staff member was just out of site on the right.
4-D Theater – Rio
We stopped in at the 4-D theater and saw the movie Rio. The movie was cute and the effects were fun. The chairs rumbled, there were flashes of light and a light spray of water. At one point I felt a tiny poke in the back too.
There was an infant who was very upset and had to be removed from the movie. All the chair rumbling and flashing lights may not be the best choice for children under three.
The movie costs $6.00 each and it only runs for five minutes. I think it’s too expensive for a five minute film, even 4-D, and for a similar price, would advise spending your money for a full feature film elsewhere.
Sea Lion Show
The Sea Lion show is included in the ticket price. This show was not that impressive this time. (Training a sea lion to do anything is impressive, but I am comparing to a past show here.) The trainers were in the midst of training two young sea lions some new behaviors. On our last visit this show was excellent and you can see why in my post here. But this show? It was very short and the performances were really not all that spectacular. Here is a video clip of one of the best “behaviors.” It’s really quick! I do recommend catching the show if you have time. I just think the timing was off – this was also the last show of the day.
The Titanic is an amazing exhibit that we all enjoyed. The exhibit includes replicas of a stateroom and the communications office. Above, we are standing in front of a replica of one of the boiler’s furnaces. The Titanic exhibit was created by Sea Research Foundation’s Dr. Robert Ballard, renowned oceanographer and explorer, and Tim Delaney, former Walt Disney Imagineer. The exhibit offers hands-on activities for the kids to interact with as well. The history of the Titanic is brought to life with imagery, recreations and soundscapes.
On this visit, we had a chance to see the presentation of the Nautilus Live Theater. We learned about Dr. Robert Ballard and his research and discoveries. While this was fascinating for the adults, this 20 minute presentation went on a bit too long for my 9 year old, but he survived. Keep this in mind for little kids. The presentation was a combination of a talk, slide presentation, along with some film.
Dr. Robert Ballard is founder and president of the Ocean Exploration Center at Mystic Aquarium. Specializing in deep-sea archaeology, the Ocean Exploration Center’s goal is to establish this new field of research utilizing evolving technology, such as advanced mapping and imaging systems, underwater robotics and remotely operated vehicles.
We learned about a sunken ship that was recently discovered dating back to the 1800s and currently being researched. His team is also discovering new species of fish and other life forms in the darkest depths of the ocean.
His sea explorations are recorded on the Internet and you can see this underwater research taking place in real time. Visit nautiluslive.org to check it out.
In the main gallery, was saw the eels, jelly fish, sea turtles, lizards and other great exhibits. It was so nice to be here at this time, when it wasn’t too crowded. We had elbow room to explore the exhibits at our own pace. Here are a few more photos of sea creatures in the main gallery.
We had a great time at the aquarium! if you are looking for a fun things to do with your family, I recommend adding a trip to the Mystic Aquarium to your list!
Senior (age 60+) $23
Children (age 3 – 17) $19
Children (age 2 and under) Free!
Parking is always free.
55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic CT
Directions to the Mystic Aquarium from Boston, New York or Hartford, CT
Mystic Aquarium is open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
December 1-February 28
Open Daily 10:00am to 5:00pm (last admission at 4:00pm)
Open Daily 9:00am to 5:00pm (last admission at 4:00pm)
April 1-October 31
Open daily 9:00am to 6:00pm (last admission at 5:00pm)
Open Daily 9:00am to 5:00pm (last admission at 4:00pm)
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