At Atlantic Seafood Market of Old Saybrook, CT, we love to eat seafood. We also love to catch seafood, cook seafood, and provide our customers with the best seafood in Connecticut. However, our fascination with the sea doesn’t end with the culinary aspects of marine life. We’re also deeply interested in learning as much as we can about the creatures of the deep and helping our customers to discover the great marine life exploration opportunities that exist in CT and in nearby states. It is with this purpose that we’ll introduce to you what we feel are the five best aquariums in New England.
First opened in 1973, the Mystic Aquarium is pretty much a household name in Connecticut. With its convenient location next to the Mystic Seaport and the Shoppes at Olde Mistick Village, the Mystic Aquarium lends itself useful as a fun and educational part of a fun-filled day in the quintessentially New England village of Mystic.
When you browse the aquarium, you’ll come across virtually every marine species you’ve ever heard of and many that you haven’t. You can also take in daily shows in which trailed seals and dolphins show off their repertoire of tricks for you and all of the other audience members. Mystic Aquarium is quite unique in that it is one of only four aquariums in the entire countries that houses Steller Sea Lions and it is also an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Among its more prominent features are an outdoor penguin exhibit, a full gallery of jellyfish, and one of the biggest Beluga Whale exhibits in all of America. Also available are several fascinating works by Dr Robert Ballard, a highly respected and world-renown marine biologist from CT.
Mystic Aquarium also plays host to a myriad of different events. These include such events are private parties, corporate events, high school proms, children’s parties, and the ever-popular Cocktails with the Whales.
Address/Contact information: 55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355 (860) 572-5955
CT’s other major aquarium lies on the other side of the state in the city of Norwalk. The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk boats many beautiful creatures from the deep that are available for you to meet on a daily basis. These include an impressive collection of sharks, safely ensconced within their tanks. Another notable attraction at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is a collection of shallow, open-top tanks where guests can see and touch various sea creatures – an oceanic petting zoo if you will. Speaking of tactile experiences, they are currently running a “Touch a Jellyfish” exhibit which will be available during weekends through April 20th.
One of the most famous assets possessed by this Norwalk, CT aquarium is their IMAX theater. With its immense screens and high-tech graphics, you can feel yourself moving with the pictures and truly feel as though you are in the heart of the scene in the middle of all the action.
Much like the Mystic Aquarium, the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is a great CT field trip destination and is also a great place to go for a day of educational family fun. Facilities may be rented for parties and events, and children’s parties and sleepover events are also provided.
Address/Contact information: 10 North Water St, Norwalk, CT 06854 (203) 852-0700
The third aquarium we’ll touch upon in this post is the New England Aquarium, which is located in Boston. As its name might imply, it is the largest aquarium in all of New England. As is the case with Mystic Aquarium, it houses an extensive penguin exhibit and like the Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk, it houses its own IMAX theater.
Despite these similarities to other aquariums, the New England Aquarium has many features that are unique and help to give it its own separate identity. At this aquarium, you may view the beautiful but deadly Lionfish, Giant Pacific Octopus, and even the Leafy Seadragon. (Yes, that is actually the name of a real animal.) Additionally, there are exhibits featuring a wide variety of different seals and sea lions.
Daily shows including amazing marine life are a staple of the New England Aquarium. These shows include Penguin Feedings, Harbour Seal Training Sessions, Fur Seal Training Sessions, Climate Change Activities, and many others. Also available are special members-only events. Romantic couples events, family-friendly events, and a chance to meet the residents on an even closer level are all benefits you’ll receive with a membership.
Private parties, venue rentals, and group reservations are all available as well. See their Visit Planning Page for more information.
Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110 (617) 973-5200
Let’s go a little further north. Located in Rye, New Hampshire, the Seacoast Science Center is a Northern New England aquarium with a passion for educating visitors about the ocean, its inhabitants, and how to protect vulnerable marine life.
This non-profit aquarium is in a constant state of change, always innovating and offering something new every time you visit. It’s a great New Hampshire field trip destination and much like the other aquariums we’ve discussed, private parties and group visits are available features.
One of the more prominent aspects of the Seacoast Science Center is the Gregg Interactive Learning Center. Here, adults and children alike can get hands-on experience with several marine creatures. Several events are offered at the Seacoast Science Center and they range from everything from live music performances to thrilling scavenger hunts and everything in between. Be sure to check their Events Page often to see what’s coming up next.
Another unique feature of the Seacoast Science Center is their distance learning program offered by the Gregg Interactive Learning Center. Instructors provide many different lessons and programs to students using the advanced technology within the Center. Their media sources are nearly as plentiful as the educational topics covered, allowing for a truly unforgettable experience.
Address/Contact information: 570 Ocean Blvd, Rye, NH 03870 (603) 436-8043
The fifth aquarium we’ll introduce you to is the Maine State Aquarium. A relatively new facility, this aquarium first opened its doors in 1993 and was not fully completed until 1995. Located in picturesque West Boothbay Harbor on Maine’s southern Atlantic coast, the Maine State Aquarium offers several indoor and outdoor exhibits and activities for visitors.
Being that this particular aquarium is located in Maine, it should come as no surprise that they offer a stunning lobster exhibit featuring lobsters in all sizes and colors. However, their marine life is not just limited to lobsters. They boast a grand assortment of different sea creatures including the Northern Shrimp, bright and colorful Sea Anemones, Purple Sunstars, and many more. Also featured is a shark tank containing sharks as well as Sea Skates. Guests are afforded with the rare opportunity to reach in and touch these creatures and to feel their very scaly skin.
Other tactile exhibits feature animals such as Sea Cucumbers, Scallops, Sea Urchins, and Sea Stars. Much like all of the other aquariums mentioned in this post, the Maine State Aquarium is a great field trip destination and offers group visits and guided tours.
Address/Contact information: 194 McKown Point Rd, West Boothbay Harbor, ME 04575 (207) 633-9559
If you’re planning a “staycation” this year or are interested in a quick New England getaway, we highly suggest that you visit as many of these entertaining and educational aquariums as you can.