During the COVID pandemic, businesses and organizations have changed the way they do business. They have guidelines to follow and it is our responsibility to follow those guidelines. Please check the Mystic Aquarium’s website to purchase tickets and read the process they have put in place to keep everyone safe. Go to their website here.
What to do on yet another day of staying socially distant with the two rascals you loving know as your children? Mystic Aquarium! This underwater world commands the attention of even the smallest humans in a way that is a relief to any tired parent. This place of see, touch, and do is both educational and entertaining and I have yet to ever leave there underwhelmed.
I digress for a quick second here to point out that this magical spot is not solely for children, it is also a wonderland for adults and one I highly recommend checking out no matter what your age. I knew when I moved here that our little family of four (or at least my two boys and I while dad was at work) would probably be visiting the aquarium a lot.
In that case purchasing one of their membership plans, good for a year of unlimited visits, was the way to go, as the regular day pass can get quite pricey for us locals. This is a popular place on the most average of days so we tend to head there for opening time (around 9 a.m.) to avoid the crowds, especially if it’s during school vacations.
With the little one battened down in a stroller and his brother following along, we get our hands stamped at the entrance to the delight of my toddler Lochlan, and head in. The first thing to greet you inside is a cylindrical glass floor to ceiling tank filled with bright colorful fish.
This is where I recently had a proud mama moment when I learned my “baby” Cormac knew the word “fish” as he pointed, said the word several times and squealed with glee. From there, the world is your oyster (forgive the pun!) and there are all kinds of directions to head, with exhibits ranging from a touch and feel Shark Encounters area to the Moray Eels and Barracuda tank, Shark Lagoon and much, much more.
Some of Lochlan’s personal favorites tend to be the Hidden Amazon section where you can push various buttons and guess which resulting sounds match which animal, as well as the “Nemo” tank of clownfish (thank you, Disney, ha!). There is also a tank of fish filled with fake trash, known as Covanta Cove, that has a game controller with a claw where little ones can attempt to grab said trash and move it to the recycling bin…Lochlan would stay here for hours if I’d let him.
After checking out more tanks of seals, turtles, jellyfish, and other things, we move out to the impressive outdoor exhibits. Lochlan loves the first area you hit (this one is only out during warmer months) which is a pay as you play remote control speed boat game where you can direct your little boat for a set amount of time around a little cove area.
We then go skipping over bridges through a wetland section where you might just spy with your little eye a frog or two, or some ducks. At this point, you either veer left up to the African penguins or you can go right to see the seals and sea lions.
We tend to hit the penguins first, and oh my, are they adorably cute! This little rocky enclosure houses around 28 of the little tuxedo-clad birds and if you’re lucky you might just catch one of their feeding sessions. Off we then go to the “Pacific North West” to see the Harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and Northern Fur seals. They also have specific feeding times, or sometimes the staff will have them do a trick or two. If nothing else you’ll usually catch one of them sunning themselves or playing with a ball.
Rounding out the outdoor tour is the Beluga whale exhibit where you can view the aquarium’s three resident whales, Kela, Juno, and Naluark swimming about through the various large underwater viewing windows.
A side note: every December the aquarium has an evening open house where for the donation of a canned good you have the unique chance to view many of the exhibits by nightfall. A highlight of our first time attending the event this year was watching Santa play the saxophone while a whale appeared to listen in delight right behind him! These huge white mammals appear to enjoy the attention and even though their pool is huge, they tend to swim by the glass quite often to say hello.
No aquarium visit ends without a visit to the gift shop. T-shirts, toys, games, and books abound. Sometimes I cave to the will of my toddler and get a bag of gummy fish or a tiny toy, but mostly we just like to look. There is so much to do at Mystic Aquarium that the annual pass it truly worth it. As my boys grow and patience levels improve, we will definitely check out the 4–D Theater, the sea lion show or perhaps enroll in their summer camp!
The seaweed is always greener
In somebody else’s lake
You dream about going up there
But that is a big mistake
Just look at the world around you
Right here on the ocean floor
Such wonderful things surround you
What more is you lookin‘ for?
Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
-Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”
All photos courtesy of the Mystic Aquarium website