It's been awhile since I have visited the aquarium. It is pricey initially, but we broke down and bought the annual family membership last week. I think 3 visits and it pays for itself. It really is educational for kids and adults alike. Even the baby was mesmerized by all the colorful fish swimming in the huge tanks. It had been renovated since our last visit, and there is now a "jelly room." All different shapes and sizes of jellies floating mindlessly in the tanks. You remember I told you it was educational for adults too? Well I learned that jellies are not fish, so not to call them "jelly fish." Also that they are indeed mindless because they have no brain. Point made.
Okay, off of jellies and onto... Beluga whales! what can I say? They are simply stunning. I always want to do the Beluga encounter every time I go. I think it would be a nice birthday present to myself. As you walk to the next exhibit you can sing the song "Baby Beluga" with your kids - if you remember it from your baby music classes so long ago, that is.
From whales we walked down the path to the outside sea lions and one harbor seal. You will not leave the aquarium without knowing the difference between the two.
On a hot day (like the day we happened to go on) all the fat frogs (or toads, those I did not learn how to tell apart) are out sunning themselves on lily pads. It was fun for the 3 and 7 year old to try to spot as many as they could.
Onto arguably the most charming habitat - the penguins. They are too cute! Both of my daughters learned to do the "penguin waddle" from coming to Mystic at a young age. I always think that this would be a good "animal encounter" gift to give them - you guessed it - for their birthday.
They have several "touch tanks" that are really quite awesome. The outside sting ray touch pool is great for the slightly older kids, perhaps 5 and up. They need to be able to reach in and not be tempted to splash, which scares the poor creatures away. Part of the new renovations I noticed inside was the new shark and ray touch tank. My 7 year old waited patiently for 30 minutes near the end of the day in order to get another touch, and another. Again, her arm was almost too short to get the most out of the exhibit.
The sea lion show is cute (although I prefer the show at the Sydney Zoo in Australia - very entertaining - but if you're having a "Staycation" in Connecticut, Sydney really doesn't count, no matter how you define it!) So do watch the sea lion show. And then venture into the Titanic room, where kids can push buttons and stand at the model hull of the Titanic and do the "Jack I'm flying" pose from the movie. Save two bucks and skip the 4D Sponge Bob movie. Younger kids don't keep the 3D glasses on and it squirts water at you, causing babies to cry.
A few tips for when you go:
1. Save some moolah and pack a lunch. There are outside tables and benches throughout the outdoor exhibits, so you can dine while watching Belugas. You can buy lunch there, but adding food to the the cost of admission would make this a not-so-budget-friendly day.
2. Check your local library to see if you can check out an aquarium pass, even with a slight discount, to help buffer the cost.
3. Last but not least, I would really try to go during the week. Mystic and surrounding area is popular in the summer with tourists, but I've been there in early spring and practically felt like I owned the place.
As much as it costs, I would definitely add this to your summer day trip destinations. The money helps the aquarium with its high overhead costs and with their many sea lion rescuing efforts. Enjoy!!!