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Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

Dive the Depths of the World’s Oceans at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration


Billed as “Connecticut’s premier destination for entertainment and education,” the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (www.mysticaquarium.org)certainly lives up to its claims.  I spent a solid four years living in Connecticut before I finally visited Mystic Aquarium. Right off exit 90 on I-95, it is easy to drive right by when you are headed for New York City, Mystic Seaport or quirky and adventurous Rhode Island. “It's not just a place to visit ocean life, it's a unique experience in living marine creatures and the latest discoveries of our underwater world,” says the MAIE website.

A division of the Sea Research Foundation, all “donations and revenue from admissions go to the development and execution of educational programs, marine research, marine animal rescue and deep-sea expeditions,” so you know you are getting much more for your money than going to some other tourist destination. Opened in 1973, Mystic Aquarium teamed up with Dr. Robert Ballard’s Institute for Exploration in the spring of 1999 to open the $52 million expanded center you can visit today.

With always something new to see, there is a great selection of permanent exhibits that are worth visiting over and over. The Hidden Amazon area features tarantulas, poisonous frogs, snakes, piranhas, bats and stranger and primate creates that inhabit the rainforests. Popular with both kids and grown-ups, the Ray Touch Pool gives everyone a chance to reach in and feel a swimming cownose ray. Twice on Saturdays and Sundays, you can sign up to help feed the rays for an extra fee – they eat right out of your hand! Lions of the Sea in the Marine Theater features the commanding yet playful nature of sea lions, featuring the aquarium’s resident sea lions Coco and Surfer. Arctic Coast features New England’s only beluga whales in three pools with 800,000 gallons of salt water.

Looking for something even more hands-on? Wondering what it is like to pet a penguin? Sign up for one of the aquarium’s Encounter program. Currently, they offer a chance to get up close and personal with both penguins and beluga whales. With the penguins, you will spend an hour in one of the eco-classrooms while a penguin walks freely around. You’ll learn about the aquarium’s penguin programs, get to pet an African penguin and the opportunity to participate in a training session “for medical care as well as engage the birds in enrichment activities.” When encountering the beluga whales, after an orientation, you will wade into the water with a trainer. Touching the whale and even petting its tongue are just a few of the unique experiences you have.

Special events are also scheduled every season, so make sure to check out the Mystic Aquarium website for unique happenings and educational programs like family overnights, wine dinners, live broadcasts, teen programs, sea school for preschoolers, mommy & me and more!

Open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Days, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Explorations’ hours vary depending on the season. Didn’t get a chance to see everything? Have your ticket validated before you leave so you'll be able to return for the next two consecutive days.
   

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