I have often heard from local families that Mystic Aquarium is worth the trip, but while we have frequented the New England aquarium in recent years, we have never made the trek to Mystic. The 90 minutes from our home to the facility was definitely worth the trip. Make sure to scroll to the end to see some of the great sights we enjoyed on our day trip!
We started out at the Beluga exhibit (mostly because it was the first thing we came across). It was easier for Riley, my three year old, to see below the water into the exhibit rather than from above. The belugas are a really neat animal, and it was definitely exciting to see them in person. Then we proceeded into the Main Gallery. Their website notes that inside the gallery you will see habitats with the most bizarre and fascinating creatures – and they live up to that!
We saw an Amazon exhibit with fish and other amphibians. The isopods were one of the most interesting creatures (did you know they don’t need to eat for YEARS at a time?!) and jellyfish were absolutely stunning. You will also find sharks, sea lions, turtles, rays, seahorses, beautiful coral and of course lots and lots of fish.
There was a touch tank in the center of the aquarium. In this tank swim several species of shark, waiting for you to gently touch as they glide past. We skipped this exhibit because both of my girls were a little too nervous. However, we did take advantage of a small touch tank in the back of the main gallery where they were able to gently touch a hermit crab and a sea urchin.
Sea Lion Show
We left the main gallery to go to the sea lion show around 11:00 for an 11:30 show, and we were willing to wait knowing we wanted good seats so the kids could see well. However, the theater has such steep stadium seating that it probably wasn’t necessary for us to get there when the doors opened. There were plenty of seats and everyone had a view of the stage. The sea lion show was the highlight of the day; they danced, waved, and taught the audience about how we could help ocean life with daily choices we make from what we eat to how we use plastic.
Lunch & Outdoor Exhibits
After the show, we proceeded to the cafe for lunch. This was poor planning because I think most people exiting the show had the same idea. The line was long and only one person was at the counter taking orders. While I waited for lunch, my mom took the girls to see the penguins and seals. They walked back via a wooden walkway through a marsh. The girls animatedly told me about everything they saw – another success of the day. After some dino nuggets, waffle fries & apples, we headed back into the Main Gallery to revisit some of our favorite sights before heading home.
The Mystic Aquarium also has a Jurassic Giants exhibit which is a separate admission and includes a 4D theater experience. As we had already been there for a few hours, we decided to skip it (it was nap time!). We may have to prioritize it on our next trip because it looks quite impressive.
- This aquarium is definitely stroller friendly although we did take advantage of “stroller parking” outside the main gallery – for ease of movement. It was pretty crowded on this Friday morning/afternoon.
- Bringing your own food is a good idea – the cafe was very busy when we went there, but use their picnic tables outside of the gates. Outside food and drink is not allowed.
- Olde Mistick Village is across the street and would make a lovely way to extend your day trip.
- If you are looking for another place to stop, you could detour on your way home to The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village.
Sea Lion Show
Plan Ahead Pricing gives families the opportunity to plan a visit for a day that best accommodates their budget and schedule. Tickets purchased by at least midnight the day before your visit date will always be less expensive than tickets purchased on the date of your visit. The further in advance you purchase, the more likely you are to save. You may find prices higher on weekends and holidays. Reserve your tickets here.
55 Coogan Drive
Open Daily: 9am-6pm
Mystic Aquarium is located in Mystic just off Exit 90 on Interstate 95, about 10 miles east of New London along Connecticut’s southeastern shore. Parking is always free.