Saturday, August 9, 2008

Where can you go to see Beluga whales eat, penguins "fly," and learn about the work of Dr. Robert Ballard (think: man who found the Titanic)?

Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut!

Joel and I visited the Aquarium several years ago with an infant William so we knew our guys would be fascinated by the exhibits. We set aside a Saturday on our calendar to make the hour-ish drive to Connecticut and enjoy a family day viewing some of God's amazing marine creatures.

After searching the Aquarium website for ticket information I realized we needed a way to bring our cost down! A reciprocal program exists between them and the Roger Williams Park Zoo (we have a membership) but that only gives a $2 discount on each ticket. So I checked the website of my local library and then promptly reserved their "Museum Pass." This particular pass worked like a coupon for our admission fees and brought our day at the Aquarium down from $84 to $66 (Ellie's admission was free already).

One of the things I really like is that they post the feeding times for each of the major exhibits. For example, the Beluga whales are fed five times every day. Each feeding is used as a training time and a docent stands by explaining what they are doing while talking through a microphone so everyone can hear.

Watching a Beluga whale swim laps in a large pool is interesting - watching a Beluga whale eat lunch, splash in the water, and flip it's tale fin into the air is fascinating. Especially when you can listen to information about this beautiful mammal at the same time you are watching him.

Another favorite with my family was the Sea Lion Show. Occurring five times a day, you are bound to find a time that is convenient for you. During the show trainers discussed differences between seals and sea lions while working with the three male animals to demonstrate their abilities.

If we allowed him, William would have spent the entire day at the Discovery Lab or the Sting Ray Touch Pool. I have to admit it's pretty cool to stick you hand down into the water and feel a sting ray swim past. We also touched hermit crabs, a horseshoe crab, shark egg cases and star fish at the Discovery Lab.
Visual learning. Auditory learning (mom and dad reading the placard out loud). And kinesthetic learning. Museum-type places don't get much better than that.

Last but not least is the Institute of Exploration. Basically this is a museum describing different projects Dr. Robert Ballard has worked on throughout the years. Very interactive and multi-media. My guys are a bit young to fully enjoy the displays but Joel and I could have spent at least an hour (or more!) in that building alone.

One final bit of information. If you have your ticket validated before you leave, you can return for the next two days. I'm not sure this Aquarium is large enough to hold the interest of children for 3 days in a row but I can see how it could be beneficial.

Have those of you in New England visited Mystic Aquarium? Does anyone have a favorite aquarium or zoo you would recommend for vacation next year?


Alicia said...

If you return the next 2 days do you have to show i.d? If you don't, then you and 2 other families could go in on the price and each gets to go one day!

On the off chance that you're East Coast readers are ever in Dallas, the Dallas World Aquarium is a must. And of course a visit to San Diego is not complete w/o visiting the San Diego Zoo and The Wild Animal Park!

Stephanie's Mommy Brain said...

Joel and I talked about doing that very thing. I think as Christians it might fall under dishonest and unethical though.

I didn't know Dallas had an aquarium. I've visited the Ft. Worth Zoo (like almost 10 years ago) and it was pretty nice. I'll have to remember about the aquarium.

By the way, when we were in Arkansas last year the Little Rock Zoo let us use our RWP Zoo membership pass for free admittance. Some place reciprocate well, others don't.

Kat said...

I love Mystic Aquarium, even as an adult. We actually went on a double date there once.
A little closer than San Diego, I always enjoyed the Camden Aquarium and the Philadelphia Zoo (NJ and PA respectively). The Camden Aquarium has a lot to offer with classes, feedings, shows, shark dives, touch pools, etc.

wherever HE leads we'll go said...

Oh we really love Mystic Aquarium. We miss it. We don't have an aquarium here. The closest one is Cincinnati. And I didn't think it was worth the LONG drive. Some neat exhibits (like the sting ray touch tank), but all in all, not very exciting.

We have been to a number of zoos in our travels. We DO love animals! The best zoo I have been to so far is in Toronto - AMAZING. In NE, we LOVED Southwicks Zoo in MA. It has been quite a few years, but from what I remember, they had lots of great animal exhibits, we saw a few shows, we got to ride an elephant & a camel (that was extra $). They have a petting zoo & we got to feed the deer in the woods. I believe they sell unpopped popcorn for this, but you could just bring your own & save the money.

Anonymous said...

The Bean would love that. We'd have a hard time keeping her out of the water!

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