Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

UPDATED July 2018: This Post was written in 2016. While the content and exhibits in the review below may be outdated, I have updated the current prices below.  

Mystic Aquarium has always held a near and dear place in my heart. It is absolutely one of my favorite places to visit in Connecticut.  It also helps that I totally adore penguins! Now that I have my son, I love nothing more than taking him to visit Mystic Aquarium! 

This visit was my boy’s second visit. We took him when he had just turned one, and while he seemed to be happy looking around, it wasn’t until we visited this year when he was almost two, that he truly started to enjoy everything he saw! 

Visiting Mystic Aquarium can definitely add up for a family. Purchasing tickets online will save you money. The prices range from $28 to $38 depending on your age for admission only. Add on special features and shows, and it goes up even more. It is worth taking the time before you visit to explore all the options to save.  Most Connecticut libraries offer a pass to save money on admission.  The Aquarium also offers discounts for military, AARP, Big Y cardholders and Foxwood Casino Rewards cardholders.  If you have a membership to the Connecticut Science Center, you can also enjoy free admission during their reciprocal month.  There is also a promotion going on now through December of 2018 for free admission with a Connecticut SNAP EBT card. Check out the Aquarium’s helpful tips for  saving on admission 

You can also leave the aquarium and re-enter. Just make sure to have your hand stamped.  This can be great if you want to have lunch outside of the aquarium, or maybe take a break to either visit the shops next door or drive into the center of Mystic for pizza and ice cream, and return in the afternoon. 

We lucked out for our visit. My nephew was visiting from Massachusetts and his elementary school had rewarded him with a discount card which included free admission for he and I. And since my boy is under 3, he was free! So we all entered the aquarium at no cost! 

Parking at Mystic Aquarium is free. The lot is actually very large. We attended on a pretty busy day during spring vacation, and for the first time ever, I could not find a parking spot in front of the entrance. I did, however, discover a dirt parking lot off to the side of the aquarium. It was pretty easy to access and not that much further of a walk to the Aquarium’s main gate. 

My son is a good walker, but when he is tired, 32 lbs is a lot to carry for this mom. So I absolutely brought my stroller in. And it is very easy to maneuver around the Aquarium with the stroller. Do not hesitate to bring yours in with you. There are plenty of ramps to gain access to the animals. The doors in some areas can be a little tricky but when you have your 13-year-old nephew with you, someone is always holding the door! 

As I mentioned, we came on a very busy day. So we waited in line for tickets for about 20 minutes. However, I had my nephew hold the line while I used the bathroom located on the outside of Mystic Aquarium! Lesson learned, that bathroom did NOT have a changing table.  So we would have to wait until we entered the Aquarium. 

Despite the wait, we were all very happy to be at Mystic Aquarium! 

Once you entered Mystic Aquarium, you have the chance to take a fun group photo. Since we never do this, we just skipped the line and entered the Aquarium. I am told though if you do take a photo, they are ready for pick up in around an hour. The pickup location is just inside the entrance to the main gallery.

You will receive a map of the aquarium right when you enter. You can also find the map on the Aquarium website, available for viewing  here


We always make a beeline to the Arctic Coast to visit the beluga whales first, and then head in the direction of the penguins. 

The beluga tanks are made of see-through glass, and your little ones can get a great view of the whales swimming underwater.  There are ramps that lead down to the tank so you can get in there with a stroller. However, it can be crowded in front of the glass, so we parked the stroller off to the side and let our boy get up close and personal! 

Once you have the chance to view the belugas underwater, you can head up the ramp and around the pool to view them from above water level. 

After the beluga whales, we stopped by restroom number 2, which I have circled on the map. This restroom also does NOT have a changing table. Fortunately, the diaper was not that full so we kept looking. 


Worth noting, across from these restrooms is the Penguin Encounter Room. On this day, we did not see them in session. However, Husband and I, along with my nephew, have all been so lucky to take part in this incredible experience. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I absolutely recommend everyone try it once. You will not regret it! There is more information found on the Aquarium’s website  here

Our next stop was the Pacific Northwest, which is home to the Harbor seals, Steller sea-lion and the Northern Fur Seals. 

The one thing I love about the exhibits at Mystic is that they are all geared towards the little ones. He can easily stand at the glass window, and he is the perfect height to see everything. He loved watching the seals swim around their tank! 

We made our way through the part of the Marsh Trek towards the Penguins. At this point, I let my boy run free since it was a pretty easy to walk along the wooden path. And it was enclosed! 

Finally, we reached my favorite spot: Penguin Pavilion! 

From the upper level, it can be challenging for a little one to see the penguins unless you hold them up. So we didn’t stay up here too long. 

If you follow the ramp down towards the indoor exhibit, you will find these awesome little windows that are the perfect size for your little one! My boy literally fit right in! I will say though, we learned a lesson regarding these windows. They are rather deep! So it is best to hold on tight to your child! 

Inside the penguin pavilion is a little gift shop and another large viewing area. This is one of the best places in the Aquarium in my opinion! We stayed here for quite a while, just watching the penguins swim by. It does get a little crowded and warm in there. The stroller can also be awkward to move around since it is so crowded. We parked it as far away from the viewing window as we could, and let my boy just stand and watch penguins for the longest time! He really enjoyed them as much as his mommy does! 

Once we finally had our penguin fill, we headed back outside in the direction of the indoor exhibits. This meant another walk through the Marsh Trek where we spotted turtles and frogs, and some fish! 


Also along the way is Boomerang Island. This exhibit is seasonal and actually costs extra (in addition to the admission prices). We chose not to participate since my boy is a little too young for birds flying around his head! 


The entrance to the main gallery is just around the corner from the Birds exhibit. There are vending machines for a quick drink but no food or beverages is allowed inside the indoor exhibit. 

The indoor exhibit is very stroller friendly. There are multiple rooms with different types of underwater creatures, two touch tanks (one including white-spotted bamboo sharks, another with smaller creatures like starfish and crabs in a shallow exhibit), and a few large tanks with sharks, stingrays and sea lions.



The touch tanks are very popular and get pretty crowded, but with a little patience, everyone gets a turn! 


No visit is complete without Finding Nemo! 

Who doesn’t love a seahorse!

These are just the creepiest things ever…


  This is one of those tanks you hope never breaks. Sharks and stingrays! 

On the day we attended, there was live music near the central tank exhibit. My child never misses an opportunity to bust a groove when he hears music!

As you can see in the above photo, there are benches in the center of the main gallery, if you need to rest for a minute after chasing around a 2-year-old… 

Also inside, you will find a larger bathroom which has changing tables! Yay! My boy was happy to finally be in a dry diaper!  


After we had walked around the indoor exhibit a few times, we headed outside to the Ray Touch Pool.  It is definitely worth taking note of the times this exhibit is open as it does shut down for short breaks. We happened to arrive just as they were reopening. 

My child was a little too young to understand the concept of touching a stingray, but my nephew did not hesitate to get in there! They are slimy little things. I prefer to not pet the rays. 

If you or your child do decide to pet the rays, you will want to wash your hands after! No one likes a stinky fish hand!

In this same area, you will also find the entrance to the Foxwoods Marine Theater which has fun shows with the Sea Lions. Since my 2-year-old does not sit for long periods of time, we decided to skip the show. But definitely take in the show if you can. They run on a schedule, so it is best to decide which show you will attend when you first arrive. 

Also in this area is the 4D Theater and the Ocean Exploration Center. Both of these exhibits do cost in addition to your admission, so if you plan to check these out, make sure you add them on when you first enter the Aquarium. I was told also that strollers are not allowed in the movie theater but there is an area to park them. 

The Penguins Cafe is a great place to stop for lunch if you are spending the day at the Aquarium. They have options such as pizza, chicken fingers, hamburgers, and french fries, among other choices. There is indoor and outdoor seating, with shade. Today, we skipped lunch here since I promised my nephew Olive Garden on the way home! 

A large restroom can also be found next to the Penguin Cafe, and it includes changing tables! 

A trip to Mystic Aquarium would be incomplete without a stop at the Gift Shop! There are lots of cuddly stuffed animals to choose from, books, t-shirts, magnets, and so on. Of course, we had to buy a stuffed penguin! 

Mystic Aquarium is a great place to visit. It can definitely be made into a full day experience with all the shows, lunch and exhibits. It can also be a quick visit. With a two-year old, we easily cruised through the exhibits in under two hours, especially since we skipped all the shows and had lunch off site. 

All in all, it is one of our favorite places to visit. We go here at least once a year for that reason! It is a must visit if you are a Connecticut resident! 

Have you been to Mystic Aquarium? What is your favorite part? Are you a penguin lover too? 

This about sums it up…

55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, Connecticut 

Phone: (860)572-5955



Mystic Aquarium is open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For Up to Date Hours, click  here.   


General Admission Tickets (2018): 

Adult $37.99
Senior (age 60+) $32.99
Youth (13-17) $31.99
Child (age 3 – 12) $27.99
Child (age 2 and under) Free!

For additional information regarding pricing for special features, such as the 4D Theatre, click here.


  • Stroller Friendly!
  • Handicapped-accessible for children of all ages
  • Mostly outdoors, so plan ahead with sunscreen, hats and other shade. 
  • Lots of walking! 
  • Food for purchase, including cafe. There are also numerous places to eat inside and outside the Cafe. 
  • Outside food not allowed. 
  • Benches and seating located throughout the Aquarium (indoors and outdoors) 
  • Large parking lot with plenty of available spaces- Parking is free.
  • Four restrooms located throughout Aquarium, two with changing table facilities

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