This is our first year with a membership to the Connecticut Science Center. And we’ve quickly discovered and utilized one of the awesome perks that comes with being a member: reciprocal museum admission!
We decided since we had free admission to The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, that we would make the drive on Saturday afternoon in January to check out Connecticut’s other amazing aquarium!
The drive to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk from Enfield was actually not as long as I expected. We ended up taking the Merritt Parkway (and avoided I95). We hit a little traffic as we approached the Route 7 but overall, we made it in pretty decent time.
(from Google Maps)
The Maritime Aquarium is located right on the water (Norwalk River). We got a little confused as we approached the aquarium and tried to figure out where to park. I probably should have researched that a little better before we made the trip. Honestly, I had never been to Norwalk and I didn’t realize how much of a city it was; so the congestion and maneuvering through the streets really threw me off. However, we quickly figured out where to park: right across the street! The parking rate is $2 per hour. If that garage is full, you’ll find additional parking at the North Water Street lot and the Webster lot.
Make sure you take your parking ticket with you, you’ll need to pay for parking BEFORE returning to your car. The machines take cash and credit.
It was cold that day, so even though we didn’t park that far, we still donned our coats and hats. We opted to not bring a stroller with us (he’s outgrowing that thing anyway) and loaded up a backup with our things. The garage is not that far if you do have to travel back to the car but we wanted to avoid the hassle. Do not hesitate to bring your stroller. It would be really easy to navigate a stroller throughout the Maritime Aquarium. There are elevators, and the corridors/exhibit halls are spacious.
The front of the Maritime Aquarium (and the admissions desk) faces N. Water and Ann. It’s perpendicular to the entrance of the garage.
It was pretty busy at the Maritime Aquarium on the day we visited and they actually had two lines formed at the doors. One for regular admission; and one for members. Because we had our reciprocal membership, we actually were able to jump in the shorter line for members!
Normal admission to the Maritime Aquarium is $22.95 for adults; $15.95 for ages 3-12; $20.95 for ages 13-17 and $20.95 for 65 and over. Children ages 2 and under are free. Yes, you read that right.
Of course, if you are looking to save more, they often have special community events throughout the year. Military personnel also receive free admission; and veterans with ID will receive a discounted rate. You can also check out your local library (especially libraries in the vicinity of the Aquarium) for a discounted museum pass through their museum pass program.
Because we had our reciprocal membership to the Connecticut Science Center, we just showed our Science Center card and did not have to pay anything!
When you enter the Maritime Aquarium, you’ll see signs that point you in the right direction of the exhibits.
You’ll also receive a map of the Maritime Aquarium. The aquarium is bigger than it looks, and there are a lot of exhibits to check out. You can easily spend half the day if not longer if you throw in an IMAX show. We unfortunately had a minor meltdown by the frog exhibits, and as such, we spent only 2 1/2 hours. We missed a few exhibits as a result.
This is a close up of the map to help you see all the exhibits, including the second level.
Before we headed into the exhibits, we actually stopped for lunch in the Maritime AquariumCafe. The Cafe is located on the upper level, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They offer a selection of pre-made sandwiches and salads, as well as hot food including pizza, burgers, chicken tenders, french fries and really good New England clam chowder. They have kid-friendly snacks available too.
Also on the upper level near the Cafe (as well as in the Exhibit Hall and the IMAX theater), you’ll find the restrooms. The restrooms are family friendly, and have changing tables. They also had this awesome sign, stating that if your child has an accident, they are there to help you out with diapers, wipes and clothes! Talk about going above and beyond!
I will warn though, once you are in the exhibits, it can be hard to reach a bathroom quickly. At one point, we were by the river otters exhibit and I ended up walking to the IMAX theater before finding a restroom. Definitely make note of the restroom locations (if I had done that, I would have realized there was one back near the Seals on the lower level)!
Below the Cafe, you’ll find the Maritime Aquarium gift shop. Since we usually save the gift shop for last, we ended up skipping any purchases due to the above-mentioned meltdown.
After we had lunch, we finally made our way into the aquarium!
When you first enter, you’ll see the giant Interactive Video Wall! This is Newman’s Own Hall.
Here you’ll also find the Harbor Seals Exhibit. If you time it right, you can also catch one of their daily seal shows!
Before heading too far into the Aquarium, if you have coats or bags, you’ll want to stop by the coatroom located just around the corner from the seals. This was a busy spot, and so I actually did not get any photos. But by the coat room, you’ll find lockers (bring coins if you want to use those!) as well as restrooms and a water fountain. This makes a great meet up place also if someone gets lost in your party. And I’m totally not saying that from experience…
Which brings me to the my other point, information is located right in the Newman’s Own Hall as well! Make sure you look for the visitor’s service staff in the blue shirts if you need help! Again, totally not from experience… Okay, yes, I lost my husband and child. But major shout out to the awesome museum staff for helping me find the two of them! Note to self: never take off when your husband also has your cell phone.
Anyway back to the aquarium. From Newman’s Own Hall, you have a few options. You can either head towards the Shark & Ray Touch Pool, or towards the Shark Tank. You can also take the elevator upstairs to the Frogs. The flow of traffic seemed to be heading towards the Shark Tank, so we headed that way!
Our first stop: the Coral Reed Tank!
Around the corner you will find their new exhibit: the Jellies.
We spotted this guy as well. Is it just me or does he look like he’s trying to pull a Hank?
There were plenty of fish tanks to check out.
Around the bend (and up the ramp), you’ll come across the Shark Tank!
Our timing was perfect, we were able to catch a diver in the tank with the sharks!
We spent a while watching the sharks. He was very fascinated!
Around the bend, you’ll find more schooling tanks and the Intertidal Touch Tank. We skipped that touch tank since the animals were small and my child is a squeezer.
Instead we discovered the river otters! It was hard to see them though – we spotted just one while we were checking it out.
He did find a fun place to climb and play with some other kids which kept him entertained for some time!
We then found the reptiles including mommy’s “favorite”: snakes. Eek. At least the turtles were cute!
This brought us to the end of the Exhibit Hall, and to the Seal Bridge that crossed over into the upper level exhibits. It was at this point that we started losing our child’s attention and entered the meltdown level. As a result, we zoomed through these exhibits.
For some reason, he was either afraid of the frogs or just not into them. Thankfully, my husband kept him occupied while I took my time checking out the exhibit. They have a few tanks with frogs, as well as interactive activities for the kids.
Right after the frog exhibit, is the Open Play Space with soft toys for climbing and burning off some energy. I thought this would be a great stop for my 3 year old on the verge of a meltdown but, nope, he apparently was set on that meltdown. So, we never got to check that area out. It was also very popular with the littles, and as such, I could not get a good shot of it without having random children appear in the picture. Since I try to avoid making other people’s kids famous on this page, I opted to skip that picture.
But the open play area is for children ages 5 and under. They have a no shoe policy. There is no time limit for playing so your kids can have fun for as long as they need to!
After the playspace, they have a small corridor with boat models. Amazing talent!
You’ll find yourself at the end of the corridor, and at the top of the stairs to the lower level. If you need an elevator, you can head back towards the frogs and you’ll find your way down by the seal bridge.
If you take the stairs, you’ll end up right near the IMAX entrance. This IMAX at the Maritime Aquarium is actually the largest in Connecticut! We did not take in a show (thank goodness for that), but if you are interested, you can find out more online with their show times.
Instead we headed to the first floor exhibits. That included a stop at this fun photo op! He was clearly in a better mood at this point. It was short-lived.
You’ll find another activity at the Toy Boat Shop right when you come into the first floor exhibits. This exhibit does cost extra ($5 per boat) and is held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We passed by a little after it ended so we missed out. But honestly, I am not sure if he would have been up for this craft anyway! It definitely looks like a fun activity!
Just around the corner you’ll find the Jiggle a Jelly Touch Tank. My brave boy got right up there and touched a jellyfish! I can’t even say that I’ve done that! This exhibit is completely safe, if you follow the rules and touch the jellyfish on the top only. Their sting is relatively benign but still, why get stung if you don’t have to!
Further down the room, you’ll also find the Shark & Ray Touch Pool. He was a little more apprehensive of touching these guys. I don’t blame him! We just looked instead!
After you’ve had your hands in the tanks, it was nice to spot this handwashing station!
Right near the touch tank, they have more tanks with fish and an octopus.
Opposite this wall is the entrance to the Meerkats and Dragons. I really am not sure what happened. Blame it on the meltdown, but we TOTALLY missed this room. And I’m really bummed. But this is the reality of visiting any place with a 3 year old. You miss things. And then you realize it after the fact and you get bummed. Hopefully by reading this review, you’ll realize that there is a room with meerkats!
Instead, we did make our way into the GO FISH room on the opposite side.
In this room they had a 30,000 gallon cold-water habitat with halibut, salmon, cod and more! Basically the fish that you may have had for dinner last night…
They had an learning exhibit for the kids to discover which fish are OK to catch and eat. He had fun at the little stools flipping up the signs.
There is also a boat for the kids to play in. This improved his mood for a little while – I had hope we would stay a little longer. And then someone took his spot at the steering wheel. Cue meltdown.
And that ended our trip to the Maritime Aquarium. It was probably a good thing, because within minutes in the car, he was out cold.
We had a really great time checking out the Maritime Aquarium. It’s a nice alternative to Mystic, and since most of it is indoors, it’s a great option for these colder months. For those of us in Northern Connecticut, it’s definitely a long drive but I was glad that we made the trip to check it out. I definitely would go earlier in the day next time (we started our day late), so we could avoid meltdowns and actually have the chance to check out all the exhibits, including the meerkats.
I’d probably also want to go down there in a warmer season for a second visit because it appeared that they did have some interesting outdoor activities as well including an outdoor play space, a sand box, riverside exhibits and walks along the Norwalk River. When he’s a little older, I’d definitely add on a show at the IMAX theater!
The Maritime Aquarium is definitely a great for all ages and worth a visit no matter where you live in Connecticut! You’ll want to add this to your list of places to check out if you have not been here yet!
This about sums it up…
10 North Water Street – Norwalk, Connecticut
Phone: (203) 852-0700
Open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open until 6 p.m. from July 1 to Labor Day.
General Admission Tickets:
Senior (age 65+) $20.95
Youth (13-17) $20.95
Child (age 3 – 12) $15.95
Child (age 2 and under) Free!
- Stroller Friendly!
- Handicapped-accessible for children of all ages
- Food for purchase at the Cafe. There is seating in the Cafe, and during warmer months, there is outdoor seating in the Riverside Courtyard.
- All indoor exhibits
- Multiple rooms with exhibits, all included with admission.
- Special activities can be found for kids throughout, including the Ocean Play Space, Toy Boat Shop (additional) cost and the outdoor play space (seasonal)
- Bathrooms found in three places throughout aquarium – all have changing tables
- IMAX theater located in aquarium – all shows cost extra
- Pay for parking at nearby garage
- Coat room and coin-operated lockers available
- Elevators to upper levels, as well as stairs