I sometimes worry that I’m becoming a cranky old man. First, let me say the kids had a good time at the aquarium. Second, my biggest takeaway was still the sticker shock at the ticket window. This is not uncommon recently. That entree costs what? Gas costs how much? You spent what on groceries?
We visited the New England Aquarium on a cold day over the February school break. I think if we visited when it was warmer and were able to go to the outside exhibits or exit and walk around the harbor area and return, it might have helped feel like we were able to get more value out of the trip. It’s centrally located, just a short walk from the Freedom Trail, Quincy Market and Boston Italian North End.
It’s not a large place (it’s downright tiny compared to Atlanta or the Shedd in Chicago) and while I think they are doing the best they can with the space, it has its limits. With young kids and short attention spans (and no outdoor animal show to attend) you can easily go through all the levels and exhibits in 2-3 hours.
If you live locally and are able to use library or AAA discounts, or are visiting and get admission through the CityPass, it’s well worth half a day of your time in the city. If you’re paying the full price, just take all of that into consideration. Also, if you are visiting during inclement weather, you can avoid the lines and buy tickets online and redeem via your phone at the entrance. Lines can get long at the box office so this is well worth the upfront planning.
Once inside, the sprawling penguin exhibit is on the ground floor and offers lots of different viewing angles but the centerpiece of the aquarium is the giant circle ocean tank spanning all four floors off the building and includes a coral reef and more than 1,000 marine animals. We spent a lot of time slowly circling the tanks and checking out the fish, sharks, rays, turtles, and other animals.
After the giant tank, the most kid-friendly exhibit is the shark and ray touch tank. The sharks are a bit shy but the girls were both able to touch a lot rays. An accompanying shark exhibit is on the lower floor through the touch tank room.
There are a few other hands-on exhibits including a tidal pool tank which allows you to touch starfish, urchins, hermit crabs and other animals.
Despite it’s small size, there is an impressive array of marine animals to explore inside. During warmer months, there is an outdoor training session for seals you can watch.
There is an associated IMAX theatre next door and the aquarium offers combo entrance tickets with a movie. You can also book a harbor whale watch and take a boat out to Stellwagen Bank where they guarantee (you get another ticket if you don’t) you will see a whale.
Along with all the ongoing and changing exhibits, the aquarium offers a number of other special exhibits, educational programs and special events. With some advance planning you might be able to squeeze even more out of this city attraction.