The Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration is one of the most unique and exciting aquariums in the United States. Located in the city of Mystic, on the southeast coast of Connecticut, it is easily accessed from Interstate Route 95 off of exit 90. The Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration has a number of highly educational and stimulating exhibits, educational programs, interactive experiences, and enough fun for a family to easily have the need to make plans to spend the whole day there. Where else are you going to be able to cozy up to a penguin or beluga whale, explore the Amazon, and visit the Titanic, except for the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration?
One exhibit after another at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration will take your breath away. The Institute for Exploration is led by Dr. Robert Ballard, its founder and president, the man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985. This award winning former Navy officer, retired after thirty years as a scientist and Director of the Center for Marine Exploration at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, is currently an explorer in residence for the National Geographic Society. Deep sea archeology is the Institute’s specialty, and it has the aim of developing this field with the use of today’s ever growing technology, such as robotics, advanced mapping and imaging systems, and remote operated vehicles. A pioneer in this undertaking, the Institute is at the forefront of undersea exploration and has been involved in a large number of expeditions.
The fruits of these labors are apparent at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration. The Return to Titanic exhibit features an incredible scale model of the doomed ship, one that is eighteen feet long and took five years to build from the original’s blueprints. Actual footage of visits to the wreck, models of boilers and of the bow, reproductions of the radio room and more await visitors to this exhibit.
Dr. Ballard’s may 2002 discovery of PT-109, the legendary vessel that John F. Kennedy was associated with, is chronicled in another exhibit, PT-109/ Collision With History. It examines the annals of PT boats, the effects that PT-109 had on history, and Dr. Ballard’s expeditions to find it. A replica of an ancient shipwreck, films of two key deep-sea archeological voyages, artifacts found in the Mediterranean Sea, and much more can be marveled at in the Noah’s Flood and Ancient Shipwrecks wing.
If its sea life you want, there is no shortage of it here at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration. Sunlit Seas provides many living examples. Hidden Amazon is akin to being in the rainforest yourself, with piranha, snakes, bats, frogs, and tarantulas to keep you company. The Ray Touch Pool lets you actually feel what rays, a relative of sharks, feel like as they swim by. There are fur seals, Stellar sea lions and beluga whales as well, each with their own area that closely represents their natural habitat. The Alaskan Coast exhibit has three interconnected pools that hold over 800,000 gallons of water, and there are three huge underwater viewing windows where you can observe beluga whales. There is even the opportunity to touch these giants in the Beluga Contact Program.
Nothing at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration is more popular with young and old alike than the Roger Tory Peterson Penguin Exhibit, where you can enjoy above and underwater viewing of these flightless birds. There is a Penguin Contact program that you can participate in, where you will be up close and personal with penguins. This program, like the Beluga Contact program, must be paid for by each individual. Aquarium admission gets you into the Marine Theater, which has several daily shows for your family to learn about the goings on at the aquarium and in the ocean itself.
The general admission rates for the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration are $17.50 for adults, $12.50 for children from three to seventeen years old, $16.50 for seniors over sixty five and children two and under are let in for free. Tickets, when validated, can be good for three consecutive days. There are group rates available and tickets can be purchased at the site or online. Parking is plentiful and there is a place to eat called the Waterfront CafÃ?Â©. You can picnic at the east end of the parking lot if this is what you prefer. The entire environment is smoke free, and no pets, with the exception of service animals, are allowed. The facility is wheelchair accessible. Taking pictures is permitted and there is a gift shop.
You will certainly not forget a visit to the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration any time soon. It will enthuse and awe you, with its thoughtful presentations and multiple learning opportunities. Who knows, the children that you bring to it may be heading an underwater expedition some time in the future or be the vanguard of marine life discoveries, inspired by what they see and learn at this fantastic attraction.