PLEASE NOTE: This post was originally written in 2014. While it should still give you a great idea of the overall experience, it is also possible that some information may be outdated. Please visit their website for the most up to date information, especially for details like hours and pricing. (And don’t forget special events and seasonal offerings like their annual Shark-Diving Santa!) If you notice something in this post that needs to be updated, please feel free to leave a comment with the updated information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make the updates. Hey, it takes a village, right? 🙂
Thank you to The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT for providing my family with complimentary admission. All opinions are 100% my own.
This destination has been on my “places I want to visit” list for a while now.
Back in 2012, one of my earliest outing adventures was to a children’s museum in Norwalk called Stepping Stones. During my travels to the area, I noticed signage for a local aquarium and made a mental note to head back for a future visit. Well it took me two more years before I made my way back, but we finally made it to The Maritime Aquarium.
Actually, my timing wasn’t too bad.
You see, back in 2012, the aquarium was in the middle of a massive, $4 Million refurbishment project. So waiting until 2014 to enjoy my visit, allowed me to check out all the spiffy new changes!
The aquarium is located in Norwalk, Connecticut.
I was happy to learn that all the aquarium’s exhibits were housed indoors. I mean an indoor venue is really the only option when you are dealing with the frigid February weather we have been experiencing.
Getting to the museum was no problem at all. It is located right off of interstate 95 and was an easy hour and twenty-minute drive from our home in West Hartford.
Oh and if you are looking for another way to get to the aquarium (or maybe have a train enthusiast in your group), the Metro-North South Norwalk station is a quick 10 minute walk from the aquarium. Might be a fun option.
Parking was fairly easy. There were several parking garages in the area and we parked in the one called the “Maritime Garage” located right across the street from the aquarium. (please note that the garage is run by the City of Norwalk and not the aquarium and that you do have to walk outside to get from the garage to the aquarium).
Maritime is one of those garages where you can pay for your parking in the lobby before you head back to your car. If that is what you want to do, make sure you bring your parking ticket with you. I did notice a sign saying that you can also pay when you exit the garage. I’m assuming, however, that that would be for credit cards only. Parking costs $7 and they accepted cash and credit cards (no American Express).
After we exited the garage, we headed across the side-street and to the left, following the signs to the aquarium’s main entrance. It was a quick walk, but it was certainly made easier by bringing Sweetheart in her stroller instead of attempting to carry her (or letting her walk).
Once inside the aquarium, you can’t miss the check-in area. Here you can purchase tickets for the aquarium and/or IMAX movies, rent a stroller ($5 for a Maclaren), purchase a membership and more.
Now an outing to the aquarium can be a costly adventure, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, children under the age of 3 are FREE and there are plenty of activities there for the two and under crowd to enjoy. Also, there is an option to purchase a membership. The cost for a family is $150 and that basically equates to the cost of two visits for a family of four. Not a bad deal if you plan to visit more than once.
One of the aquarium employees was kind enough to model the rental stroller for me (and you!) The really nice thing about this venue is that it is 100% stroller friendly. Elevators were located throughout the facility and ramps and bridges led us from point a to point b without a problem. We actually brought our jogging stroller for the trip and it worked out well.
The focus of the Maritime Aquarium is on the Long Island Sound and the design of the exhibits (if you head in the right direction) are to take you on a journey through the sound, its environment and its inhabitants. Now the nice people at the aquarium gave me wonderful instructions on the best way to navigate the facility, but, of course, I totally went the wrong way. We got distracted with a shark event and then ended up going through the second floor exhbits completely backwards.
So, in order to keep you from making the same mistake I did, I will attempt to give you the correct path to follow in my virtual tour below.
But first, a map. If you are a map person (like my husband) grab one from the check-in area or from the information desk near the seals. I’m not a map person which is most definitely why I ended up touring the second floor the wrong way. Don’t be like me. Get a map 🙂
Our actual first stop was Newman’s Own Hall and the seal exhibit.
Now, this will be a challenge, but right before the seal exhibit is the bathroom and storage area. If you need to make a rest stop or have a few items you want to store while you explore, try your best to steer your crew to the left before they hit the seals. They won’t want to do it, but try your best.
The restroom area contains the only bathrooms for the main part of the aquarium, so definitely take note of their location. The spot also contains the coat closet, lockers, water fountain and a vending machine. Both the Men’s and Women’s restrooms had baby changing stations (yay) and lockers were available for rent for $1 – $1.50 (bring quarters).
Ok, second stop, seals.
There was a large swimming area located in Newman’s Own Hall where several seals had made their home. We got a chance to see them up close and also enjoyed checking out their 11:45 am feeding session.
Right next door to the seals, was a large shark and ray touch pool exhibit. Here we all got a chance to give a little back rub to these amazing creatures. To be honest, I was completely nervous to touch anything swimming around in that tank, but I took one for the team and stuck my fingers in the water. Good news, it wasn’t skeevy at all. The rays swam right over to me and I gave them a good rub right between the shoulder blades.
The kids, of course, had no problem sticking their hands right in the water and checking out the animals living inside.
And when we were done ray touching, there was a hand washing station conveniently located nearby.
Next stop on our aquarium adventure was a visit with the jellyfish. This is a special exhibit at the aquarium and a place where you can not only see jellyfish, but also touch them! The touch tank for the jellies is only open on weekends and holidays, so we didn’t get a chance to touch them during our Thursday morning visit, but the good news is that you can. The touch tank will be open weekends and holidays through April 18, 2014 and it will be open all of school vacation weeks (February 17 – 21 and April 14 – 18).
While touching the jellyfish would have been a treat, just seeing the exhibit was pretty amazing. They actually grow the jellyfish right there at the aquarium and they have an entire exhibit showing jellyfish in their various stages of life.
Then right near the jellyfish exhibit is another special exhibit dedicated to Africa. While there was plenty to see and do within this exhibit, the stars of the show were the cute little Meerkats.
The girls’ favorite part of the meerkat exhibit was the ability to crawl inside this special viewing area and watch the cute little animals as the scurried about their business.
We visited for a little while and then the girls were ready to go. They began to make their way out of the exhibit area and I turned around to take one more picture of the cuties . . .
I couldn’t get over the cuteness (How many times have I said “cute” now?)
Now, if you were to take the best route for seeing the second floor of the aquarium, you would want to take the stairs or elevator located near the Africa exhibit and head right upstairs.
One of the first things you will find up there, is a play space for the 5 and under crowd. Take off their shoes and let them explore. We didn’t get a chance to officially test out the play area, but from the looks of it, it would be a great place for a crawler or early walker to get out of their stroller and stretch their legs a bit.
Next up was the frog exhibit which contained both local and exotic varieties. I loved how each area had a step stool that my little kids could use to see the frogs. They also had a picture of the frogs and a brief description located on the side of each container. My kids loved looking at the picture and then attempting to find each frog.
After the frogs, there were several more exhibits to see. A great pre-tour of this section can be found on the Maritime Aquariums website. Check out their Aquarium Journey and I will show you a few pictures I snapped as we passed through. Some of the highlights included: eels, a sea turtle, horseshoe crabs, sea horses, otters, more jellyfish, beautiful fish and another touch tank.
But this tour through the Long Island Sound ended with probably the most amazing (and scariest) exhibit of all . . . the shark tank! Here sand tiger sharks and more eerily moved through the tank searching for their next meal 🙂 I’m a scardy cat when it comes to sharks, so it was pretty amazing to get a chance to watch them up close in their own environment.
We were even there for a period when two divers went into the tank and answered questions from those visiting the shark tank area.
With our shark viewing complete, we realized we were very hungry. Forget the sharks, time to find some food for ourselves!
The Maritime Aquarium has an onsite cafe that is very nice and offers a variety of food options.
The aquarium’s cafe is located on the second floor of the building, but you can only access it from the elevator or stairs near the gift shop area (near the front).
Most of the time when we are out and about, I will bring lunch for the kids, and my husband and I will purchase something to eat. This plan wasn’t going to work for this outing, because the cafe does not allow outside food or beverages to be brought in. When the weather is nice, guests could use the picnic tables located outside at the aquarium, but during the coldest months, the only eating area option is the cafe.
The cafe was a beautiful space and its’ food offerings included a variety of grab-n-go and grill options for lunch.
They also had plenty of high chairs available for use (yay again).
Look at these happy campers finishing up their yummy lunch.
I should note that there are restrooms (with baby changing stations) located right near the cafe area.
At that point our tour was complete, our bellies were full, and we were ready for the drive home.
I was so happy that we finally had a chance to check out the aquarium in Norwalk. It was beautifully designed and renovated, the opportunities for the children to enjoy and intact with the animals was endless, and my husband and I were entertained. Sounds like a win to me!
Phone: (203) 852-0700
- The Maritime Aquarium is open from 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. every day of the year, with a few exceptions.
- Exceptions include: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
- From July 1 – Labor Day, they stay open until 6:00 p.m. daily.
Pricing (updated 2016):
- Ticket prices include access to the aquarium and one IMAX movie.
- General Pricing:
- Adults: $22.95
- Child (age 3-12): $15.95
- Youth (age 13-17): $20.95
- Senior (age 65+): $20.95
- Kids under 3 are FREE
- Active Military (with ID) are free
- Veterans (with ID) receive $10 off Aquarium admission only
- Museum memberships are available
- Locker rentals are available, bring quarters.
- Parking is available in the Maritime garage. A parking fee is charged.
- Cash and credit cards are accepted at the garage, aquarium, and cafe.
- Stroller Friendly: YES. Ramps, elevators and bridges provide access for strollers throughout the aquarium. Strollers can also be rented at the front desk for $5.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: UPDATED: YES. Bring your own or grab a cup in their cafe.
- Baby Changing Station: YES. Baby changing stations were available in both the first floor and second floor Men’s and Women’s bathrooms.
- Parking: There are several parking garages in the area. We parked in the Maritime Garage (run by the City of Norwalk) which costs $7.
- Food for Sale: YES. A cafe is located on the second floor.
- Outside Food Allowed: No. Outside food is not allowed in the cafe area. During the warmer months, outside food can be enjoyed outside at the picnic tables located on the aquarium’s property.
- Cash Required: NO. Credit/debit cards accepted for entry, parking and the cafe.
- Dress Code: There are no specific requirements.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES, weekend hours. The aquarium is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Tips and Things to Bring:
- All the exhibits in the aquarium are indoors. This would be a great destination for the frigid winter months!
- A coat storage area is located near the seals and the restrooms on the first floor of the aquarium.
- When you arrive, check the schedule for the timing of seal feedings and other events.
- If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, consider bringing a stroller. There is a lot of ground to cover in the aquarium.
- There is a small play space located on the second floor. Only kids ages 5 and under are allowed.
- A current special exhibit at the aquarium is the jellyfish touch tank. It is open on weekends and holidays through April 18, 2014 and it will be open all of school vacation weeks (February 17 – 21 and April 14 – 18).