The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, the Connecticut-based aquarium dedicated to the Long Island Sound, offers dozens of new reasons to visit. With more interactive exhibits, a wider variety of fish and other creatures, and tons of fun family programs, the aquarium is worth the trip for Fairfield County, CT residents and out-of-towners alike.
Connecticut's Maritime Aquarium has gotten some work done -- $4.5 million worth, to be exact. It’s all part of what the aquarium calls a FINtastic RefurbFISHment, which includes 21 new exhibits, 27 new species of animals, and a reinterpretation of its existing offerings (now more interactive).
New and Improved
Something is gone from the main hall, but you won’t miss it. It’s the central staircase, which was removed to give the space better “flow” and allow a better view of the seal show. (While the harbor seals opted out of facelifts, they did learn a few new tricks, which they’re happy to show off three times a day during feeding presentations.)
The main hall was renamed Newman’s Own Hall after a $1.2 million redesign courtesy of the Newman’s Own Foundation.
A $1.15 million donation from Richard and Wendy Hokin helped recreate the main galleries. You’ll notice new décor in the tanks and new signage. Sliding glass magnifiers attached to the tanks allow young viewers to see everything close-up.
The Maritime Aquarium is the only aquarium focused on the Long Island Sound and the species that call it home. The new Seasons of the Sound exhibit features four tanks showcasing how the Sound’s population changes throughout the year.
The new kid on the block, a seven-foot-long lemon shark, has been asked to play nice with the sand tiger sharks in the Ocean Beyond the Sound gallery.
Bird lovers can take a stroll on the new boardwalk and grab a wildlife guidebook while perusing the enormous marsh mural.
The new Shark & Ray Touch Pool debuts April 14. Yes, you read right -- sharks in the touch pool. These nurse sharks are completely harmless, so visitors can feel confident running their fingers down their backs, and there’s plenty of elbow room, as the pool now has a whopping 90 feet of pool-edge access. Clear side panels allow for underwater views. Also opening April 14 is the new Tropical Travelers exhibit, featuring cornetfish, a flying gurnard, guitarfish, Sargassum triggers, and Atlantic needlefish.
Visitors can now stroke the backs of live nurse sharks in the expanded Touch Pool. (Just don’t neglect the stingrays -- they’re not used to sharing the attention!)
Two visiting exhibits currently on view, Meerkats and Africa: From the Desert to the Sea, have been extended through Labor Day. In the first, meet six sibling meerkats born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the Africa exhibit, you’ll discover the exotic continent’s aquatic wonders, like air-breathing lungfish and electric catfish.
Visitors can spy on the Sound’s seals during Winter Creature Cruises (weekends, December –April), but as the weather warms, it’s all about Marine Life Study Cruises, when you can cruise out aboard the research vessel Oceanic for close encounters with crabs, fish, lobsters, and more. Cruises are suitable for ages 8 and older and reservations are recommended ($20.50).
Marine Life Study Cruises are offered Saturdays from April 28-June 30 and daily in July and August.
The aquarium also hosts a special Behind-the-Scenes Tour on the third Saturday morning of every month when visitors (ages 10 and older) can feed the sharks and rays and learn how the aquarium cares for more than 1,000 animals on a daily basis ($32.50; includes admission).
The aquarium’s IMAX theater, which boasts the largest movie screen in Connecticut (six stories high!) and often features nature films, will begin screening “To the Arctic” April 20.
Address: 10 N. Water St., Norwalk
Directions: About an hour drive from New City
Hours: Open 10am-5pm daily; 10am-6pm in July and August
Admission: $12.95 ($19.45 with IMAX ticket); $11.95 ($17.95 with IMAX) seniors 65 and older; $9.95 ($14.45 with IMAX) children ages 2-12. Adventure Pass (aquarium admission plus IMAX ticket): $19.45
For more information: 203-852-0700 or maritimeaquarium.com