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Travel Ideas: New England Aquarium

By: Tracy Grinnell

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Let a breathtaking new world captivate you in Boston! What will you do when friends or family are feverishly looking to you for an adventure? Suggest a rented video or an intense game of chess? You know, most likely, neither is going to cut it. However, you'll probably win the admiration of your fun-seeking friends when you plan a trip to the exotic world of an aquarium.

The Aquatic Adventure

Today, aquariums are growing in popularity because they're not just for kids anymore. Adults – and children alike – will become fish fans and learn about other sea animals with new, innovative and cutting-edge exhibits and galleries offered by most modern aquariums.

And, when planning an aquarium visit, you don't have to count on good weather because most are a safe haven from outside elements. Raindrops or snow usually won't interfere with your visit so trips can be planned year-round. And, whether you come with friends or the entire family, you can be sure that everyone will find amazing animals, fascinating fish and other sea creatures.

About the Boston Landmark

The New England Aquarium, which opened in 1969, remains a "leader in aquatic research, education and conservation and serves as a bridge between society and the environment." The aquarium also has an exciting new addition: the Matthew and Marcia Simons IMAX Theater that will help educate visitors on making important and educated decisions about the future of the world's aquatic resources.

The aquarium is also strengthening its vision and commitment to educating the public with Aquarium 2000, a long-range program plan that details new goals for informal science education, conservation and research. This new project in the aquarium's East Wing will encompass nearly 84,000 feet and cost an estimated $80 million. Four themes, the open ocean, edge of the sea, rivers and lakes will be represented. The proposed large-scale, naturalistic exhibits – featuring above and below water viewing – will include freshwater, coastal and deep ocean species and habitats and visitors will begin their realistic journey at the edge of the sea and move to either the ocean or to the freshwater world of lakes and rivers.

Today's Exciting Exhibits

Even though Aquarium 2000 is in the works, the aquarium doesn't lack grandeur today and is speckled with surprising and fun exhibits and galleries that will intrigue all ages. Here's a glimpse into some:

Harbor Seals free outdoor exhibit simulates a natural habitat where you can see a seal family eat, swim, play, etc. You may even see them getting their teeth brushed!

The Penguin Pool consists of three species of playful penguins that call this exhibit's natural-looking landscape and more than 143,000 gallons of frosty, filtered water home. You'll enjoy checking out these cute, chilly-weather birds!

The Aquarium Medical Center exhibit is a live working animal hospital where visitors can watch veterinarians and staff care for aquarium animals and nurse animals that have been stranded on local beaches until they're fully recovered and ready for release back into the ocean.

The Thinking Gallery will "challenge and entertain" all visitors by giving them insight as to how big and small fish have evolved (with the use of animal fossil replicas that date back millions of years!) and continue to grow in a variety of habitats.

The Whale Skeleton exhibit consists of a real skeleton of the world's most endangered large whale, the North Atlantic right whale. You just might be amazed at how big these sea creatures can get!

The Aquarium's Freshwater Gallery brings you on a journey through our world's freshwater from the exotic Amazon River Basin to the calm waters of a New England pond. From piranhas to electric eels and salmon to other animals that are dependent on freshwater, you'll be captivated by different animal and plant species that coexist in our world's fresh water.

Fun and educational for children and adults alike is the Edge of the Sea exhibit that features a fiberglass rocky shore where visitors can get a hands-on perspective of some tidepool inhabitants, such as sea stars, horseshoe crabs, sea urchins and periwinkles.

Themes from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts are encompassed in The Northern Waters of the World Gallery. You'll be enlightened and enchanted when you view a blue lobster, cod, halibut and intriguing giant octopus that have tentacle arms that grow to lengths of 30 feet.

You'll even find more exhibits upon your visit and don't forget to check for any rotating special exhibits that may be taking place.

Get the Most Out of Your Visit

When planning your trip, it's important to be prepared with some good get-up-and-go tips to help make your aquatic adventure a smooth one for the whole family.
  • Many aquariums offer online ticket purchasing on their Websites.
  • Many offer family learning activities on their Websites.
  • Most have wheelchair accessibility for the physically disabled.
  • Many have assisted listening devices for the hearing impaired.
  • Many have special site maps in different languages.
  • Many offer extended summer/holiday hours.
  • Many have changing hours of operation and different holiday hours.
  • Many offer special services, rates and exhibits.
  • Most offer discounted group rates, combo tickets and memberships.
    Call ahead to find out more information

    Extra Info!
  • For information, call: (617) 973-5200 or access the Website at www.neaq.org.
  • Rates: General (age 12 and up): $12.50; Children (3-11); Children under 3: Free; Seniors ($10.50); Members: Free

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