The New England Aquarium sits at Central Wharf, directly next to the Boston Marriot Long Wharf Hotel and quite near Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It’s easy to get to via the blue line (exit Aquarium) or Commuter Boat into Long Wharf.
The aquarium opened 40 years ago and I’ve seen some say that it is outdated. But, from what we saw, it remains popular. We actually tried to visit twice on weekends- the line to enter was over a block long both times. We had far better luck on a Thursday, though it was still quite busy.
Unlike many aquariums, the New England Aquarium isn’t confined to its building. As you approach you’ll see that whale watching cruises are available. While it looked like great fun it was just too cold for us to do in March.
You purchase your tickets outside the aquarium entrance, and then step behind the building to watch the Harbor Seals frolic in their outdoor habitat.
As you enter the aquarium you present your ticket then step in front of a green screen to have your picture taken. When you leave you have the option of buying the photos- a very personal souvenir that features you with fish, sharks and turtles.
Take a left upon entering and visit the Amazing Jellies and the Sea Turtle Recovery exhibits (you’ll want to have your “Turtles Uncovered” book out in here to get one of your stamps!) Jellyfish are pretty amazing creatures when you look at them. And fascinating to watch.
The girls also spent quite a bit of time in front of the sea turtle tanks wondering about their injuries and cooing over their cuteness.
As you enter the main part of the aquarium you can’t help but be in awe of the Giant Ocean Tank. It’s a 4-story coral reef filled with fish, ells, sharks, sea turtles, and sting rays. It’s incredible. A ramp circles the tank allowing you to see absolutely everything- even to look down into it from the top! (The top of the tank is accessible only by a short flight of stairs and is slightly terrifying to look directly down in to- especially with two very curious small girls!)
Surrounding the base of the tank are penguins. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the penguins. Especially fun for the girls was watching the penguins being fed. They are hand fed; each penguin has an identifying band and each has a ration of fish it is allowed daily. It’s funny to watch them eat, to see who’s greedy and who’s patient and to watch them gobble down the fish.
- The Aquarium Medical Center – see the animals being cared for by the aquarium
- Thinking Gallery- interactive exhibits and amazing sea dragons
- Freshwater Gallery- piranhas, anaconda, salmon and electric eels
- Edge of the Sea Tidepool- touch starfish, hermit crabs and sea urchins
- Seahorse exhibit- fascinating little creatures. Good luck getting a good picture! They camouflage themselves very well!
- Northern Waters Gallery- an octopus, sea anemones and fish from the Pacific West Coast as well as the Gulf of Maine exhibit
- Tropical Gallery- colorful clownfish, lionfish, flashlight fish and live coral
- Curious George Discovery Center- a special area for the littlest visitors
Also a part of the Aquarium is Simons IMAX Theater. You can add an IMAX ticket to your aquarium ticket for only a few dollars more.
The aquarium, except the top of the Giant Ocean Tank, is handicapped and stroller accessible.
Restrooms are located on level 1 and to the left of the information desk near the gift shop. Lockers are available for stowing bags and a free stroller check-in is located behind the information desk.
If you choose to eat on premise the Harbor View Cafe offers a wide range of food (sandwiches, pizza, salads, and, of course, fish) at a decent price. Of course you can just get a hand stamp and walk on one of the many restaurants in the area.
Be sure to check out the visitor guide you receive. The giant ocean tank divers are amazing to watch as they hand feed the animals. And seal training is always fun to see.