Encounter Sharks, Seals, Sea Turtles and More

NORWALK, CT – Families forced to scrub a long-distance vacation this summer can book a day full of safe, fun encounters with sharks, seals, sea turtles and more – and even a boat ride out onto Long Island Sound – just short drive away at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

One of Connecticut’s top family attractions, The Maritime Aquarium is conveniently located at the southern end of Connecticut Route 7 – less than an hour from Brewster and about 90 minutes from Poughkeepsie.

“We know that lots of folks – by choice or by government restriction – are doing ‘stay-cations’ this summer,” said Marketing Director Tina Tison. “A getaway day here at The Maritime Aquarium can be a refreshing escape down to a historic waterfront neighborhood. More importantly, we’ve increased our coronavirus precautions without sacrificing the fun.”

Close encounters with 9-foot sand tiger sharks await guests in The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, just an hour by car or train from Manhattan.
Close encounters with 9-foot sand tiger sharks await guests in The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, just an hour by car or train from Manhattan.

Unlike most public aquariums, The Maritime Aquarium’s focus is primarily on one body of water: Long Island Sound. Aquarium guests learn how the Sound pulses with marine life, as they get close to 9-foot sharks, playful harbor seals, pulsing jellyfish, massive sea turtles and more. In all, more than 6,000 creatures are on exhibit.

Young guests especially enjoy bellying up to three supervised touch tanks: a Shark & Ray Touch Pool featuring several docile species; the Jiggle A Jelly exhibit, offering a sting-free way to safely touch live moon jellies; and an Intertidal Touch Tank full of sea stars, whelks, horseshoe crabs and other shoreline creatures.

Special this summer is an exhibit called “Living Lights” that features animals that glow in the dark, either through fluorescence or a unique natural ability called bioluminescence. Species displayed include crystal jellyfish, pinecone fish, flashlight fish, a scorpion and more.

Dr. Dave Hudson, the Aquarium’s research scientist, said discovering the broad diversity of marine animals will inspire Aquarium guests to alter behaviors to protect the Sound, as well as other waterways like the Hudson River and smaller tributaries.

“Millions of people in the tri-state area live in the watershed – or drainage basin – of the Sound, and thus they affect the health of the Sound through their everyday actions,” Hudson said. “How we recycle, fertilize our lawns, wash our cars and clean up after our dogs are just some of the ways we individually and collectively impact our waterways and oceans, and also the animals that live in them.”

The health of The Maritime Aquarium’s guests, staff and volunteers is a special focus this summer, of course. In response to the coronavirus, the Aquarium is selling tickets only online in advance for timed-ticket entries, to allow for social distancing through reduced capacity. Additionally, masks are required for all guests over age 2, and there’s a one-way flow through the galleries. The IMAX Theater and several interactive digital displays are closed for now.

The Aquarium also offers a seabreeze-in-your-hair outdoor experience through public cruises aboard its revolutionary research vessel. A selection of daytime and weekend-evening cruises are offered aboard RV Spirit of the Sound, a 64-foot two-level catamaran that was the country’s first research vessel to run on quiet hybrid-electric power. (All passengers must be at least 42 inches tall. Masks and advance reservations are required.) Aside from the public cruises, the vessel is available for rent for private celebrations, company meetings and other limited gatherings.

“In this time when people especially are feeling separated and detached, a visit to The Maritime Aquarium can be a safe destination for New Yorkers to get out and celebrate marine animals and reconnect with the marine environment right here in our backyard,” Tison said.

Fill out your Norwalk visit by shopping at the nation’s newest mall, the SoNo Collection, which is just a short stroll up the Norwalk River from the Aquarium. Anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, the mall bills itself as “a spectacular shopping, dining, art, and entertainment destination.” Enjoy lunch or dinner either in establishments in the mall or from a celebrated selection of restaurants near the Aquarium in lively South Norwalk (nicknamed SoNo).

Learn more – and purchase tickets for Aquarium admission or for a cruise on its research vessel – at www.maritimeaquarium.org.

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