Tales from Vacationland: Mystic Aquarium.

We had grand plans for that Tuesday – and they would have been grander if we had known the rain was going to hold off all day. We planned to drive a goodish way to the Mystic Aquarium (with lunch before at Mystic Pizza, of course), then stop at a book farm (!!), and possibly a children’s museum on the way back. There was talk about stopping at the Pequot Museum, a circular museum that displays the timeline of the Mashantucket Indians and has a bunch of interactive displays (something my let’s-play-survival children would have loved!), but the museum was closed on Tuesdays, dashing our plans. But don’t worry – we’ll have something new to plan around next year.

Off we went! I knew it was going to be a good, good day when we saw giant frog statues guarding a bridge along the way. For some reason, the Frog Princes freak Auntie Rhi out, so we detoured around the bridge.

The girls were fantastic as usual during the drive. I didn’t mind (much) when they were out of sorts at Mystic Pizza…mostly because I was too busy stuffing my face and taking pictures.

After we were too full to move (and our leftover cheese pizza and bacon and feta pizza were safely tucked into a box for us to take), we made our way through the rest of downtown Mystic, over a drawbridge (very cool, even if Kim did turn a leetle green), past Mystic Seaport and Battleship Cove, and found our way to the aquarium.

The aquarium was a bit pricey – around $160 for the five of us to get full passes – but I will tell anyone who has children that it is worth every penny. Go. Go to the aquarium and plan on spending a lot of time there. We easily spent three hours pouring through exhibits and staring at fish and other sea life and probably could have gone through and visited favorite exhibits again – it was that cool.

Since it was a weekday and Connecticut was still in school, the girls didn’t have much competition for the best viewing areas. I loved that it wasn’t crowded because even with a (mostly) strictly enforced Stay-With-A-Grownup rule, it was easy enough to keep tabs on the Very Excited, Running All Over The Place little people.  I didn’t even mind that they were running all over the place – there were so many cool things to see!

This picture doesn’t do the Beluga whales justice – they were HUGE! There were three whales who were very playful and swam up to the underwater viewing glass frequently enough that we had to tear the chilluns away.

This is one of the dozens of interactive displays the aquarium boasted. Here the girls got to touch manta rays and sharks. I have no idea what kind of sharks they were now because, hello! THEY GOT TO TOUCH SHARKS is pretty much all they (and I) remember.

Seahorses holding hands…er, tails.

We really liked that polka-dotted fish. And can you believe I had to explain to Gracie what seahorses were? Hello, McFly – do they not watch cartoons anymore? I remember seahorses being in a lot of cartoons when I was little. Thereby disputing that Saturday morning cartoons were rubbish, I suppose.

I love this one of Auntie Kim being amazed by the puffer fish, and the girls and Auntie Rhi in the background staring at the jelly fish. I should say some of the jelly fish – there was an entire room with more than a dozen displays of jelly fish. They had some that were smaller than your fingernail, but I think these guys were my favorite:

Hello giant octopus who could easily inhale my daughter’s head. Have to say – watching this guy move was creeeepy.

Outside were some very playful harbor seals who liked to show off for their visitors…

Some penguins who were hanging out in a temporary enclosure while their fancypants new home was being built…

Oh! There are those Beluga whales again. I thought I had a picture of them playing with us!

And then there was the birdhouse. Why does an aquarium have a house of parakeets? Who knows. But by golly did my girls adore it. My sisters? Not so much. Kim hugged the ground because there were fewer birds down there, or maybe it was to stay below the divebomb line, who knows, and Rhi covered her head and whimpered in the corner. Ahhh, the power of nieces. Gracie spent a goodish amount of time convincing birds to bow to her will hop from stick to stick, and Bee (who somehow escaped my camera lens) sat still on a retaining wall with the same bird the entire time. We shall call her the Bird Whisperer.

But even with all of this fun, my favorite thing that happened was one of the very first in our very long and happy afternoon. After stopping at the Beluga whales, we walked into an interactive exhibit that allowed you to pet giant manta rays. These rays must have been about two and a half feet across and even longer than that with their tail thingy. There were about a dozen or more swimming in this gigantic tank. Visitors could roll up their sleeves – keep in mind that it was about 55° out – and extend their arms into the cold water to pet the manta rays. After awhile, all of us had touched one (wicked slimy, if you’re wondering), except Bee. I had even been splashed a little by a frisky fella who flapped his flippery wing out of the water, but meh – part of the experience. There was one bend in the oval where the rays were coming closer to the surface, and so I talked Bee into coming over there to reach one. I helped her get her arm in, positioned her so she could pet the manta ray that was heading straight for us… and that dude jumped out of the water and just about hugged Bee’s entire head. Bee was soaked. All of us were! And my favorite part was one that I heard from Auntie Kim after we had stopped laughing: Bee had gotten a mouth full of water as it was all happening. What did that sweet child o’ mine do? Why she leaned back over the pool and spit it out there, for that is where it came from. Better return that water to the manta ray pond, can’t have it contaminating the ground or anything!

– wet jeans and all!


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One Response to “Tales from Vacationland: Mystic Aquarium.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Sounds awesome. I love the aquarium – just about any one. It was our backup plan when we were in NC one year and the rain would not stop. I think we went 3 times. So much fun.

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