A Complete Guide to the New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium

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The New England Aquarium is one of Boston’s most popular attractions, especially for families, and sees over 1.3 million visitors each year. As a leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation, the Aquarium teaches and advocates for global change, education and scientific research through their exhibits and activities.

At the New England Aquarium, you’ll find thousands of aquatic animals that both kids and adults will be amazed by. Whether you’re into the little blue penguins, green sea turtles or northern fur seals, you can guarantee you’ll see and learn about interesting animals during your visit.

Aside from animals and exhibits, the Aquarium also has the Simons IMAX Theatre, where you can experience animal-related films on the big screen, such as “Turtle Odyssey,” “Great White Shark” and “Oceans: Our Blue Planet.”

The New England Aquarium Whale Watch is another popular activity, which takes you on an adventure to spot whales via the Boston Harbor Cruises. These leave from Central Wharf, a short walk from the Aquarium.

Exhibitions at the New England Aquarium

There are many exhibits to check out at the New England Aquarium, including two shark-related exhibits: Science of Sharks, which highlights sharks from around the world, and the Shark and Ray Touch Tank, the largest of its kind on the East Coast.

The new Indo-Pacific Coral Reef exhibit takes you right into a coral reef via the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the 9,000-gallon tank. Here you’ll find over 1,000 fish and other marine animals as it’s intended to resemble the tropical waters found in the Indian Ocean and western and central Pacific Ocean.

And right across from the Indo-Pacific Coral Reef is the Giant Ocean Tank, which has been an Aquarium staple for quite some time. It has four stories and is filled with hundreds of reef animals from the Caribbean, including the popular Myrtle the green sea turtle.

Kids will also get a kick out of the Penguin exhibit, another go-to attraction at the Aquarium as it’s home to over 80 penguins. And then head over to the Marine Mammal Center to check out the northern fur seals. This Aquarium is one of three in the country where you can see these mammals in action.

Location and Getting There

The New England Aquarium is conveniently located at 1 Central Wharf, which is along the water near Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market and in between the city’s North End and Fort Point neighborhoods.

There are many ways to get to the Aquarium, with many opting to take MBTA trains, as several stops are within walking distance, the closest being 100 yards away at the Blue Line’s Aquarium stop. You can access all the other MBTA lines from the Blue Line, but if you are on another line and prefer not to switch lines and walk a portion of the way, try getting off at the State stop on the Orange Line, the Government Center stop on the Green Line or the South Station stop on the Red Line. Each of these is under 15 minutes walking distance from the Aquarium.

Driving is another option that many out-of-town families prefer for convenience, though it is the pricier option given that city garages aren’t cheap. The closest parking garage is the Harbor Garage and there are other nearby lots that can be less expensive, including Rowes Wharf, 75 State Street and the Garage at Post Office Square.

Hours and Tickets

The New England Aquarium is open seven days a week throughout the year, with a few holiday exceptions—it's closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and open at noon on New Year’s Day. During the summer months of July and August, the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. remain the same every day. From September to June, weekday hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends are extended an hour to 6 p.m.

General admission ticket prices are, as of August 2019:

  • Adult: $31
  • Child (3-11): $22
  • Senior (60+): $29
  • Children (under 3): Free
  •  Aquarium Members: Free (become a member here)

Tickets for IMAX and whale watches are purchased either on their own or as combination passes if you want to experience one of these along with the Aquarium exhibits, which will save you at least a few dollars per person.

If you plan to see several of Boston’s popular attractions, there are two other ways to save: the Boston CityPASS and the Go Boston Card. The CityPass, which is valid for nine days, gives you a discount of 44 percent or more on admission to the Aquarium and four other attractions, such as the Museum of Science or Boston Harbor Cruises. The Go Boston Card allows you to take your pick of over 40 sights to see over up to seven consecutive days.

Dining and Shopping

There are two places to grab a bite to eat while visiting the New England Aquarium: the Harbor View Café and The Reef.

The Harbor View Café, located on the second floor, is a reasonably priced family dining option serving sandwiches, pizza, salads, burgers, and sustainable seafood. While you eat, take in views of Boston’s skyline and the harbor.

If you’re looking to sit outside, try The Reef in the Aquarium Plaza, which is open seasonally, also with views of Boston and the harbor. Here you can order several New England classics like lobster rolls and clam chowder, along with flatbreads and other seasonal dishes and snacks.

Right near the Aquarium, you’ll also find food trucks during warm weather months and plenty of other restaurants to check out as well.

And of course, when it comes to shopping, like any good tourist attraction, there’s a fully stocked gift shop in the lobby with animal everything—books, plush animals, clothing and more—to take home as souvenirs. You can feel good about your purchase knowing that all gift shop proceeds go right back into supporting the Aquarium’s education, conservation, and research programs.

Where to Go Nearby

If it’s your first time visiting Boston, you’ll definitely want to check out Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, which are a very short walk from the Aquarium and home to many restaurants, bars, and shops.

The city’s North End neighborhood is where you’ll find lots of great Italian food. Walk along Hanover Street and pop into Modern Pastry or Mike’s Pastry for cannolis and order an espresso martini at Bricco after dinner.

The popular Freedom Trail will take you through both Faneuil Hall and the North End, along with many other must-see attractions. This is an activity that most tourists participate in, whether it’s following along the red brick pathway on their own or taking a guided tour.

In the other direction, check out Fort Point, an area that’s home to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, the Children’s Museum and several restaurants and bars. And just beyond that is the Seaport, another neighborhood that is always growing, with more restaurants, shops and more opening regularly.

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