Visiting the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk with Kids: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Sea turtles, jellyfish, and more await when visiting the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk! Photo courtesy of the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk
Sea turtles, jellyfish, and more await when visiting the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk! Photo courtesy of the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk
4/7/23 - By Clementina Verge

Visiting the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk lets kids see extraordinary sea life. Sharks. Octopuses. Seahorses. Jellies and meerkats. Whether it is your first or twentieth visit to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium in Fairfield County, its cool, bubbly, mysteriously blue world will not fail to awe and amuse you with a truly one-of-a-kind experience and insight into the rich biodiversity of Long Island Sound.


Norwalk, Connecticut is filled with activities and attractions for the whole family. Explore the best Norwalk has to offer with our guide to the 24 Best Things To Do in Norwalk CT with Kids.

Why the Maritime Aquarium is an Awesome Family Destination

Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium provides an amazing experience for the entire family. Children - especially little ones - will adore watching the energetic otters. They'll also delight in spending time at the Intertidal Touch Tank. That's where kids can enjoy hands-on encounters with horseshoe crabs, spider crabs, sea stars, and other aquatic critters. 

The Aquarium offers an interactive play and educational aree in the Sea and Discovery Zone.  The aquarium is also home to New England's largest video wall at the "Sketch and Release" digital creation space. 

Additionally, the aquarium offers hands-on activities and engaging experiences. The Maritime aquarium at Norwalk also offers vacation adventures and sensory-friendly mornings. The facility has countless smartly designed panels and signs explaining key facts and interesting trivia in easy-to-read and engaging ways. The 4-D theater is a real treat thanks to enhanced sensory experiences.

Must See Things at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

Some of the first residents to greet visitors to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium are the harbor seals; these federally-protected mammals are the most common seal species in New England. This indoor holding tank is always surrounded by curious and excited children and adults. Visitors wait for the playful, long-whiskered mammals to bob in and out of water. Shows and feedings incite ooh's and ahh's three times a day. Animal caregivers answer questions while the seals do tricks (a natural behavior) that entertain the audience. 

Image of seal with trainer at Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
The sea show always attracts a camera-flashing crowd. 

Nearby, in the spacious exhibit hall, an underwater petting zoo awaits. Children delight in being splashed by sting rays, petting their slick bodies (no worries - stingers have been removed), and running their fingers along the backs of nurse sharks. Plan on spending some time here (and maybe bringing an extra shirt), because little ones definitely enjoy the close encounters with these rather-friendly predators. Surrounding the area are many learning stations offering glimpses into the world of camouflage, shark behavior and anatomy, and more. 

Photo of child at touch-tank in Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
Petting sting rays is a child-favorite activity. Roll up their sleeves and take out your camera. 

Also on this floor is the totally awesome jellyfish exhibit. Here, you can actually touch the tops of live moon jellies. Their sting is known to be nearly harmless to humans, and the stingers hang on tentacles below their bodies. It's still thrilling to touch these mysterious creatures that we are usually told to fear and avoid.

Other attractions in this area are the Go Fish exhibit where children can play in a fishing boat, test their seafood knowledge, and admire the shiny, scaly fish wheezing by - such as salmon, cod, and halibut. 

Photo of child at fish tank in Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
Checking out the fish is easy thanks to large windows and tanks set at child-friendly heights.

Sure, petting sting rays and jellyfish could add enough exhilaration to anyone's day, but you're not done yet. The thrill continues on the second floor, where children come nose to nose with sharks - the big kind. Their menacing eyes and purposeful motion command attention. Take a few moments to sit and linger, enjoying the combination of tension and tranquility that surrounds the shark tank.

Photo of children at touch-tank in Maritime Aquarium.
A smaller touch-tank area allows children to feel crabs, snails, shells, and other ocean residents. 

The upper level also displays smart ship and boat models and a small, and a small but quite impressive frog exhibit. The colors, the sizes, and the survival strategies showcased here are fascinating: neon blue frogs, giant, albino 'croakers', tiny, jumpy toads, and tomato red amphibians surround you. The instructive panels tell stories of an extremely refined sense of hearing, funny and strange mating and parenting habits, and serious environmental threats. 

Photo of kids at Maritime Aquarium learning station.
Interactive play and learning stations make the aquarium a fun destination for children.

After a visit to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium, you and the kids will probably watch Nemo and Dory, or the next episode of SpongeBob, with a newfound sense of respect and appreciation. Most importantly, you will think of the tiny sea horses, blue-blooded, ancient horseshoe crabs, and the amazing frogs when looking at the waves of Long Island Sound or your neighborhood pond.

Photo of children at interactive station in Maritime Aquarium.
Don't leave the aquarium without digitally creating your own sea creature and setting it free in the virtual tank.

Restaurants at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

If watching sea life makes you hungry for some burgers, stop by the Cascade Cafe. The chicken fingers and onions rings are delicious. You can also select sandwiches, fresh fruit, ice cream, or other snacks. Browsing the museum store is also well worth it. It has a fine selection of unique and educational toys, books, and accessories. Your child will probably cuddle a new stuffed animal friend on the way back to your car. That's okay since all proceeds benefit the conservation work taking place here.

Check out our guide to Norwalk for more great dining options around the Maritime Aquarium.

Visiting Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.every day, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and in case of inclement weather. It is stroller and wheelchair-friendly, and parking is conveniently available (for an extra fee) in the Maritime Garage across the street. Tickets are $29.95 per adult, $20.95 for ages 3-12. A family membership is $200, and though the price is steep, it will definitely pay for itself for those families who live in the area and can visit more often.

Photo credit: all photos are courtesy of the author.

Originally published 8/21/15.

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