New England Aquarium Offers Fun and Education in Boston


When it comes to fun, educational and interesting attractions, there are plenty of options available in Boston. Among these is the New England Aquarium. With more than 22,000 members and more than 1.3 visitors each year, the New England Aquarium has much to offer to its visitors.

The History of the New England Aquarium

The history of the New England Aquarium dates back to 1962, at which time planning for the aquarium began. Designed by Peter Chermayeff of Cambridge Seven Associates, the building opened in 1969. The Great Ocean Tank, which was the largest circular ocean tank in the world at the time, was opened the following years. A floating mammal pavilion was added in 1974 when the multi-storied barge Discovery was moored next to the aquarium. The addition featured a 1,000-seat observer stadium overlooking a 116,000-gallon pool that hosted dolphins and then later sea lions. The ship was ultimately decommissioned in the mid-2000s due to old age and maintenance costs.

The New England Aquarium Today

Today, the principle feature of the Aquarium is its Giant Ocean Tank. Simulating a Caribbean coral reef, the cylindrical tank holds 200,000 gallons and houses sea turtles, bonnethead sharks, moray eels, stingrays, barracuda and a number of smaller reef-living fish. Boasting an open top, the tank is surrounded by a spiraling walkway that provides visitors with access to 52 viewing windows. A 150,000 gallon penguin exhibit featuring Northern and Southern rockhopper penguins, African penguins and little penguins is located at the bottom of the tank. The penguin exhibit can also be viewed from the spiral walkway or from an elevated viewing area.

The Aquarium also features four levels of smaller exhibits. Some of these exhibits include:

  • The Blue Planet Action Center: shares information about the challenges oceans are facing while also showing the role the Aquarium is playing in finding solutions.
  • The Edge of the Sea tide pool: allows visitors to touch New England tide pool creatures such as sea urchins, sea stars, hermit crabs, snails and horseshoe crabs.
  • The Freshwater Gallery: features freshwater habitats from South America and creates such as anacondas, Piranha, Atlantic salmon and electric eels.
  • The Northern Waters of the World Gallery: features a New England marine habitat with animals such as colored lobsters, shorebirds, Octopus and goosefish.
  • The Thinking Gallery/The Temperate Gallery: features thousands of schooling fish as well as ancient fish and rate sea dragons.
  • The Tropical Gallery: features tropical fish, cuttlefish, venomous fish and living corals.
  • The Yawkey Coral Reef Center: shows some of the smaller creatures in the Caribbean with featured animals being the heterocongrinae, batfishes and Diadema antillarum.

There is also a harbor seal exhibit at the front of the Aquarium that can be viewed without actually entering the building. Meanwhile, the West Wing features a variety of jellies from diverse habitats around the world as well as a 25,000 gallon shark and ray touch tank. Featuring yellow rays, cownose rays, guitarfish and other creatures, it is the largest shark and ray touch tank on the east coast.

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